by Mary Kehoe

Throughout the past year, Mount Saint Mary College’s Honors Program has gone through many renovations. Last year, Alice Walters was appointed as the new Associate Dean for Mount Saint Mary College’s Academic Affairs, and by extension, the new head of the Honors Program within the college.

The new reforms being made to the program aim to heighten the sense of community among honors students and promote the program’s prominence on campus. While the Honors Program is still in transition, many new modifications have already been implemented. However, the effectiveness of these changes has yet to be determined, since many of the adjustments will not be complete until the Fall 2012 semester.

Students within the former Honors Program had the opportunity to take courses that were specified only for honors students, or they had the ability to transform any course into an honors course by the professor adding more work to the course’s intended schedule, regularly referred to as honors by contract. Most commonly, this has been accomplished by the addition of a research paper or a class presentation to the already implemented syllabus.

In order to complete the 18 necessary honors credits to graduate, every student has needed to transform regular classes into honors classes. This is because there has always been a limited number of designated honors courses offered. The new program intends to minimize the amount of students needing to make a regular class into and honors class by offering more entirely honors courses.

One of the problems existing in the honors program prior to the changes was that only a handful of nursing students have been known to graduate with the honors distinction. This reality can be directly related to the fact that not many classes have been offered in the past that fit with the nursing curriculum schedules. To resolve this conflict, a new Medical Ethics class with honors distinction is in the works, although it has not yet been confirmed. Nonetheless, strides are being made so more nursing majors have the opportunity to be a member of the honors program.
In addition to Dr. Alice Walters, there is a team of students working to improve and reform the Mount’s Honors Program, named the Mount Saint Mary College Honors Council. This council is a new creation, and it consists of a President, Secretary, and Treasurer. There are elections to decide who commands these roles, which consist of eleven titles. Presently Junior English major, Alyssa Watkins, holds the position of Chair of Honors Council.

The Honors council, along with other honors students, meets approximately every month to discuss the happenings and updates within the Honors Program. Some of the activities currently in the works include service projects, such as food drives, tutoring sessions with Bishop Dunn Memorial School, as well as social events which would help to bring the honors student community together. .

The changes being made to the Mount’s Honors Program is, according to the Honors Council, incomplete.  Council Chair Alyssa Watkins stated, “It is an exciting time to be in the program. The next three years are the years of transition.” There is a sincere enthusiasm students have towards this renovated Honors Program.
Alyssa Watkins was asked, “Why is it an exciting time?” Alyssa’s responded that it is exciting because ultimately, promises to be more interactive, in depth, and coherent. Stephanie Weaver, Liaison between The Honors Council and the Mount’s Administration, hopes for the program to include the following, “a higher sense of scholarship, more research based study, and a collaborative relationship between the career center and the program.”

There are several concrete changes already made, which include: Genetics, a class on globalization, possibly a medical ethics course, and several science and math tutorials, which are planning to be made into, honors courses.  These classes are planning to be offered during the next spring semester of 2013.

In contrast to the old program, students are now expected to maintain a 3.4 GPA throughout their college career, meaning each semester. The previous Honors students were only expected to achieve an overall 3.4 GPA upon graduation.  There may also be the establishment an honors lounge new student center (expected to be in Hudson Hall upon the construction of the Dominican Center), but this has yet to be confirmed.  Keep all eyes open for new Honors Courses being offered this upcoming year.