The staff at the Honors Program is always happy to help you whenever you have a concern, question, or problem. Feel free to stop in and chat or call ahead.

Here's a look at who's who:

Laurie Smith Law

Laurie S. Law
Administrative Director

(515) 294-4292

About Laurie

Laurie Smith Law serves as the Administrative Director for the University Honors Program, working in conjunction with the Honors staff and Honors Student Board to provide members of the Honors Program with an enriched academic experience. Reporting units include the First-Year and University Honors Programs, Undergraduate Research, and Nationally Competitive Awards.

Laurie has a master degree in U.S. history, but started her career in student affairs as a hall director in an Honors learning community, before moving into academic affairs as the assistant director of university Honors College. She has served on the Board of Directors for the National Collegiate Honors Council (NCHC), and currently serves as co-chair of the organization’s Professional Development Committee. Laurie is the co-founder of the NCHC International Summer Institute for New Honors Director/Deans. The institute is designed to support new directors navigate administration responsibilities on their campus.

Dr. Svitlana Zbarska
Campus-Wide Undergraduate Research Program Coordinator

(515) 294-2064

About Svitlana

Dr. Svitlana Zbarska manages programs that promote undergraduate research opportunities across campus. In this role, Dr. Zbarska coordinates campus-wide undergraduate research (UR) programs and initiatives such as Research Seminars for Undergraduate Students, the First-Year Honors Mentor Program, ISU Annual Undergraduate Symposium on Research and Creative Expression, Research in the Capitol and the Summer REU Symposium. Dr. Zbarska teaches U ST 275x pre-research course “Integrative Undergraduate Research: Methods, Applications, and Communication Strategies”. She also runs multiple workshops and professional development seminars about involvement in UR and getting the most out of your UR experiences. Dr. Zbarska is an adviser for the i-Research club.

Dr. Zbarska received her Ph.D. in Neuroscience with Excellence in Research from Iowa State University in 2007. After that she was a leading scientist on several research projects at the Department of Biomedical Sciences and the Department of Genetics and Cell Biology at ISU. Dr. Zbarska is originally from the Ukraine where she received her BS in Physics and MS in Biophysics with Honors from the Shevchenko National University, Kiev, Ukraine. Dr. Zbarska is passionate about encouraging and advocating for undergraduate students’ research experiences.


Gene Newgaard
Coordinator of Nationally Competitive Awards

(515) 294-0172

About Gene

Gene Newgaard works to help identify and advise undergraduate candidates for nationally competitive scholarship, fellowship, and grant opportunities. In addition to this, he supports the upper-division Honors program and is available to answer student questions.

Gene served as a lecturer in the ISU Department of English from 2004-2011 and 2017-2020. He also taught at Ellsworth Community College in Iowa Falls and Hawkeye Community College in Waterloo. Prior to that, he spent 16 years working as a radio announcer and news director and freelancing in print journalism. An Iowa native, Gene earned his BA in Journalism/Mass Communications from ISU in 1988 and his MA in Literature with a second specialization in Rhetoric, Composition, and Professional Communication in 2004.

In his spare time, Gene is an avid reader of mostly current events and biographies and enjoys music and watching Netflix. His heart belongs to ISU, and he is thrilled to be helping students reach their full potential!


Emily Wilcox

Emily Wilcox
Assistant Director for First-Year Honors Program


About Emily

The Assistant Director for First-Year Honors Program oversees the Honors 121 and Honors 302 experiences. Emily supervises the Undergraduate Assistants and FHP leaders, and works with FHP students from summer orientation all throughout their first year. Emily also works with Honors Ambassadors, prospective students, honors salons, and the honors social media accounts. Emily has degrees from Iowa State in English (2004) and Educational Leadership and Policy Studies (2006), and currently lives across the street from her own Honors 121 co-leader. In her spare time, Emily likes listening to podcasts, baking, and canning, and wants to talk to you about Game of Thrones.

Katherine Sterk

Katherine Sterk
Program Assistant II
Upper-Division Honors Program

(515) 294-4372

About Katherine

Katherine (Kat) works to guide and support Upper-Division Honors students through individual advising sessions. She is available for questions related to Honors projects, course contracts, seminar registration, and program continuation.

Kat is a two-time alum of ISU. She attained her B.S. in Child, Adult, and Family Services and Psychology and graduated with Honors distinction (woo hoo!). Following graduation, Kat earned her M.Ed in Student Affairs in Higher Education at Iowa State. During graduate school, Kat served as the Graduate Assistant for the Honors Program for two years.

In her free time, Kat enjoys spending time with her partner, best friend, and baby leopard gecko. Her hobbies include painting, thrift shopping, poetry, and singing. Her favorite movie is Coraline and her favorite book is Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, so if you're interested in stop-motion animation and/or autobiographies, Kat is your gal!

Emily Wilcox

Suzanne Wirth

(515) 294-0855

About Suzanne

Suzanne has worked at the university for 19 years and has been with the Honors Program for 17 years. She works with both the First-Year and Upper Division programs. She says that she would be glad to assist you with any questions you might have regarding the University Honors Program.

Molly Helmers

Molly Helmers
Program & Administrative Assistant

(515) 294-0573

About Molly Molly joined the Honors Program staff in October 2019. She handles a variety of administrative and communications tasks, including managing student grants and assisting with alumni and donor relations. Some of you may recognize Molly from her time with the Iowa State University Lectures Program, where she worked as an event coordinator for 13 years. Prior to that she was a program assistant with the Center for Excellence in the Arts and Humanities.

Molly has a BA from Central College, where she majored in history and French. She then earned an MA in history/public history from Arizona State University. She also completed ASU’s Scholarly Publishing Program and subsequently worked in university press publishing for a number of years. Molly and her spouse, Matt, have lived in Ames since 2003 and have 3 children.



Patty Mayberry: Custodial Services


Undergraduate Assistants:

Drew Daly

Drew Daly

Hey y'all!!! My name is Drew Daly, and I'm a sophomore in Industrial Design. The Honors Program has allowed me to meet so many new people and make some great memories with more to come. Aside from having way too much fun being one of the Undergraduate Assistants, I am also one of the Honors Student Board Philanthropy Committee Co-Chairs, where I get to work with some amazing people, and I am an Honors Peer Adviser, where I get to meet so many people. Outside of Honors, I am involved with SHOP (the food pantry here on campus) where I get to run their social media, create marketing materials,and help students get the food they need. When I have free time, I love to dance, read, draw, take photos, anything art really, and go on adventures. I really just want to experience everything life has to offer. I am more than happy to talk about the Honors Program or literally anything, I love to talk to people! 


Ben Litterer

Ben Litterer

Hi! My name is Ben Litterer and I'm from Manchester, Iowa. I study Data Science and French, and I'm super pumped to be working in the Honors Program this semester. In addition to my work with Honors, I also study proteins in the Jernigan lab on campus. In my free time, I enjoy staying active, creating music, and catching up with friends.

Some of my previous engagements include tutoring Calculus students through the Academic Success Center and co-leading an Honors course for freshman. I'm passionate about student success, which is why I'm grateful for the opportunity to continue this path as an Undergraduate Assistant.


Paiton McDonald

Paiton McDonald

Hey there! My name is Paiton McDonald, and I'm a sophomore studying Agricultural Biochemistry and International Agriculture with a minor in Pharmacology and Toxicology. Outside of working as one of the Undergraduate Assistants, the Honors Program has given me endless incredible opportunities. I was able to join a fantastic research lab with the First-Year Honors Mentor Program and co-lead a class of incoming Honors freshman. Outside of Honors, I am the Alumni co-chair and treasurer in-training for the Stupka Undergraduate Research Symposium planning committee, represent BBMB in the CALS council, member of Dairy Science Club and CALS LEAD IT. I also enjoy playing volleyball, analyzing defensive football plays, reading, and having movie nights with my friends. I'm happy to talk about the Honors Program, Iowa State, or even my love for dairy and research!

Undergraduate Support Staff:

  • Amy Schraeder & Aaron Leppert
    University Honors Program Student Assistants
  • Courtney Schill
    Undergraduate Research TA and Student Assistant