An Inside Look at Marist's Honors College
The Honors Program Attracts Students Preparing to "Change the World"
Within the Marist student body, a smaller group of students make up the Honors College. The Honors program, which requires a separate application for admission, provides unique opportunities for housing, classes, trips, mentorship while offering an academically rigorous environment for students to grow as intellectuals.
To maintain their standing in the Honors College, students must meet certain credit requirements for Honors classes that are only available to them. However, the intention behind these classes is not to add hardship or stress to the lives of Honors students. “They are not meant to be harder courses,” explained Professor James Snyder, the advisor to the Honors College. On the contrary, Honors classes often offer a unique, hands-on experience for students as well as a variety of self-directed learning opportunities.
Based on the fluid nature of their subjects and unique interests of the students, the Honors course catalog is never the same from semester to semester. Some courses, such as the popular course Ethics of Food, are offered year after year, while others are constantly in the works. For example, this year, a new class was taught entirely on a boat. Next year, in relation to current events, new classes will be offered on race and ethnicity.
Outside of the classroom, the Honors program works to encourage students to think creatively and innovatively rather than simply providing more work. They create a community in which students receive support from each other and faculty members, as they work through the program. Every Marist student is assigned an advisor at the start of their freshman year, but Honors students are lucky to have Professor James Snyder as a second advisor to provide additional direction when it comes to study abroad opportunities and internships. Another form of advising comes from the students themselves, who form an advisory board to advocate for the students in the Honors College. They also have a mentor program between individual Honors students, in which underclassmen and upperclassmen are paired together to offer additional support in achieving their academic and professional goals.
This mentoring system helps to foster the sense of community that runs strongly between members of the Honors program. Perhaps this begins their freshman year when all Honors students are offered special housing across two floors of Champagnat Hall. There, they experience communal facilities and the opportunity to really get to know the other students in the program. They also receive visits from faculty for specialized lectures and directed learning activities based on their individual interests.
“It’s a really supportive engaged community,” said Professor Snyder, “[Honors students] really show an interest in each other and each other’s education here at Marist.”
Then, in the years to come, students may continue to foster this community with their dorm buddies from freshman year in their Honors classes, and at different events for the Honors College. They meet for lunches or for their research forum, where students present their own ideas to other students. They also come together for a variety of guest lecturers and field trips. They have a special leadership lecturer every fall, take advantage of the regional arts and culture scene and travel to events in New York City. This Spring, the group will also take a trip to Gettysburg.
One of the most important aspects of the Marist Honors program is the opportunity to develop a senior thesis. Throughout their junior and senior year, Honors students work one on one with a professor to perform undergraduate research and delve even deeper into their major. These projects vary based on current events and the interests of the individual students. Professor Snyder recalls a memorable thesis to him, in which a student made an animated film, and another where a student wrote a children’s book. This past Fall, a group of students worked with the Marist Institute for Public Opinion to track voting trends during the election.
“[The Honors students] are just really involved in deep research and they are very intellectually curious,” said Professor Snyder. “They are also very socially engaged and they want to change things in the world,” he explained of the students’ work within their major.
While the opportunity to study in the Honors College is open to all types of students, faculty looks for a certain type of mindset in the students that are accepted. They accept “the type of student who wants to step outside of their comfort zone and make the most of all aspects of their education at Marist.” And once in the Honors College, they are truly able to make the most of that time. After four years in the Honors program, Marist students graduate from their unique classrooms with the tools to succeed in pursuing the major they have explored so deeply.
Written by Sarah Gabrielli '18
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