Honors Alumna Inspires Honors Class of 2020 with Speech about Failure


By Abigail Megginson

Former Honors student and current employment attorney, Holly Griffin, spoke to the 2020 class of Honors students August 19, Friday night, at Induction. Her main theme was failure.

However, Griffin is anything but a failure. She graduated from the Kugelman Honors Program in 2008, majoring in pre-law, political science and international relations with a history minor. Afterward, she attended law school at Florida State University. Now, she works at a law firm in West Palm Beach handling employment cases where she represents and provides consultations for businesses, a job she loves.

Holly Griffin speaks to Honors freshman and their families in the Center for Fine and Performing Arts.

Her speech to Honors students Friday evening featured anecdotes about her failures and how they shaped her character and prepared her for her career. Many of them were stories from her time at the University of West Florida.

Griffin chose UWF because she wanted to be actively engaged on campus.

“I had the option of being a big fish in a small pond, UWF, or a small fish in a big pond, FSU, and ultimately I chose UWF for that reason along with the small class sizes and me being a Pace Scholar,” Griffin said.

As for the Honors program, she said her high school IB courses inspired her to continue academic excellence in college. She cited the Honors seminars as one of her favorite benefits of the program. Two of them made her favorites list: Politics in the Hebrew Bible and Spy Novels.

Today, Griffin says the Honors program sharpened her critical thinking skills, which are essential for her current work as an attorney.

“The Honors program also taught me to take advantage of an opportunity when it presents itself, and that we should always be looking for opportunities to grow and challenge ourselves.”

When she wasn’t studying, Griffin made use of her time in Honors Council, the student ambassador program, Relay for Life, and the Student Government Association.

Griffin exemplified the typical Honors student. She was incredibly involved, academically minded and Type A. When she found out she had lost the SGA presidential race, she felt like she had failed. It was DL who reminded her that failure is only an opportunity to look for more opportunity to grow and learn.

“Everyone needs to find out what failure means, especially in college,” Griffin noted.


Holly Griffin, Greg Tomso and Robin Jones at Honors Induction.

Failure of a different kind faced Griffin at law school. At the end of her first semester of law school, she considered quitting. Not knowing if it was the right choice for her, she consulted mentors from her time in Honors who suggested she give it one more semester. Griffin stuck with law school and graduated in 2011 with no regrets.

The advice she gives to current Honors students can be used both in college and for a professional job post-graduation.

“Take the chances and try something, even if you don’t know if you’ll do well. Don’t let uncertainty keep you from success.”

Griffin also reminds students to keep in touch with your mentors, even after college. After all, it was a Christmas card she sent to DL that was the catalyst for her speaking engagement to the class of 2020 for Honors Induction.



Alumni Spotlight: Jennifer Gulley

Jennifer Gulley graduated from the University of West Florida as an Honors Scholar in 2010. An International Studies major with minors in Spanish and Communications, she also held the Fundraising Chair on Honors Council. Upon graduation, she moved to DC to begin her interesting and unique career. Jennifer answered a few questions about her experiences in Honors and beyond  UWF.

What are you doing now that you graduated?

After graduation, I moved to DC and fell into a rather interesting field: travel directing! I am an independent contractor for a handful of companies and, though my work varies by assignment, I essentially plan and execute trips. I also do some freelance writing when I have time.

Were you involved in Honors Council or any of the committees? Did you hold any leadership roles? If so, what and how did they impact you?

I did! I chaired the fundraising committee, and pretty much always stuck to that thereafter; fundraising is usually the most necessary and most neglected! I learned a lot through being the chair, from how to write donation and sponsorship requests to accepting and implementing ideas from fellow committee members. The latter is sometimes difficult for me, but I was convinced when we threw a very successful Halo and Madden tournament; I initially brushed off the idea because I know nothing about gaming, but I eventually realized that chairing is less about knowing everything and more about steering a project forward and making sure your team has everything they need. It was a good life lesson.

What was the most lasting impact that the Honors program had on you?

Being in the Honors program had many benefits, but I would say that the sense of community in Pace Hall allowed me to make some of the best friendships of my life.

If you had to redo your time at UWF, what would you do differently?

I tell this to any incoming college student I encounter: go try new things while you have the time and the student discount! One thing you realize after graduating is that hobbies can be expensive! I recently learned to ballroom dance and scuba dive, both of which are offered at UWF for half the price.

What was your favorite thing about UWF?

I really liked how small and low-key the campus was. Some days we would just lay out on the Cannon Green and people would stop by and chat, then go on their merry ways. It was rare to walk from Pace Hall to the Commons and not see someone you knew.

What suggestions or advice would you give to current honors and UWF students about college life?

Aside from trying new things, I would recommend just getting out there and making new friends. This is probably the most social you will ever be in your life, so take advantage of those spontaneous, late night Waffle House trips where packing into a car with a random assortment of people is perfectly normal!

By: Abigail Allgood, Freshman

Alumni Spotlight: Caroline Rohe

Caroline 1 (2)  Caroline Rohe graduated the University of West Florida with Honors in the spring of 2014. A history major, Caroline held a position on Honors Council her senior year as service co-chair. She is currently doing an internship with the National Parks Service.

What is your fondest memory of the Honors Program?

My fondest memories were participating in Honors service events as well as going to honor council retreats.

What was your Honors Thesis about, and what advice would you give to current students about their thesi?

My Honors thesis was on three members of the Nazi elite(Baldur von Schirach, Albert Speer, and Joachim von Ribbentrop) and their role as opportunist within the Nazi regime. My advice would be to start working on it as soon as possible and to use opportunities such as I had, to travel to Washington DC and do research at the National Archives, by applying for travel money.

How has being an Honors alumni helped you in life after graduation?

Being an Honors alumni has helped me land my awesome year long internship with the National Park Service at Gulf Islands National Seashore. Also by graduating with the Honors program and with Honors it helped me get into the Museum Studies masters program with Johns Hopkins University.

What is the best overall advice that would you give to a current Honors student?

My advice for current Honors students would be to be as active in the program as possible, actually read, attend council meetings, make connections with Honors staff and faculty, and enjoy the friendships that are made with fellow Honors students.

By: Lauren Meadors, Sophomore

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