Honors Congress

Have you heard about the official student organization of the Burnett Honors College? Honors Congress hosts a series of events throughout the semester with an emphasis on volunteering, socializing with your fellow Burnett Honors Scholars, and more!

Past events have included:

  • socializing at Farris & Foster's Chocolate Factory
  • participating in The Color Run Orlando
  • volunteering with Give Kids the World

Learn more about how to get involved.

PRESIDENT: Samuel Mikhail

Samuel is a fourth-year student majoring in Biomedical Sciences with a minor in Medical Sociology. He was elected president of Honors Congress in 2019 and is excited to meet the incoming class in the fall!

Why you should join Honors Congress: “Honors Congress has become my home away from home and I’ve met some of my best friends here. Our events are tailored to the interests of our members and I have no doubt that you’ll be able to find an event this semester that catches your eye. Professional development is a large focus in Honors Congress; working with all the wonderful staff and students in the Burnett Honors College is an extremely rewarding experience and I’m blessed to be in the company of such inspirational people. I’d love for you to consider joining Honors Congress and becoming a part of our family!”

VICE PRESIDENT: Nikki Anne Ballelos

Nikki Anne is a third-year Biomedical Sciences student. Her goal is to go to medical school after graduating from UCF. In addition to being Honors Congress’ vice president, Nikki Anne is also a peer mentor in the Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences and volunteers at Nemours Children's Hospital and Shepherd’s Hope. She also serves as a research assistant in the Performance Research Laboratory (PeRL) in the Psychology Department on campus. In her free time, she likes to collect Disney ears and go to Disney World. She also enjoys playing tennis especially with her family.

Why you should join Honors Congress: “Honors Congress has been my home ever since my freshman year. I have been able to step out of my comfort zone and gain leadership experience as well as event planning skills. I have even met some of my closest friends at UCF through this organization with its principles of academics and community. I was even able to host an HonCon event to watch Waitress at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, and I was able to connect with so many other members that enjoyed going to the theater as much as I do! I think honors students should join Honors Congress because coming into UCF means a large campus with a lot of new faces which can be intimidating and overwhelming, but this organization helps [you] to meet new people within the honors community. You can make friendships and relationships with people outside your major and gain leadership skills while enjoying fun events all semester.”

TREASURER: Padmavathi Ganduri

Padmavathi is a third-year student majoring in Integrated Business with minors in Political Science and Leadership Studies. She hopes to attend law school after graduating from UCF. She is part of the Judicial Branch of SGA and volunteers with the Orange County Legal Aid Society. She is also an Honors Symposium Team Leader and an intern at Lockheed Martin. In her free time, Padmavathi loves to play flute, sing, watch movies, take pictures and travel.

Why you should join Honors Congress: “Honors Congress has allowed me to meet and work alongside some of the best people I’ve ever known and form so many meaningful personal connections within the honors community. Joining Honors Congress is a great way to get involved with leadership and volunteering opportunities as early as your first semester at UCF!

SECRETARY: Victoria Millington

Victoria is a third-year student from Tampa, Florida. She is majoring in Biomedical Sciences with a minor in Health Science. After receiving her undergraduate degree, Victoria plans to attend medical school. Along with being an Honors Congress officer, Victoria is assistant director for Relay for Life, a peer mentor in the Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences, and conducts research in Dr. von Kalm's research lab. She also loves the beach, animals, and anything red, white and blue.

Why you should join Honors Congress: “Being in Honors Congress has allowed me to gain leadership experience as early as my freshman year, along with meeting some of my closest friends while volunteering, fundraising, learning and having a lot of fun! I think everyone should join Honors Congress because it allows you to be a part of an organization with other like-minded students, along with getting the opportunity to participate in a variety of fun and rewarding events!”

DIRECTOR OF RECRUITMENT AND MEMBERSHIP: Justin Shaw

Justin is a fourth-year Biomedical Sciences major with a minor in Music. Justin is also the lead tutor for the Student Academic Resource Center (SARC) here at UCF, tutoring Statistical Methods I, and he participates in research in an infectious disease laboratory, primarily working with the malaria parasite. If he’s not in class or at work, Justin can be found at an Honors Congress event or playing the saxophone with one of UCF’s many bands throughout the year.

Why you should join Honors Congress: "I have made so many friends that I have had opportunities to socialize with, work with and build strong connections with. I never would have met these amazing people if not for my continued involvement in Honors Congress. The opportunities to branch out, try new things and participate in unique events both on and off campus has broadened my perspective during my undergraduate experience. Participating in UCF and community events through Honors Congress has made Orlando truly feel like my home."

DIRECTOR OF ACADEMIC AFFAIRS: Parshva Sanghvi

Parshva is a second-year student from Canton, Michigan. He is currently majoring in Biomedical Sciences and hopes to go to medical school after completing his undergraduate years. Parshva played tennis in high school for all four years and continues playing in college recreationally. His other interests include music, cooking and going to the gym.

Why you should join Honors Congress: “Honors Congress is a chance to interact with fellow honors students at UCF and provides the opportunity to create academic events for honors students that I hope are both enjoyable and useful. I believe Honors Congress is a great way to meet people from diverse backgrounds and participate in a variety of events that would peak the interests of many students.”

DIRECTOR OF SOCIAL AFFAIRS: Leah Rittenburg

Leah Rittenburg is a fourth-year student at UCF with a major in Biology and a minor in Environmental Studies. She is currently the director of social affairs of Honors Congress.

Why you should join Honors Congress: “I did not join Honors Congress until my Junior year, but I feel I have met more friends and found a community here at UCF in the previous year thanks to Honors Congress (the amazing events and occasional free food also helps). I have also been a National Merit mentor, UCF Marine Turtle Research Group intern, and a distinguished undergraduate researcher.”

DIRECTOR OF VOLUNTEERING: William Johnson

William is a fourth-year student majoring in Biomedical Sciences with a minor in Health Sciences. William became a member of Honors Congress at the start of his freshman year, and served on the volunteering committee during Spring 2018 and Fall 2018. In addition to his involvement in Honors Congress, William is currently the Tuesday night Team Leader coordinator. He is an active member of Phi Delta Epsilon, and is currently working on an Honors in the Major project!

Why you should join Honors Congress: “Honors Congress has given me a chance to meet many people outside of my major and has allowed me to serve in multiple leadership roles. Honors Congress provides excellent opportunities for honors students to meet other students outside of their courses or class standing. The conversations between students at Honors Congress events usually cross disciplines and are very insightful. In addition to the advice that students can gain from their peers, the events offer students a chance to get away from their courses and enjoy their honors community.”

DIRECTOR OF HOUSING AFFAIRS: Kennan Negrete

Kennan is a fourth-year Biomedical Sciences student with the Burnett Medical Scholars Program. He is a lifelong Orlando native, aspiring novelist and avid fisherman. Kennan is currently serving as the Honors Congress director of housing affairs, and as an SI Leader for Human Anatomy.

Why you should join Honors Congress: “I’ve met several of my closest friends through Honors Congress, so it helped me find my place at UCF. None of my high school friends attended UCF, so it allowed me to find people I could trust and share my time with. Honors Congress is a wonderful community filled with supportive and compassionate students. It’s a fantastic way to make a large campus smaller and to make mutually beneficial connections with fellow students. It’s also a fantastic way to get involved both on and around campus.”

DIRECTOR OF FUNDRAISING: Maria Bower

Maria is a fourth-year Environmental Engineering major with minors in Bioengineering and Spanish. She is involved with Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor Society and volunteers at Shepherd’s Hope Clinic. She is currently working on an Honors in the Major thesis on global tidal flooding. In her free time, Maria enjoys traveling and spending time with family, friends and pets.

Why you should join Honors Congress: “I’ve made many of my friends through Honors Congress and I’ve gotten to do lots of things in the Orlando area that I wouldn’t have tried otherwise. It’s a great way to get leadership experience and meet new people!”

DIRECTOR OF PUBLICATIONS AND MARKETING: Safia Centner

Safia is a third-year student majoring in Health Sciences, pre-clinical. She has been a member of Honors Congress since her first semester of freshman year, serving for one semester on the Philanthropy committee and for two semesters on the Historian committee. Safia is a Burnett Medical Scholar and plans to go to medical school after college.

Why you should join Honors Congress: “I have loved being in Honors Congress and feel that I have been provided with opportunities I wouldn’t have found anywhere else. The people I have met through Honors Congress are truly some of my closest friends, and I couldn’t imagine a greater group of people. Everyone should join Honors Congress because it is a great way to meet like-minded people and is a great way to be involved in the school.”

HISTORIAN: Caitlyn Chong

Caitlyn is a fourth-year Health Sciences major born and raised in Miami. Caitlyn has been involved in Honors Congress since coming to UCF by serving on the philanthropy and historian committees before being elected historian. She is also a Knight Watch Peer Mentor and assists incoming freshmen to bring up their GPAs, and she's conducting research in the Psychology Department about how sub-components of enjoyment affect how we learn.

Why you should join Honors Congress: "Honors Congress has been one of the most impactful experiences of my time at UCF. It was the first club I joined, and I immediately felt valued and connected. I was encouraged to apply for leadership experiences my very first semester and I’ve been very involved ever since. Everyone should join Honors Congress because it is one of the best ways to make new friends and make an impact!"

DIRECTOR OF SPECIAL EVENTS: Aliya Centner

Aliya is a third-year student from Orlando, Florida and is majoring in Biomedical Sciences with a minor in Health Sciences. Aliya is a Burnett Medical Scholar and plans on attending medical school after she graduates from UCF. She has been a member of Honors Congress since her first semester and has previously served on the special events and fundraising committees. Aliya is also a LEAD Scholar graduate, volunteers at Nemours Children’s Hospital, and is team recruitment chair for UCF Relay for Life. In her free time, Aliya enjoys watching Kentucky basketball, reading and watching shows on Netflix. She is excited to serve as the 2019 director of special events!

Why you should join Honors Congress: “Honors Congress has provided me with many great opportunities to engage with and interact with other students in the Honors College. I’ve met some of my closest friends through Honors Congress and have gained great leadership experience. I believe that all honors students should join Honors Congress because it provides a supportive community within the Honors College. UCF is a large campus and can be a bit overwhelming, but Honors Congress allows students to form true connections with one another while attending a variety of fun events!”

DIRECTOR OF PHILANTHROPY: Kayla Vonder Embse

Kayla is a first-year Biomedical Sciences major at UCF. She is currently the director of philanthropy for Honors Congress.

Why you should join Honors Congress: “Honors Congress took a chance with me as a freshman, and already I have found a community within it eager and willing to make my jump from Ohio to Florida much easier. The friends and mentors that I have found here are some of the most genuine and kind people I have ever met. Anyone who is looking for a tight-knit community of sincere, well-rounded individuals should consider joining Honors Congress. Who knows? You might meet someone you would never have met otherwise - a new study buddy, an intramural partner or even your future best friend!”