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Honors student rises through the ranks

Ethan at the top of Machu Picchu

Junior Honors student Ethan Witting recently reached the top of Machu Picchu during his Honors Travel experience in Peru.

When Ethan Witting arrived at Illinois State in 2013, he had no idea how much of an impact joining the Honors Program would have on his life.

“The Honors Program opened my eyes to the possibilities out there and showed me what I was capable of doing,” says Witting, of Munster, Indiana.

His parents—Ann Witting ’86 and Thomas Witting ’87—and Honors staff encouraged him to submit his application to the Honors Program. Now, Witting has become the Honors Program undergraduate assistant and is head of the Student Leadership Team, a role that demands coordinating a close-knit group of 20 Honors ambassadors, community assistants, and peer mentors. In this role, Witting also manages the Honors Program’s digital presence, which features seven different social networks.


Drawing upon his firsthand experience with construction, Witting was a valuable member of the Honors Alternative Spring Break Habitat for Humanity team.

“I never imagined I’d be where I am now,” Witting says while reflecting about the home he has made for himself in the Honors Program. But “home” is a relative term, since through Honors Travel, Ethan has found himself in Georgia, Italy, Germany, and Peru.

Honors Travel provides students with the opportunity to experience different countries and cultures in connection with a wide variety of academic disciplines and interests. Domestic travel experiences involve teams of Honors students engaging in service learning, while international travel experiences are guided by a “city as text” model. Witting has pursued every Honors Travel experience offered since their May 2014 inception.

Ethan Witting in Peru

Witting has participated in every international Honors Travel opportunity to date, including the fall 2015 trip to Peru.

“The Honors Travel experience has been my favorite part of Illinois State so far,” said Witting. “You get so close to the people who were strangers when the trip began, and they become your best friends.”

As Witting looks to the future, he sees that the leadership and communication skills he has gained from his time in Honors will help make him more marketable in underwriting and brokerage. This newfound confidence in his abilities has transformed the way he approaches his education.

“Without the Honors Program, I wouldn’t be where I am,” Witting says. “I used to be an unmotivated student and now I don’t accept anything less than exceptional because I know I can do it. It turned my whole life around, and in a good way!”