Students Share "Intellectual Journey" at Honors Symposium
Program Celebrates Successful First Semester

5/15/07


Did you work hard? Would you do it again? The resounding response from MCCC Honors students was "yes" and "yes." Many of the 30 students who participated in the inaugural semester of Mercer's Honors Program gathered with faculty and family members for a symposium in the Student Center on May 8 to share their Honors projects and experiences.

Explained Jacqueline Kotnarowski, who took Honors History with Dr. Craig Coenen, "We focused on concepts, not facts. There was a substantial amount of work, but it was the right kind of work." Kotnarowski, a freshman, plans to transfer after graduating from Mercer to pursue her bachelor's degree in psychology and looks forward to completing the Honors Program with three additional classes next year. "It's worth the extra work," she said. "I got a lot out of this course and I know the Honors designation will expand my transfer options."

Honors Coordinator Dr. Carol Bork, a member of the English faculty, addressed the assembled students. "You are pioneers of the Honors Program. You were willing to take a risk. That's what this program is for - to guide you as you take risks on your intellectual journey. That's the reason you came to college." In its first semester, the program included three classes: history, English, and sociology. Courses in international business, microeconomics and psychology will be added for fall, 2007.

Faculty member Dr. Gianna Durso-Finley, with Honors students Laura Christiansen, Kevin Dower, Jen Vitella, Twyla Malone, and Program Coordinator Dr. Carol Bork.
Sondra Mincey and Leda Bargo took
Honors Sociology this semester.

Sondra Mincey, an adult student who works full time as an administrative analyst with the N.J. Department of Corrections, was thrilled with her first taste of Honors level work in the sociology course taught by Dr. Giana Durso-Finley. Mincey has taken a course or two at Mercer each semester since 2001, and was struck by the level of commitment among students in her Honors class. "We were all aiming for the same goal - to excel," she said. Mincey was particularly stimulated by group projects, even with her busy work schedule, and marveled at the relevance of class topics to real life. "Everything I learned in class seemed to appear in the news," she observed.

For student Jessica Lyle, learning in a student-led environment was a joy. "It was very interactive. The high interest level among students created a great atmosphere." Patrick Whitty was just as enthusiastic. "I loved it. Students in my class were really motivated." Other students noted that they have developed a new sense of self-confidence. "I was forced to break down boundaries and let go of things that are familiar," said one student. Added another, "I learned how to learn."

Student Kevin Dower jumped in with double resolve, pursuing the Honors option in both history and English. "I heard about the program from two of my teachers and they told me I would have a chance to say more, do more and learn more. The impression I got from them was that it would be fun. And it was. These two classes have been my favorite classes ever."

Several students pursued a second Honors option: developing an individualized contract with their professor. Student Helen Emrick created a contract in her major, Exercise Science, with program coordinator John Kalinowski and athletic trainer Lisa Camillone. "The student must do 20-25 hours of additional class work," she explained. "I focused on stress management for athletes." Additionally Emrick put together an assessment for a community health fair that tested athletes' strength and performance. "I think the contract works really well. You get to be creative with the projects that you do. You get to know the professors better and share in their areas of interest."

Bork notes that the Honors Program sets the highest possible goals for intellectual growth and critical thinking. "In this setting, students are expected to take on more responsibility for their own learning within a community of scholars," she said. Honors courses emphasize analytical writing, effective public speaking, interactive and collaborative learning, use of primary source materials, and information literacy.

"High-achieving high school seniors who are weighing their college options should welcome this news," Bork continued. "For a fraction of the cost of a four-year school, Mercer's Honors Program will provide a classroom setting that utilizes the most advanced teaching methods to help students fulfill their potential. Those who graduate from Mercer with an Honors designation will find themselves extremely well-prepared for transfer to a four-year college or university. Scholarship opportunities will also be enhanced," she said.

MCCC President Dr. Patricia Donohue, who began her tenure at the college in February, is committed to the Honors initiative. "In serving the needs of all our students, it is imperative that we serve the needs of students who are seeking the greatest intellectual challenges," she said. "This kind of rigorous academic program helps individual students achieve their goals and continue to establish higher goals, while also adding richness to their lives and our community."

Acceptance into the MCCC Honor Program requires completion of an application, a faculty recommendation, 12 prior college credits with a grade point average of 3.5 or better, and an interview with the Honors Council, comprised of program faculty and advisors. To earn an Honors designation on their diploma, students are required to take four honors courses (12 credits) as part of their regular curriculum and to maintain a 3.5 GPA or better throughout their schooling at Mercer.

For more information on the MCCC Honors Program, click here, email borkc@mccc.edu or call (609) 570-3890.

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