Kelly McFall, Ph.D., professor of history and chair of the division of humanities, is the director of the honors program at Newman University. He stated its purpose is to “give high achieving students a path toward achieving success and enabling them to change the world.”
According to McFall, the acceptance rate is relatively high since the application process is designed to encourage interested students to put thought and effort in deciding to apply.
“What I want is people who are eager to explore the world,” said McFall.
Senior Linnea Ristow said, “The honors program is a big part of the reason why I have enjoyed my experience at Newman. I decided to be in the honors program because I thought it would provide a good challenge academically, enhance my learning in classes and make me more competitive when applying for graduate school or jobs.”
Through this program, students have access to many opportunities. McFall explained that there is an enriched classroom experience as a result of specifically designed honors classes. Furthermore, students participate in out of class activities to build community and expand their knowledge.
Leanne Vastbinder, a sophomore student in the honors program, stated one of the best parts of the program is that it is unique to the student.
“You don’t just have to take dedicated honors courses,” she said. “You can make any class an honors class by crafting an honors proposal for the course with your professor. This allows you to dive deeper into the material with your professor, even if the rest of your classmates are taking the class normally.”
Another benefit to the honors program is the community of support provided by the faculty and other honors students. McFall said this is especially important when students begin searching for employment or graduate school opportunities.
The national council also provides scholarships and other resources for members. Ristow explained that funding is available for presenting research, attending conferences and studying abroad.
Annie Dang, a senior in the honors program, said, “I felt inspired to join due to the opportunities to travel and gain more in-depth knowledge about subjects I was interested in. I also enjoyed the flexibility of getting to choose which classes to make honors because it meant I got to individualize my learning curriculum.”
Dang added that without funding from the program, she would not have been able to take an internship with the Partnership for Global Justice in New York.
The honors program hosts movie nights, “Reacting to the Past” games and honors panels. However, according to Dang, the best part of the program is meeting friends.
“A lot of my current friends are in the program and we wouldn’t have grown close without having something to bond over,” she stated.
Each year, the honors program holds a ceremony to honor the graduates of the program. The celebration includes cheesecake and caffeine, which has become a tradition, according to McFall. Eleven students will graduate this year as members of the honors program.
“I would never have gotten the opportunities I did had I not joined the honors program here at Newman,” said Vastbinder. “I have been able to meet amazing people, do things wildly outside my comfort zone and delve more deeply into my school material in a way that wholly enriches my educational experience and impacts me overall.”
Requirements and application
The program offers courses designed for high-achieving students. Of these courses, members are required to take 27 credits. In addition, students complete a research project with the help of faculty members. This two semester-long research project is designed for the student to learn “something no one else in the world knows,” according to McFall.
The honors program requires that students fulfill honors program curriculum and achieve at least a 3.7 grade point averageto graduate as a member of the program.
High school seniors need to have a cumulative GPA of 3.7 or higher to be eligible for the program. In addition, either a composite ACT score of at least 25 or SAT score of 1,200. Transfer students who have a cumulative college GPA of 3.75 or higher are also eligible.
To apply, students should complete the honors application. Applying consists of completing an online application form, writing an essay and providing a letter of recommendation.
Dang’s advice for those who aren’t sure is to “try it out. If you figure out the honors program isn’t for you, you can always leave. But it can provide you with an opportunity to grow and learn something you wouldn’t have otherwise.”