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 Honors Program students excell at national conference 



Nov. 17, 2009
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Honors Program students excel at national conference

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. � - The Slippery Rock University Honors Program has plenty to brag about. The program attracted 100 new students this year, and the upperclassmen are distinguishing themselves through conference participation. SRU sophomores, juniors and seniors have achieved a 95 percent acceptance rate during the past two years at The National Collegiate Honors Council Conference, besting the national average by up to 50 percent.
         The most recent NCHC conference took place Oct. 28-Nov. 1 in Washington, D.C. Six SRU students presented under the conference theme of "Honors in the Global City."
         "Our Honors Program students are doing well for a number of reasons. First, our students are exceptional academically and motivated to do their best," said April Longwell, director. "Secondly, students have quality support from faculty and the honors office, which assists them in reaching that higher bar. At the conference, it was obvious to me their work was equal in quality to any other student's work and better in many ways."
           "It is indeed unusual for one school to have a success rate of 95 percent. Such success is probably predicated on good ideas, effective writing, promise of lively interaction and evidence of practical value," said John Zubizarreta, president of the NCHC.
            SRU's Honors Program, with 294 students enrolled, provides additional opportunities for qualified students to learn and grow through honors classes, student-faculty research and conference participation. The program promotes leadership and civic engagement and offers participants added credential opportunities for their job search upon graduation, Longwell said.
            "The Collegiate Honors Council typically accepts 50 to 60 percent of the proposals submitted for presentation," she said. "SRU sophomores, juniors and seniors have achieved a 95 percent acceptance rate over the past two years. We plan to continue this record of achievement in Kansas City in 2010." Ten students were accepted last year.
           The National Collegiate Honors Council is a professional association of undergraduate honors programs and colleges. The council provides support for institutions and individuals developing or expanding honors education.
           This year's honors conference involved 2,000 students. Representing SRU were Nicole Cobb, a secondary education/English major from Pittsburgh; Cayla Catino, a music therapy major from Riegelsville; Teresa DeBacco, a dance major from West Sunbury; Meghan Rice, a geology major from Clarion; Colleen McBee, an exercise science and dance major from Akron, Ohio; and Christy Trotnick, and English and dance major from McMurray.
            Catino and Cobb presented an idea exchange on service-learning opportunities for honors programs.
            "We decided on this topic after learning that many other honors programs across the country do not have a service requirement, which does not make sense to me," Catino said. "The whole point of honors is to create well-rounded students and citizens, and that goes way beyond the classroom."
            SRU honors students must complete community-service, leadership and extracurricular-involvement hours each semester to remain in the program, Longwell said. "It is part of the program's mission, which means a student could have a 4.0 grade-point average and still be asked to leave the program if this service, leadership and involvement requirement is not met," she said.
            Catino said Cobb titled their presentation "Fostering Leaders of Tomorrow." It showcased some of the serving-learning projects they have been involved in at SRU, such as a trail cleanup, a cardboard village event that raised awareness of homelessness and CareBreaks service-learning trips to U.S. and international cities over spring break.
           "Presenting at this conference really made me realize how wonderful our Honors Program is," Catino said. "
As a scholar I learned how to professionally present information that I feel is important.  This opportunity not only let me realize the benefit of service, but I got to present that information at a national conference as a professional and highly respected student, and that is something that very few college students experience."
             She said involvement in SRU's Honors Program has enriched her campus experience. "The classes the Honors Program offers are interesting and let me learn more than I would otherwise in a regular classroom," she said.  "Also being in classes with other honors students motivates me to participate and think more than I do in regular classes.  I also like the enrichment part of the honors program.  I enjoy doing community service, and the Honors Program has wonderful opportunities to make that happen." 
            Rice said the conference benefited her because of the networking opportunities with other students and professionals working in geology. She presented on "The Distribution of Early Permian Ammonoids in Dry Mountain Nevada."
            She said the Honors Program helped her plug in at SRU when she arrived as "a shy freshman." She said, "I was required to go to events on campus and do volunteer work. This helped me become involved at the University from the beginning. I have met some great, influential professors when taking honors classes and have had more attention and interaction in my smaller classes. Even though I have never had a car on campus, I have been able to travel to Pittsburgh for free to see musicals and operas among other things."
         Rice is part of the honors executive board.  Between her sophomore and junior years, she was chosen to represent Slippery Rock University at the PASSHE Summer Honors Program for which she was awarded a scholarship for tuition and travel to Belgium and France.
          McBee presented "For the Dancer: Care and Prevention of Dance Injuries."
         "I learned a lot from doing research through the Honors Program," she said. "The Honors Program has given me the opportunity to participate in several travel experiences.  The conference in Washington, D.C., was my first time in District of Columbia. Many professors were impressed with my presentation.  I also had the opportunity to network with different people in my field.  One professor even gave me her business card in case I wanted to publish an article."              

    Longwell said the program's future looks strong. One hundred freshmen joined in September. They graduated from high school with a combined, grade-point average of 3.8. More than 20 received a scholarship and joined the program with an average grade-point average of 4.0 out of high school.
            "Our honors students do an exceptional job," she said.

Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania's premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives.

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