Meet our team!

Have questions about the program? Email us at, or, if you’re on campus, swing by the Honors House located at 1704 Illinois St.


Lauren Shumaker
Director of the Thorson First-Year Honors Experience | 303-273-3103 | Honors House, Room 202

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 sedimentology and tectonics, primate behavior and human adaptability, 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 Director of Thorson First-Year Honors and a teaching assistant professor, where I bring a scientist’s perspective to our interdisciplinary approach to design, ethics, and communication. I am thrilled to be focused 100% on this program and the IDEAS class. In my off time, you might find me hiking or biking, reading or drawing, or generally enjoying time with my husband, toddler, and dog.

Allison Caster
Associate Director of Community | Honors House, Room B06

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.

Toni Lefton
Executive Director of University Honors and Scholars Programs | 303-384-2332 | Honors House, Room 201

As a little girl my favorite place to sit and imagine was an airport. I calculated the uncertainty of all the lives rushing past me and invented what those stories could be. I loved to listen to the unmistakable language of hurried heels, a dialect of suitcase wheels, and snippets of multilingual conversations. Growing up in West Africa I moved through a lot of airports where the transect of departures and arrivals became the calculus for my creativity and the origin of my wanderlust to see the world through as many lenses as I could. I started my academic life as a biologist and then a medical student. I turned to studying comparative literature and philosophy, often hinged to a scientific lens so I could understand more of the complexities as my life as a poet began to thrive. At Mines, I have taught creative writing, literature, philosophy and ethics, while expanding my interdisciplinary experience and collaborating with a physicist, a neurologist, a biomechanical engineer, and this amazing multi-disciplinary, IDEAS teaching team. Although I will not be formally teaching IDEAS this year, I will actively support this first-year honors community and hope to get to know each of you. I always have a cup of tea, a comfortable couch, and a T-Rex cookie jar waiting in my office. Stop by sometime and share your story with me.


Harry Archer | Honors House, Room B06

Black and white photo of a man with glasses and light hair, smilingI come to I.D.E.A.S. from the field of communication studies: the offspring of what was once called speech communication. Over the years, I have been preoccupied with theorizing persuasion both in terms of verbal arguments, and more so in terms of how the designed world persuades us to take up certain dispositions and lifestyles. To this effect, I have analyzed transportation systems, murals, graffiti, public art, pilgrimages, and historic wireless telegraphy with a view to discerning how and what they communicate to their audiences. In my classes, I strive to engage both the traditional verbal approach to communication and the more material, embodied, and experiential dimensions of how we come to know what we know, and how we produce motives and conviction in ourselves and others. I also teach Leadership by Design (HNRS 198A). If you are interested in my rhetorical take on design, or if you want to cultivate an esoteric view on the latest English Premier League game, you can find me in the Honor’s House.

Wendy Fisher | 303-273-3195 | CTLM 246G *Email only for Fall 2023 due to international travel.

I am thrilled to get involved in the Thorson Honors program, IDEAS, and for the opportunity to connect with students in a new way! I am a Teaching Professor and the Associate Department Head of Computer Science, as well as the CS@Mines Bridge Program Director. In the classroom, I use a varied set of active learning techniques to keep students engaged and provide activities to help bridge our learning to applications in the real-world. I am also a proud Mines alum! My interdisciplinary research included the application of Machine Learning to Geophysical data to detect anomalous events in earth dams and levees. I have always loved to travel abroad, and even spent time in Amsterdam studying their levee systems and collecting data during my PhD studies.  All of my undergraduate work was also in computer science. I have owned my own business and worked in industry for years prior to coming to academia. The coolest industry job that I have had was working as a Software Engineer for Ball Aerospace writing flight code for a NASA-sponsored project to fix the Hubble space telescope. When I am not teaching or in meetings at the university, I am outside enjoying the beautiful state of Colorado with my friends and family.

Justin Latici | 603-520-5415 | Honors House, Room B06

For me, IDEAS feels like home. I have a background in environmental science and creative writing, two interests that don’t immediately have a linear connection for most people. I have at times struggled, as you all no doubt will, to articulate exactly what that relationship is, and why it is important. For me, though, one hand has always washed the other and I’m looking forward to sharing some of the insights I’ve gleaned about the importance of that relationship with you. I’ve been an educator at Mines for close to a decade now. In addition to IDEAS, I teach Explorations in Modern America, and run the Practicum experience for McBride students. I’m always happy to meet and chat in person, so please take advantage of office hours!