Mixed feelings across campus concerning honors program

By Jane Chieco
October 28, 2005

The academic standard at Cabrini College has been elevated, as its catalyzing matriculation ceremony inducted 90 honors students on Aug. 24. While it is valid that the class of 2009 is the largest class Cabrini has ever seen numerically, its 600 freshmen as a whole are paving the way for a successful student output from Cabrini College.

Many have questioned whether or not an honors program is necessary in a college atmosphere and how proficient the honors program is. While some contest the program is an unfair mechanism of tracking students, others defend that it provides an outlet for an eager and dedicated group of learners.

“I think honors programs are needed in college. The honors program is used by colleges and universities as a tool of recruitment for better students. They have also become a useful way of attracting academically superior students to the campus,” Dr. Leonard Primiano, one of the three directors of the honors program, said.

Honors programs amongst colleges provide a way for each school to see the quality of students they are accepting and provide a projection of what those learners will achieve and aspire to become in the future.

“I would say that honors programs are probably not necessary in a college atmosphere. However, they do provide a wider demographic profile in terms of talents and strengths among students. The honors program helps identify those students who are engaged in learning something new,” Dr. Charles McCormick, the dean of academic affairs and an additional director of the honors program, said.

“The honors program is overrated. I know of a few people who are in the honors program and have a lower GPA than I do. The SATs should not determine whether you are in it,” Nicole Meyers, a sophomore nursing major, said.

McCormick explained that the process is two-fold. “There are two ways a student can enter the honors program. The first way a student can be accepted into the program is through the review of their SATs, GPA, and intangible strengths that the administration identifies. The other way a student is able to come into the program is by obtaining a recommendation letter by a full-time faculty member and then doing well in an interview conducted by Dr. Primiano and myself. There has to be evidence and effort that prove that you are an engaged and excited learner,” McCormick said.

Yet, the honors program is not meant to intimidate or project a negative message to anyone on campus.

There are 15 honors courses regularly offered every year. Many students question the level of difficulty of these honors courses.

“It is not that these courses are any more difficult than the rest of the courses offered here at Cabrini; it is that these courses are designed differently and have different content matter. While traditional areas are discussed in a non-honors class, honors classes are about synthetic connections and a conceptual way of thinking,” McCormick said.

“I think they are rigorous and very challenging,” Primiano, who teaches both an honors and regular section of ‘The Search for Meaning’ class, said.

McCormick said that “the goal is to create an intense motivation within the honor students.”

Primiano said that the workload is meant to be rigorous. “The faculty provides a heavier workload and expectations are more when one is in an honors class. Expectations for critical writing, speaking, reading, as well as thinking are higher. The assignments themselves are heavier in their conceptual content,” Primiano said.

Mary Kate Korp, the president of the freshmen class, is in the honors program and is pleased with the learning communities which are new this year at Cabrini. A learning community is two classes with paralleled subject material and the same role call. The community provides a comfort zone among the honors students, especially for the majority, which reside in the New Residence Hall.

“The honors community is not just a relationship that we have in our classes. Our living arrangements make it so as we are all very close with one another, and it is through these living arrangements that I feel we are very fortunate. Due to our housing set-up, we are able to get very close to one another, and our tight-knit relationship enriches my Cabrini College experience. I feel that first-year students that are enrolled in the honors program are more fortunate than the other first-year students, because we have a family-like atmosphere, and we feel like we have a place to belong,” Korp said.

Some students feel the administration should make the standards higher to be accepted into the honors program.

“I want to achieve a higher level of analytical thinking and perceptual means of solving problems. Upon arriving at Cabrini College, I realized that a number of the students who were admitted into the honors program were not operating on the same level of intellectual thought as me,” Justin Rogers, a freshman who also lives in New Residence building, said.

John Casparro, the president of the honors council, thinks otherwise. “The honors program is a great opportunity for students to expand their educational experience here at Cabrini. The honors program is sponsoring many activities this year. One major trip is going to the Curtis Symphony Orchestra, which we are projecting for February. We volunteer at the Special Olympics, and take a bunch of trips to the Kimmel center for shows,” Casparro, the president for the second year, said.

“This year, Dr. Dunbar, Dr. Primiano and myself hope to create a better and more intentional plan for the next several years of the honors program. We hope to acquire more grant money so as we can offer the honors students more opportunities and attract another group of avid learners to our campus,” said McCormick.

Loquitur welcomes your comments on this story. Please send your comments to: Loquitur@yahoogroups.com. The editors will review your points each week and make corrections if warranted.

Posted to the web by Shane Evans

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Jane Chieco

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