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Honors Programs: What are you capable of accomplishing?

Dr. Danielle KnessBy Dr. Danielle Kness

Community Colleges have always been a haven for education by providing opportunities for all those who strive to continue their learning, start a new career, or continue their path toward a new life. Sometimes perceived as a second choice for high achieving students, community colleges across the country are redefining that image. Through new seamless transfer options and Honors Programs, we are proving that we can provide unique experiences that will help these students succeed in the next step of their education journey.

Honors programs vary among schools, but the heart of the program stays constant: challenge students to think, analyze, investigate, and discover. Students in the program are required to complete special seminar courses as well as projects within their regular course load. Each semester the student identifies a class in which he/she would like to complete a project and then works closely with that professor throughout the semester to dive deeper into the topic.

Seminar courses are not just another lecture style course but are designed to promote discussion and critical thinking skills on special topics like “Mythology, Monsters and Fairy Tales.” Students are asked to step out of their comfort zone in tackling topics such as math by using it to “Bust Myths.” The seminar courses change each semester but the goal is the same: to engage students in higher level thinking and reasoning skills. These skills will not only help them in school but in every aspect of the rest of their lives.

From a faculty standpoint, the Honors Program is so much more then extra coursework and projects. It is about seeing our students awaken their potential. Many high achieving students can breeze through their coursework and don’t realize that they aren’t really learning the material. Or some students come in with little understanding of the world of possibilities in their chosen fields. With encouragement, mentoring and a safe place to land, students can explore both what the world has to offer and what they are capable of accomplishing.

As Thomas Edison was quoted as saying: “If we did all things we are capable of, we would literally astound ourselves.” Honors Programs allow students the chance to try and astound us all.

Dr. Danielle Kness is an Associate Professor of Biology and the Honors Program Coordinator for Marshalltown Community College.

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