Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC/CUNY) students seeking the heightened challenge of an Honors Program will have that option in Fall 2017.
Development of the program began in 2014 with a team of faculty and staff co-chaired by Jason Schneiderman, Professor of English, and Erwin Wong, Dean for Academic Programs and Instruction.
“We reviewed Honors Programs at the national and local level,” says Schneiderman. “We visited each one of the CUNY Honors Programs, met with their faculty and administrators, and reported back on how those programs are working; what is succeeding and of what they are proudest.”
The next step, he says, was to pilot an Honors Program at BMCC in Spring 2016 with 80 students and seven sections of classes.
The BMCC Office of Institutional Effectiveness and Analytics assessed the program through surveys and focus groups, concluding that participation had been a positive experience, and finding a strong desire from student and faculty participants to continue with the project.
Students take part in pilot Honors classes
One of the pilot Honors classes was Jason Schneiderman’s Spring 2016 section of English Composition II (ENG 201). “The students thrived when given extra challenges, and they benefited greatly from the increased focus on research and presentation that an Honors course provides,” he says.
Science major Norbesida Bagabila, who plans to earn a bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Engineering and aspires to be a cardiac surgeon, was a student in that pilot class.
“It has tremendously impacted my life,” says Bagabila, who works the night shift at LaGuardia Airport, and is a math tutor at BMCC, as well as a full-time student. “I was required to read a complete work of Shakespeare in three days and be ready to discuss it in class, as well as conduct peer reviews and complete a research paper and critical review of a play,” he says, adding that the rigor of the Honors class helped him learn to procrastinate less, and contributed to his having received a Kaplan Leadership scholarship.
Human Services major Eunice Melendez also attended Professor Schneiderman's pilot Honors class. "I plan to combine sociology and environmental studies with documentary filming," says Melendez. "My mission is to travel abroad and assist communities in underdeveloped countries by helping provide resources such as education, food, water and medical assistance."
The pilot class, she said, "opened my eyes to analyze the world with a different perspective. Every student should have the opportunity to take advantage of the Honors program. I experienced an intellectual transformation and so can others."
Tredesha Howard, who is majoring in Business Administration and wants someday to open a non-profit for young girls overcoming abuse, took a pilot Honors class led by Professor Sangeeta Bishop.
"Making the decision to take an Honors pilot class last semester was the most rewarding, yet challenging experiences I have had at BMCC thus far," said Howard. "Working with like-minded students in a smaller classroom setting where everyone was completely engaged, was the reason I fell in love with my class. Our professor challenged us every class but never neglected us along the way. I now feel like I really can go anywhere because of my Honors class experience."
According to Dean Wong, the BMCC’s Honors Program aligns with the college’s 2015-2020 strategic plan, Reaching Greater Levels.
“The BMCC Honors Program will enhance the student experience and facilitate timely degree completion by increasing student engagement,” he says. “Such an engaging learning experience in which students learn to conduct research, collaborate and constructively criticize — possibly through interdisciplinary studies — will make them extremely competitive for admission to senior colleges and scholarships. The Honors Program is a great opportunity for our students.”
The final step in making the Honors Program a reality was to present it at the October 2016 meeting of the BMCC Faculty Senate, which approved it.
Professors will create Honors courses, with department approval
When the Honors Program starts in Fall 2017, courses already will have been approved within the academic departments, and by the college-wide Honors Committee.
“A professor will be able to create a syllabus for any existing class; however, Honors classes require a set of additional Student Learning Outcomes relating to research, interdisciplinary work, disciplinary focus, service learning or peer review,” Schneiderman says.
Once the department approves the proposed Honors syllabus, it will be submitted to the college-wide Honors Committee.
Students seeking the challenge of an Honors class must have at least a 3.5 GPA and have completed 12 or more credits.
In addition to providing an Honors Program, BMCC will continue to offer the Honors Contract option for students who want to do an approved, additional research paper as part of a class they are taking.
If a student completes five Honors courses —including no more than two Honors Contract courses — they will qualify to graduate with Honors from BMCC.
“This program brings us in line with other CUNY community colleges, all of which already have Honors Programs,” said Schneiderman. “It lets students who want the challenge push themselves in ways that will be easily recognized when they are transferring to four-year schools or applying for highly competitive scholarships.”
The Honors Program committee includes:
Jean Amaral, Library;
Joel Barker, Accounting;
Sangeeta Bishop, Social Sciences;
Matthew Geddis, Science;
Eda Henao, Modern Languages;
Friedrich Hoffmann, Science;
Christine Jacknick, Developmental Skills;
Tiffany James, Student Affairs;
Hyacinth Martin, Nursing;
Yadira Perez, Center for Ethnic Studies;
Anna Pinkas, Media Arts & Technology;
Anna Salvati, Computer Information Systems;
Sarah Salm, Science;
Jason Schneiderman, English (Co-Chair);
Ioannis Tournas, Business Management;
Janice Walters, Teacher Education and
Erwin Wong, Academic Affairs (Co-Chair).