First-Year Honors Explore Community


Application + Admission

Students interested in living in the First-Year Honors Explore Living-Learning Community (i.e. the housing community) must be accepted into the First-Year Honors Explore Program. More information about applications and deadlines can be found on the programs’ websites:
Thorson Honors Explore  
Grandey Honors Explore

Students will also submit a Signature Learning Community application in the Residence Hall application, located in the Housing Portal.

Interested in Learning More?

Please join the  First-Year Honors Q&A Webinar on February 16th, 5-6 pm MST.
The registration link is
The Thorson & Grandey Directors will present alongside students from each program to share more about the Signature Learning Community and other aspects of the programs!

Faculty Friends:

Lauren Shumaker

Director of Thorson First-Year Honors Experience

About Lauren.

I went to college with sights set on literature and creative writing, but unexpectedly fell in love with geology and human evolution studies. Between classes on primate behavior and human adaptability, sedimentology and tectonics, I also discovered a passion for teaching. Field mapping skills can’t be learned in a classroom, so from my early days of teaching I saw the value of active, hands-on learning. Geologists are master arm-wavers, so I saw too how a lively discussion that leaves no idea unexplored can lead to intriguing and unexpected results. I eventually made my way to a PhD in sedimentary geology, focused on submarine channels (aka underwater rivers!). I came to Mines in 2016 for a post-doctoral research fellowship and joined the Thorson team in 2018. I am now the Associate Director for Thorson and a teaching assistant professor, and I am thrilled to be focused 100% on this program and the IDEAS class. In my off time, you might find me hiking in the mountains, throwing clay on the wheel, or curled up all day with a good book.

Carrie J. "CJ" McClelland

Teaching Professor Engineering, Design & Society

About CJ.

Carrie J. McClelland (CJ) came to Mines first as a student, when she earned  a B.S. in Engineering with a Civil Specialty, and a minor in Public Affairs through the McBride Honors Program.  She returned to Mines to teach after working as a professional civil engineer. CJ holds a M.S. in Environmental Engineering, a Ph.D. in Civil Engineering, and graduate minors in Engineering for Developing Communities and College Teaching from the University of Colorado-Boulder.

She is passionate about helping students learn in meaningful, fun, and impactful ways, and helping them to be well-rounded thinkers and effective professionals who contribute positively to society.  CJ‘s teaching focuses on courses that push students to think and integrate multiple aspects through projects, experiences, and active in-class modes. Her research interests include teaching as research (Scholarship of Teaching & Learning); pedagogy from a practitioner’s view; and the interplay between technical, social, political, environmental, and economic factors in making engineering and policy decisions.  Away from Mines, CJ enjoys spending time with her family, hiking, skiing, camping, and finding ways to be creative through crafts, art, and building.


Allison Caster

Teaching Associate Professor | Chemistry

About Allison.

Allison Caster joined Mines as a Teaching Assistant Professor of Chemistry. Allison earned her BS in Chemistry at the University of South Dakota (2004), and her Ph.D. in 2010 from the University of California – Berkeley, where she was a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow. This was followed by a Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus in Bioengineering. Allison has developed non-invasive, laser and X-ray based microscopy techniques for probing the chemistry of both natural and man-made structures. The applications of these techniques are, for example, to improve the production of smaller integrated circuits, or to identify and sort cancerous from non-cancerous cells in human blood. With a shift in focus to undergraduate eduction, Allison strives to highlight the applications of modern, interdisciplinary research in the classroom and laboratory, and to implement more active-learning strategies which improve student engagement, excitement, and retention.

Affiliate Programs:

Thorson First-Year Honors Program

Grandey First-Year Honors Program

Learning Outcomes

Students in the First-Year Honors Explore Community will…

  • Discover opportunities that will enhance their academic experience and find shared interests and passions by exercising your curiosity, building connections with each other through programming and social gatherings, and discovering what they find fun and motivating!
  • Deepen social integration into Mines and foster a sense of belonging in communities that share a focus on engineering, science, design, the humanities, and leadership.
  • Understand the value of leadership and shared perspectives and the impact they have on others in the community, through identifying opportunities to build partnerships and enact personal values in everyday decisions as a member of the community.
  • Engage with fellow Thorson and Grandey students and TAs outside of the classroom to expand their support and project-development network, broaden perspectives, and forge life-long connections that enrich their college, life, and career experiences.