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NMSU graduating history major receives the College of Arts and Sciences' highest honor

It may have been a love for random facts that steered Katherine Higgins, a graduating history major, into a history course of study, but it was her commitment to excellence that propelled her into receiving the College of Arts and Sciences' Highest Honors designation.

Headshot of Katherine Higgins
Katherine Higgins, a history major and graduating senior, will receive the College of Arts and Sciences highest honor during the 2011 commencement. (NMSU photo by Tonya Suther)

Higgins, a graduating senior, will receive the College of Arts and Sciences Highest Honors during the 2011 commencement. To receive high honors, a student must have earned a 4.0 GPA or be in the top 1.5 percent of the graduating class. The highest honor goes to the top student with the most credit hours. Higgins is graduating with 132 credit hours.

"For me, a 91 percent just isn't good enough. I need to have a nice solid A," Higgins said. "I love learning and I want to be the best I can be, and for me, that's a 4.0."

College of Arts and Sciences Associate Dean Beth Pollack recently presented Higgins with her award and History Department Head Jon Hunner remembered her commitment to excellence.

"The College of Arts and Sciences is proud to recognize Katherine as our Highest Honors designee, and I was pleased to present her with a plaque and introduce her to College of Arts and Sciences Dean Christa Slaton," Pollack said.

"Her professors in the Department of History describe her as 'talented in anything she touches' and 'her knowledge of history is only exceeded by her artistic abilities,'" Hunner said. "For her major research paper, she explored the history of the Elephant Butte Irrigation District, which she thoroughly researched. Her first draft was a bit rough, but she worked hard on it and as we like to see, improved it to an excellent paper. She also has a great sense of humor, which is necessary not only in this day and age, but perhaps even more so when looking at the past."

The exciting news came when Higgins, who resides in Alamogordo, N.M., received a surprising phone call from the bookstore. She was asked for her gown size because she was on the highest honors list. Highest Honors recipients wear crimson gowns during commencement.

"I was shocked actually," Higgins said. "I love to do school, and I always have, so getting a 4.0 is a validation for me, and then to be validated from my college, is a wonderful surprise, and I'm very honored."

Higgins, originally from Aurora, Colo., grew up on a farm where she was homeschooled by her parents, Calvin and Lynnae Higgins. She became an avid traveler visiting more than 20 states in the U.S. and 14 different countries on three different continents.

"I can count on one hand how many times I actually stepped into a public school," Higgins said. "I walked into the GED office, and took all the tests. Got a little bit low on math and ended up in the top eight percent of all the GED takers in the United States."

Higgins has enrolled in a graduate program in the Department of Geography at NMSU. In the future, she hopes to work in cultural geography or become a travel writer.

"My undergraduate career I took slower than most people do," Higgins said. "College is a special time, because it is the foundation for the rest of my life. I decided to pay attention to it; cherishing the memories I make and the people I encounter."