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The New Honors Program @ PCCC 

 

Posted October 25, 2017
 

Professor Alexandra Della Fera discusses a writing assignment with students in a dedicated Honors Program English class. Honors Program students on an apple picking field trip last September with Professor Della Fera (bottom left) and Honors Program coordinator, Professor Marc Yeung, (far right). Miko DiGiacomo-Castillo, a communications major, was selected to present her research last spring at The Beacon Conference, an annual regional event for honors students.
 

PCCC introduced an excitingly refreshed Honors Program this Fall, re-designed and enhanced to provide high-achieving students a more stimulating college education through seminar-style classes.  The Program features innovative curriculum, expanded research opportunities, mentorship, personalized academic advising, assistance with scholarship funding, and enriching cultural experiences that will eventually include study abroad programs.

The new Program was developed over the course of a year by a committee of 2 administrators and 10 faculty members from the disciplines of English, Math, Science, Humanities, Social Sciences, and Human Services.

“We felt the time had come to offer a full-scale Honors Program to our academically talented students who sought to be challenged in their learning,” said Gregory Fallon, Associate Dean of Learning Resources.

“PCCC students can now have a high-quality academic experience that comes at a cost far lower than that of other colleges,” added Dean Fallon. “At the moment, all of the honors courses developed for the program have adopted Open Educational Resources (OER), which faculty have selected and integrated into their courses to ease students’ financial burden.  Unlike commercial textbooks, these resources come at no cost to the student.”

 
Program Design and Requirements

Previously, the Honors Program at PCCC was ad hoc in nature; that is, students approached faculty members individually to request to take honors courses by contract.  The structure did not offer students a key benefit found in other Honors Programs: the opportunity to learn together in small honors classes created especially for them, a format that enhances the type of intellectually engaging discussions and collaborations expected in such an environment.

In addition, a dedicated space for Honors students and faculty, which is shared with the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, has been provided at the Main Campus library, creating not only a home for honors activities, but also a visible and distinct presence on campus.  Formerly the Gateway Center, the center has been renamed the Center for Leadership Excellence (CLE).

To be admitted to the Honors Program, students must have a GPA of at least 3.5, as well as meet other eligibility requirements. To graduate with honors, students must complete 17 honors credits, which including a capstone seminar course, and maintain a 3.5 GPA.

Honors classes are limited to 20 or fewer students. The small size allows honors faculty to provide more individualized attention to students, while also fostering a collaborative, “active- learning” environment, in which honors students can challenge one another, explore course material through lively, in-depth discussion, and experience mutually supportive intellectual engagement with their peers and professors.
Extra-curricular enrichment includes field trips to museums, restaurants, book-signings, lectures, and other cultural events, as well as opportunities for community service and leadership development.

 
Future Goals

Plans already underway call for increased participation in regional, national, and international conferences, enabling honors students to showcase their original research projects and encounter other talented, young academics. Last spring, PCCC participated for the first time in The Beacon Conference, where communication major Miko DiGiacomo-Castillo was among a selected few students chosen to present their original research.  (Read about Miko’s experience here).

Long-range plans include coordination with the Phi Theta Kappa honor society on team-building projects, community service, leadership experiences, and scholarship opportunities. 

Additionally, the Program will help graduating PCCC honors students transfer into Honors Programs at four-year colleges. PCCC will also seek to forge more transfer agreements with academically selective colleges and universities.

“This is an ambitious plan that will be implemented gradually,” explained Dean Fallon, who noted that The Fall 2017 semester started with 40 Honors Program students, some recruited from area high schools through visits by PCCC teams. “As of now, faculty have developed 14 distinct honors courses, which will be rolled out as demand is demonstrated.”

An effective Honors Program sets a standard of excellence for the college and also enhances its external reputation, making it more attractive to high-achieving prospective students and to top-tier, four-year colleges. 

The ultimate goal is to one day convert the PCCC Honors Program to a full-fledged Honors College. 
The new program brings that lofty aim within reach.  Find out more here about the Honors Program at PCCC.