Honors students learn through experiences inside and outside the classroom

Penn State Schuylkill currently has 27 students in the newly revitalized Honors Program. These students explored New York City in the fall and Massachusetts and Harrisburg during spring break. They have been involved in activities both on and off campus, including:  a kick-off reception in November, an honors led symposium, campus debate, and trip to Philadelphia to see the "Phantom of the Opera."

The fall trip to New York City provided the opportunity for students to visit the New York Metropolitan Museum.  This experience allowed students to get to know each other, appreciate art together, and bond in a way that only travel and exposure to great cultural monuments can provide. Rather than following a strict agenda, students were encouraged to browse on their own, allowing their intellectual curiosity and personal preferences to guide them along. The goal was to experience the art first – freshly, innocently, and intensely – and only secondarily to consider preconceived critical notions like Egyptian art being necessarily religious, medieval art being devoted to God and unity, and Renaissance art stressing individualism. Similarly, students were encouraged to explore Manhattan to discover on their own terms the wonders of one of the greatest cities of the world.

During Spring break, the Honors Program participated in a tri-campus trip to Massachusetts along with faculty and students from the Abington and Lehigh Valley campuses. Faculty members, Darcy Medica (Schuylkill), Jacqueline McLaughlin (Lehigh Valley), and Kathy Fadigan (Abington) travelled with 13 honors students from Schuylkill, 2 students from Abington, and 3 students from Lehigh Valley to experience Boston and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOi) in Woods Hole, Mass.  The students learned about historic Boston and visited the New England Aquarium.  They also attended a performance by the Boston Symphony Orchestra that included works by Mozart. At Woods Hole, students toured the Marine Biological Laboratory and WHOi. As part of the tour, they were given a presentation on the effects of global climate change on the artic by WHOi researchers. On return to Pennsylvania, the students attended an “Undergraduate Research at the Capitol – PA” event in Harrisburg, where they were able to speak to students from all over the state who were presenting research posters.  Penn State Schuylkill honors students also met their state representatives, and two of the students presented a poster at the Capitol on research that they conducted with faculty at Penn State Schuylkill. The trip was funded through a grant provided by Wells Fargo.

One of the honors students described the spring break trip as “a wonderful learning experience that provided a unique opportunity to broaden my knowledge outside the traditional classroom.  I was actively engaged throughout the trip as we visited Boston, Woods Hole, and Harrisburg”.

Students enrolled in the honors speech class taught by Valerie Schrader, assistant professor of communications, attended a performance of the Phantom of the Opera at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia.  They have been learning about the musical this semester, and their assignment after the performance was to conduct a rhetorical analysis, resulting in a written report on the performance. Funding for this trip was provided by a grant from Wells Fargo.

The Honors Program and the Undergraduate Research and Scholarship Program are co-sponsoring the Second Annual Penn State Schuylkill Student Research and Creative Accomplishments Symposium scheduled from noon to 1 p.m. Wednesday, April 23, in room 100 of the classroom building at Penn State Schuylkill. Students are to present research that they have conducted with faculty as well as honors projects that they have conducted in their courses.

On April 29, the honors students will hold a debate on the legalization of illegal drugs at 6 p.m. in C101.  Faculty, students, staff, and the local community are invited to the event.  The initiative is entirely student generated and directed.

To qualify for the honors program, students must have a minimum of 1,700 on the three-part combined SAT, a score of four or more on any AP test, or a Penn State GPA of 3.5 or higher.  Each year, students take seven credits of honors courses and honors option courses, where they work closely with faculty to explore a topic in more depth than would normally be covered in the course.   All members of the honors program are also members of the Honors Society, which coordinates many of the activities of the organization.  The co-presidents of the Honors Society are Catherine Mahon and Harnoor Singh. The honors coordinators are Penn State faculty, Charles Cantalupo, Hakan Can, and Darcy Medica. 

For details on the Penn State Schuylkill Honors Program, visit http://www.sl.psu.edu/Academics/honors.htm

For additional information from the Massachusetts spring break trip, visit the student blog entries:

For additional information on the Honors Program, contact: Mary Sacavage at 570-385-6217 or mus53@psu.edu

Last Updated April 15, 2014