For this week’s blog, I decided to focus on one of the most exceptional resources available to thriving CCBC students: the Honors Program. This terrific, exclusive program is celebrating its 30-year anniversary by encouraging others to support the 300K for 30 Years Campaign:
Honors students at CCBC finally have a new, permanent home at the 4th floor of the freshly-renovated at the cost of $6 million, historic Hilton Mansion. Yay! A respite for us intellectually-curious-heretofore-thrice-temporarily-relocated-nomads.
Instead of talking incessantly about how the Honors Program has revitalized my CCBC experience, I decided to do things a bit differently.
I sat down with the Honors Director for the main Catonsville campus, Dr. Natasha Cole-Leonard, to shed light on the Program’s goals, outlook, and expectations. My hope is that future students or even current students aspiring to apply will get a clear-cut description of amenities and benefits of applying to CCBC Honors.
The information that follows is from the Catonsville Honors Director. What other better way to learn more about Honors than from the source!
I promise that, should you be accepted in Honors, you will see so many doors open through this unique Program that you will never be more happier in your college experience. We all want an enriching college experience, don’t we?! No? Ok. Fine. Be that way. (Don’t!)
So without further ado, here’s the interview. Notes in brackets ‘()’ are mine.
ME: Someone joins CCBC as a student. Why should they join the Honors Program?
DR. NATASHA COLE-LEONARD: The Honors Program is best suited for students who are highly motivated, driven and want the opportunity to be challenged. The Honors Program is not for every student. Some students may need additional support such as taking developmental courses. So not every student can be part of the Honors Program. Students who are college-ready tend to be students who best succeed in the Honors Program, provided that they meet the qualifications.
ME: What are the qualities that an Honors Program student embodies (that a potential applicant needs to be aware of)?
DR. COLE-LEONARD: An Honors student is driven, highly motivated and a college-ready individual who seeks to be more than the average college student. Honors students are active participants in a classroom setting. Many college courses are about lectures and note-taking. But the ideal Honors class is more interactive and relies on a greater student participation in class for the student to succeed. We also look for students who have leadership skills. We want such students to take advantage of existing opportunities for scholarship, service and leadership. Of course, the best vehicle for that is through participating in the Student Honors Council. (Every Honors student automatically becomes a member of the Student Honors Council, the service and leadership arm of the Honors Program)
ME: What distinguishes a regular CCBC student from an Honors student?
DR. LEO: We believe that every student has the potential to be an Honors student. More than intellectual abilities or natural gifts, motivation is the key. What distinguishes an Honors student is the motivation, the dedication and a desire to succeed. We may have students started in developmental courses. But passion in particular courses and a desire to succeed as well as motivation are key factors in the Honors application review process.
ME: Is (having a not-quite-high) GPA a deal-breaker for an applicant for the Honors Program?
DR. LEO: No. If that was the case, we wouldn’t have such a rigorous Honors application review process. We look at the whole academic experience and recognize the unique student experience. Students do have responsibilities beyond the classroom that may have impacted their academic performance and that does not bar students from the opportunity of participating in the Honors course. So we look at multiple factors. We rely on the faculty recommendation. We look at more recent academic performance than cumulative GPA. We seek out students who want to succeed. (The written part of the Honors application process, i.e.) essays, tells us about a student’s interest in applying. We look at potential, not prior history.
ME: What are the benefits of being an Honors student at CCBC?
DR. LEO: Four benefits of being an Honors student include rigorous academics, plenty of transfer advising opportunities, financial incentive of scholarships, and social benefits of interacting with peers.
For most students, the benefits boil down to the numerous scholarship opportunities. The guarantee of tuition remission if a student meets the minimum academic performance each semester when they enroll in an Honors course, is an incentive reserved for Honors students only. Honors students are also guaranteed admission to Maryland colleges. Being part of the Honors Program makes students a part of an intellectually-curious community, specifically a community of like-minded students who want to perform at an optimal level in the classroom. Honors students actively seek out other similarly-oriented and engaged students and are always leading each other. (Check out these benefits of being part of the Honors Program)
ME: (The Honors Program offers one-on-one mentoring to Honors students) What’s the mentoring like?
DR. LEO: We do offer faculty mentoring to Honors students and try to pair these students with a faculty member in their major. These faculty members can offer students important feedback in terms of available transfer opportunities, such as the best institutions to apply to complete their major. The mentors also provide valuable advice on career opportunities. In the Honors Program, we also include CCBC-oriented advising and assist with course selection. Furthermore, we also direct Honors students to respective faculty to seek out for additional support.
We also recently launched a community mentoring program called “Pushy Moms” which pairs students with members of our local community who have had success with their own children in the college admissions process. These mothers want to utilize the capital they have gained during the process to assist students who may not have had the dedicated resources that were available to their children. We have had over a dozen mentoring pairs since Pushy Moms was launched last November.
ME: What does a typical Honors class size looks like?
DR. LEO: A typical Honors class can be anywhere between 10 students to up to 17 students. We seek to provide Honors students with more opportunities with one-on-one interaction with faculty. There are seminar-oriented sessions. There is more participation and involved discussions.
ME: What kind of events or activities are sponsored by the Honors Program?
DR. LEO: We have a lot of academics-related events and activities, such as transfer advising opportunities. We invite representatives from area colleges to talk about transfers to 4-year institutions. We also visit area college campuses. Students get the opportunity to participate in campus tours with an admissions tour guide and Q&A sessions while getting a feel of what university life is like. (As mentioned earlier,) We also have the Student Honors Council (SHC) which is the activity arm of Honors Program and is one of the organizations sponsored by The Office of Student Life. In the SHC, we host biweekly meetings with Honors students and coordinate numerous activities ranging from lectures to holiday parties to social events to cultural events. The SHC is based on student participation and leadership.
There is also the opportunity for service. Previously, the Honors Program has partaken in service activities like making sandwiches for Our Daily Bread, a local place in Baltimore city for the poor and the needy to get meals. We have held projects to assist victims of domestic violence and led social and awareness drives. We also co-sponsor events with the Office of Intercultural Engagement. For example, this past year we cosponsored an event called “Where Politics Meets Culture,” which is a series of forum-styled talks that deal with contemporary issues and topics ranging from sexual harassment to immigration issues to police profiling.
ME: What kind of recognition do Honors students enjoy?
DR. LEO: Students who have successfully completed the Honors Program are guaranteed admission to twelve area colleges and universities. These students must earn 15 Honors credits and complete the Honors Program and transfer with a 3.5 cumulative GPA. A special Honors designation is noted on their CCBC transcript. Even Honors students who do not complete the Honors Program have Honors courses specifically designated on the transcript. If they take these Honors courses, these students will certainly have the recognition that they took Honors courses. If students have been active on the SHC, student leadership activity will also be noted on their academic resumes, applications, and recommendations.
ME: Anything else you would like to share or shout out loud?
DR. LEO: Yes! We are finally in our new home. I have been the Honors Program director since 2011 and during that time, we have had three temporary spaces we have relocated to.
We finally have a wonderful space we can call home. We couldn’t be more thrilled with the resources that are provided to our hard-working students. They certainly deserve permanent space on the campus.
This space includes the Honors classroom, the director’s office with a student advising area, designated space for staff, the Honors lounge where students can socialize, a quiet study area separate from the lounge for studying.
So there you have it!
If you are a new student or a current one, please apply to the Honors Program here. Intellectual stimulation and curiosity await you!
I was able to connect to my first friends at CCBC through the Honors Program. Since then, I have actively encouraged every student to apply to the Honors Program to see where they can really be. Get it? CCBC’s motto is “See what you can be.” The Honors Program’s motto, well the one that I just made up now anyway, is “See what you can really be.”