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Joe Lilek capitalizes on liberal arts experience

Joe Lilek in “Dracula”

With his major in atmospheric science and his minors in theater and math, Joe Lilek embodies the liberal arts experience that the University Honors Program offers.

Joe, who is from Bethesda, Md., applied to liberal arts colleges, but ultimately it was his Kansas connection and the appeal of the Honors Program that lured him to KU. Once he started his first Honors course his freshman year, he knew he had made the right decision.

“I could tell I was definitely in the right place because of the kinds of questions people were asking, and I enjoyed the lectures,” he says.

This past spring, Joe was awarded the Hollings Scholarship, which provides him with an internship with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). He networked with the other scholarship winners at NOAA’s headquarters this past May, and he will serve his internship in the summer of 2015.

He will begin a research project this fall in atmospheric science, collaborating with atmospheric science and geography professor Nate Brunsell, and he hopes to continue with research and possibly study abroad, as well.

When he is not in the science lab, Joe is the associate director of the Jayhawk Initiative for Student Theatre (JIST), an organization founded by a former Honors student that encourages opportunities in theatre for students to perform and direct. He has an affinity for musicals, and has acted, sung and directed in JIST productions.

Joe is also a University Scholar and enjoyed the experience of making connections with students in other disciplines, as well as learning a great deal from his University Scholar seminar instructor, Robert Rowland. He is taking Dr. Rowland’s advocacy course this semester, with hopes it will help prepare him for the interview process of a national scholarship.

“The Honors Program makes the University smaller,” he says. “If you have the Honors Program to go to, there are a lot of opportunities there. Nunemaker is a great resource – I like being in creative spaces, and that’s definitely what that feels like to me.”

Joe has not yet decided which aspects of atmospheric science he would like to specialize in for his career – he hopes that his Hollings Scholarship will help him discover that. He plans to go to graduate school for atmospheric science after he graduates.

“KU is really special, especially the Honors Program,” he says.

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KU Today
Course offerings are “among the most comprehensive in the nation,” according to “A Review of Fifty Public University Honors Programs”
98% of University Honors Program graduates are employed or accepted to graduate school within six months of graduation
40% of students in the University Honors Program conduct research before graduation
9 to 1: Average ratio of KU honors students to faculty advisors
1 of only 7 programs nationwide to receive a top rating from “A Review of Fifty Public University Honors Programs” in 2014
60% of University Honors Program students study abroad
KU honors students select their advisors from top-ranked KU faculty