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From Ecology to Ecuador: This Honors Student Continues the Mickel Legacy

| Rosa Gomez

Anakah Denison has been full speed ahead since her start at UW-Eau Claire. Now adding the Ronald E. Mickel Scholarship recipient under her belt, she is a reminder of what students are able to accomplish. 

Denison is a fourth-year student studying ecology and environmental biology, the co-president of Honors Student Council (HSC), the Student Senate Personnel Director and a campus ambassador for UW-Eau Claire. 

The Mickel Scholarship is awarded to one upperclass student who is an active member of the Honors Program and has shown outstanding leadership and engagement with the campus community. It was endowed by Dr. Ronald E. Mickel, was a professor in the History Department and the first Honors Program Director at UW-Eau Claire. 

His valued presence is continued in the legacy of his scholarship awardees. 

Denison saw the scholarship in the Honors newsletter and was encouraged by her honors community to apply. Her leadership skills, campus involvement and passion for her education made her the perfect applicant for this opportunity. 

“[I’m] always trying get more involved with the Honors Program, and I’m always trying to leave every organization better than how I found it–-leave something behind that makes it easier for the next students, [or] next executive board, so that they can do even more than we were able to when we were here,” Denison said. 

Taking advantage of every opportunity, Denison said the Honors Program has been monumental in shaping her educational experience and journey at UW-Eau Claire.

She described the honors courses she’s taken as “a real breath of fresh air compared to the normal academia.” Denison credits these courses for enabling students to make unique connections with their areas of study. 

Aside from a typical classroom setting, the Honors community has created space for her to connect with like-minded students, many of which share the collective experiences that are unique to honors students. 

“Especially in HSC where a bunch of honors students come together, you just get this vortex of ideas and creativity and passion,” she said. “All of that is just so inspiring and is very fulfilling because that keeps me going.” 

The Honors Student Council was one of her first leadership experiences she had on campus; working in this capacity has allowed her to develop other skills and to bring her goals to fruition. 

One of her most high-impact practices she has been involved in is research. She has traveled to the Boundary Waters, Lake Superior--and she spent last summer in the Galapagos, where she worked as an intern in a partnership with Charles Darwin Research Center. This is another opportunity those around her encouraged her to take part in, knowing her skillset and drive would lead her to accomplish great things. 

“Having other people encourage me and support me and say ‘I think this is something that you can accomplish and that you should do’” is something that Denison said she is incredibly thankful for. 

Denison also expressed her desire to make those who are investing in her education proud. “It motivates me even more to do well--I want to show them that they made the right decision,” she said. 

She continued that it goes “beyond words” that people are willing to monetarily invest in someone who is, “in essence, a perfect stranger.” 

Denison described being awarded this scholarship as an honor. In a world where education is inaccessible for so many, having individuals believe so much in an institution and the Honors Program that they want to continue to support students is motivating for her to continue to achieve everything she can and to support her communities.

“This is why I’m here, this is why I do what I do.”