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What MCCC Honors Students Learned Over Lunch


Mercer Honors Program Director Bettina Caluori (Professor of English) welcomed students and staff. "We wanted to get together in a different way and talk in a different way than we usually do," she said.

Professor John Nadig (Mathematics) shared his academic journey, which included working his way through college while making schoolwork a priority.

Professor Jonathan Rowe (Business) describes his journey, along with several other faculty members. See a video about the luncheon here.

West Windsor, N.J. – This fall, Mercer County Community College (MCCC) students who are taking Honors courses had an opportunity to enjoy lunch at the Mercer Conference Center with their professors – and learn a whole lot more about them.

According to Mercer Honors Director and Professor of English Bettina Caluori, the event was designed to break down barriers that sometimes exist between students and their professors. “We wanted to get together in a different way and to talk in a different way than we usually do,” she explained to students in her welcome remarks. “We want you to use us as an educational resource, whether that’s in the classroom or outside the classroom.”

With more than 20 of her colleagues in attendance, Caluori noted, “You are on your educational journey and we faculty members and advisers are still on our educational journey. We couldn’t give it up.”

Some of the professors stepped up to share their personal stories. Caluori, for one, said that she was the first woman in her family to earn a college degree – and her doctorate degree.

Numerous professors stated that they did not blossom as students until they arrived at college. Professor of Mathematics John Nadig shared that he was an avid cyclist and swimmer in high school and did not get serious about his education until his senior year, when he decided it was time to start reading great literature. “How can you be a teacher if you are not inspired to learn,” he realized.

Nadig worked his way through college. “I learned to budget my time and I got good grades. I studied really hard and it worked for me. I hope it works for you,” he said.

Professor of Business Jonathan Rowe shared that while not particularly driven in high school, he eventually became serious about learning – starting out at MCCC and then transferring to the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston, where he earned his bachelor’s degree. He followed that with three graduate degrees from Temple University: an M.B.A, a Masters in Laws, and a Juris Doctor degree. As a professor of who teaches both business and paralegal studies, Rowe is putting all of that knowledge to use to good use at Mercer.

Assistant Professor of Sociology Edward Avery-Natale took computer science in his first year of college before discovering that his real interests were sociology and philosophy. He notes that he has been fortunate to be able to pursue his passions and teaching is proving the right decision. “I am quite happy to be here at Mercer,” he said.

Associate Professor of Mathematics Charlene Sharkey knew from a young age that she intended to get her Ph.D., but was reluctant to follow in her father’s footsteps as a math teacher, even though math was a subject that came easy to her. Sharkey earned her associate degree from Ocean County College and dual bachelor’s degrees from Kutztown Universit in chemistry and math. Eventually she realized that teaching math was indeed her calling and also made good on her childhood dream of earning her Ph.D. (from American University). “Don’t worry about following in anyone’s footsteps. You have to do what’s right for you,” she advised students.

For Professor of English and Journalism Holly Johnson, spending a year in a Greek immersion program was what lit her fire for learning. “I was motivated to re-write papers as many as six times. I learned what an ‘A’ paper was,” Johnson said. During her senior year at Columbia University, she discovered journalism. “That changed everything for me,” she said. “Hopefully you’ll find that moment for you...the one that makes you excited to get up every day.”

As current co-adviser for MCCC’s award-winning College VOICE student newspaper, Johnson expects nothing short of excellence from the newspaper staff. The VOICE has consistently been recognized for its achievements, including a record-breaking 24 awards last year.

As the group finished its lunch, students were given the opportunity to ask questions of their professors informally about a range if academic, transfer and career subjects.

Nadig was optimistic that the information sharing with the students had made a difference. “I hope that by sharing our stories, we have helped to allay your fears and raise your expectations about what you can do.”

The Mercer Honors Program offers a range of courses in biology, business and technology, chemistry, composition, humanities, mathematics, and social sciences. These courses prepare students for junior- and senior-level coursework at some of the best colleges and universities in the nation, and the distinction of honors course work is noted on students' transcripts.

Mercer Honors Program

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