West Windsor, N.J. – Who needs calculus? American Honors (AH) at Mercer students proved they do. Professor Richard Porter’s Calculus 1 class was among 15 classes to present newfound knowledge and insights during the American Honors at Mercer Symposium, held Dec. 6 at the MCCC Conference Center.
This was American Honors’ inaugural semester at Mercer County Community College (MCCC), which is successfully building upon its existing honors program to expand resources and options for these high-achieving students.
Students treated their professors and fellow students to a full morning of skits, readings and demonstrations. Presentations included subjects ranging from writing and English to history, sociology, psychology, philosophy, math, biology, organic chemistry, and communications. Professor Gianna Durso-Finley, Assistant Dean for American Honors at Mercer, served as master of ceremonies.
Many of the presentations echoed the theme that students are seeing the world in new ways. Said Sociology student Sara Cieslik, “My sociology class changed my life. It taught me how to make my familiar world strange.” Added her classmate, “The class upsets pre-conceived gender rules. You will never look at ads the same way again.”
Math students showed that they can use calculus to predict all kinds of things. Liam Fitzpatrick, who is planning to attend medical school, calculated the debt and payment schedule he will be facing, while Adam Haines investigated prostate cancer trends. Other projects examined the growth in the audience for Netflix and hydraulic fracturing and the incidence of cancer in Pennsylvania.
Philosophy students approached moral dilemmas from the perspective of well-known schools of philosophy, while psychology students considered hypothetical family problems from the viewpoints of those who are famous in the field. Students who took “World History Since 1500” showed that there are multiple sides to any historical account, while “American History Since 1865” students described major events from each decade.
Writing students noted the arsenal of new techniques they have discovered as they reach beyond the five-paragraph essay. Several said they began the class thinking they had nothing new to learn and came away with a whole new appreciation for the writing process.
In the sciences, students presented hands-on demonstrations. Budding biologists shared glasses of water that represented body fluids being exchanged to demonstrate what would occur during the transmission of an infectious virus. Organic chemistry students literally brought science to life by dressing as molecules and atoms; then they demonstrated principles of acid/base neutralization that drew 'oohs' and 'aahs' from the packed house as the colors of the liquid changed.
The event drew to a close with a 10-minute video written by, filmed by and starring Professor Kathi Paluscio's Public Speaking students. “Who is an honors student?” they ask in the film. They responded that they are mothers, children and volunteers. They are unique individuals. They juggle multiple demands – especially their challenging honors curriculum – and they want open collaboration and a role in the decision-making that affects them. These students have high expectations as they look to the American Honors at Mercer to help them get to the next level and they are doing their part to make it happen.
At the event’s conclusion, Dr. Durso-Finley congratulated students for their hard work throughout the fall. “Your presentations showed your vision – and your revision – of your thinking, your commitment to learning, and, most of all, your desire to be true to yourselves.”
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More about American Honors at Mercer here.
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