Maybe you’ve met one of them sitting next to you in class or perhaps in the library or maybe even during lunch.
Honors Program students aren’t separated from those in the regular undergraduate program. According to Dr. Arthur Gianelli, director of the Honors Program, “They shouldn’t be.”
The Honors Program is geared toward, but not limited to motivated students in St. John’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.”What we try to do in the Honors Program is that we try to make a learning community where the faculty is available not just inside, but outside of class,” said Gianelli. “We’re offering the best education at St. John’s.
Honors classes consist of special courses within the core curriculum of St. John’s College. This enables students to take honors courses in their freshman and sophomore years, and then branch out and take courses suitable to their major.
“We’re not an ‘elitist’ group. Students branch out after taking the core [honors] courses,” said Gianelli. “We don’t want to separate the honors students; we’d rather have them go into the regular program at the completion of their core curriculum.”
Requirements for the Honors Program consist of a 90 average or better in high school and/or a minimum combined SAT score of 1200. Gianelli was quick to add however, that “exceptions can be made depending on the circumstances… we understand that some people cannot take formal tests. The 1200 [SAT score] is not a hard line.”
Each year, Gianelli estimated that the number of honors students accepted into the program increases. The current total is about 120 to about 160 students. “Each year, we receive 60 to about 70 students into the program,” said Gianelli, who has headed the program for 14 years. “Normally the kids are good students. Not everyone we offer accepts, some don’t want to do the work, others feel they’re not interested,” Gianelli said.
Although the Honors Program is open to all students in other colleges, it’s more difficult for them because of the way it’s structured within St. John’s College’s core curriculum. It’s also difficult for upperclassmen to participate in the program because it’s made up of the core, something juniors and seniors usually finish by their third year.
An honors class, which has its own section in the registration bulletin within St. John’s College’s classes, runs according to the normal times that all classes do. The major differences is that in the Honors Program, the classes are smaller and the professors are selected according to the level of interaction with students. “The philosophy of the program,” explained Gianelli, “is to get the best teachers to ensure an active level of communication and interaction.” To do that, Gianelli said “you have to get smaller classes.”
Julio Espinoza, a junior majoring in biology, thinks that smaller classes are one of the best things the Honors Program has to offer. “I like that it’s a small class, usually a lot of people contribute to the class conversations,” he said.
Espinoza also enjoys the honors courses for the way they are taught. “The honors courses give you more flexibility. It’s not straight from the book or a lecture. It gives you a chance to really think.”
“Professors are encouraged to be innovative,” said Gianelli, “which includes not only changing the content of their courses, but also how professors teach them.”
Dr. Paul Gaffney, an associate professor of philosophy, is one of the few professors chosen to teach some of the honors sections curriculum. “I’ve certainly met some of the most remarkable students at St. John’s through the program, said Gaffney. “This includes some of the most ambitious and interesting students on campus, all from a diverse background, which is what provides such a great learning experience.”
The Honors Program also has a lounge on campus open to all honor students. “Usually there are always students in there at different times during the day.” said Gianelli.
Besides smaller classes and the Honors Lounge, people in the program enjoy additional benefits. Anyone who has successfully completed at least 30 credits in the Honors Program and achieved a 3.3 index in both their honor courses and in their general curriculum will receive an Honors Certificate. “The Honors Certificates are awarded during the Dean’s Convocation each Spring,” said Gianelli.
The certificate, which can be sent along with graduate school applications, is signed by both the dean of St. John’s College and the director of the Honors Program. It’s accompanied by a statement of the requirements of Honors Program as well.
Although not every honors student involved in the program completes and receives the Honors Certificate, a good number of honors students go on to graduate school.
Joyce Lawlor, associate dean of St. John’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, said “many of the honors students attend medical, law or professional schools.”
Ed Michell, a senior and math major who has been involved with the Honors Program throughout the four years he’s been attending St. John’s, said “I recommend it for any freshman or sophomore. It makes college life easier. You start with a specific group of people at St. John’s. It’s an enriching experience.”
For more information regarding the Honors Program, please see the registration bulletin or call and speak to Dr. Arthur F. Gianelli, director of the Honors Program, at 718-990-5435.