“I have been given an incredible feeling of accomplishment,” Keene State college senior Alicia Morrison said after finishing her honors seminar course within the KSC Honors Program.
“After everything that I went through and experienced I cannot believe that it is coming to an end,” she said. Morrison is just one of approximately 70 KSC students who have committed their academic lives to the KSC Honors Program.
On Tuesday, Dec. 6, Morrison, along with other seniors who completed the program, presented their seminar work to a group of 32 honors students and KSC faculty in the Madison Street Lounge.
The seniors shared their seminar projects, case study research, their time abroad with the program, and how the Honors Program shaped their years at KSC.
Honors Program Director Dr. Margaret Walsh said the Honors Program at KSC stands out because of its offered courses. “Almost any topic can be taught as an honors course,” Walsh said, “and I love working with faculty to develop a new idea for an honors assignment or project that has been inspired by something learned during a research sabbatical or through travel and conferences. Being part of a seminar class that offers students the chance to be curious, creative, and also to challenge themselves is the true benefit of the program.”
The KSC Honors Program requires that Honors students participate in a “travel-study course,” which takes sophomores abroad at the end of their spring semester. This year, one group of sophomores will leave for Nicaragua, and one for Bosnia.
KSC senior Kirstin Whyte echoed Walsh’s comment regarding the opportunity to explore her curiosity when she commented on the trip she took her sophomore year to Belize.
Whyte said, “I was very nervous to go—it was outside of my comfort zone.” Whyte explained she considered leaving the Honors Program after she joined as a freshman because she struggled to fit required honors courses into her already hectic schedule as a double major in elementary education and social sciences.
“It was a challenge, but I’m so glad I stayed,” Whyte said. “Through the courses and the trip to Belize, I learned so much.”
Morrison also made the trip to Belize her sophomore year and echoed Whyte when she said the study abroad requirement posed a challenge for her.
“I had never traveled outside of the country before and had never been on an airplane. I was incredibly nervous to experience something outside of my comfort zone,” she said.
Morrison said that, like Whyte, she too struggled with the decision whether to remain in the program.
“I battled with thoughts about dropping the program because it didn’t seem worth it,” Morrison said, in reference to the cost and requirement of such a major trip.
“I decided to stay with the program, though, and I am so thankful because the trip to Belize was an incredible experience,” she said, “The trip was a turning point in my growth and development at KSC.”
Anne-Marie Mallon, a professor of English and women’s studies, agreed the program is difficult.
“To be an Honors student and maintain that level of academic excellence is truly a challenge—it takes a lot of focus and commitment,” she said.
“I know that students have found the work of their Honors courses to be very demanding,” she continued. “I also believe that they value their success in those tough courses as a sign of how capable they are and how successful they will be in their future careers.”
The development Morrison mentioned is what Walsh said remains most encouraging to her as she sees students grow and learn through the program.
“I am impressed by students’ ability to think critically,” Walsh commented.
“Many honors students also do ‘extra’–they work with faculty on research, present papers at conferences, and may even have two majors.”
Mallon commented on the work ethic she’s seen among Honors students as well.
Mallon said, “I have observed that the majority of these young women and men are among the busiest and most productive of students whom I know. They are invested in their study as well as in the various organizations and activities to which they commit their ‘spare’ time while on campus. In fact, most of them have no spare time, because they are goal-oriented in work and play.”
Morrison said she felt sad her time with the Honors Program was ending.
Morrison reiterated her gratefulness for the program and her decision to remain with the program when she said, “I think that the people that I have met through the honors program has been the most important and rewarding experience.”
Professor Mallon concluded, “The Honors program builds on their strong work habits and offers them wonderful ways to see themselves as contributors to a larger world both in and beyond college. It challenges them to reach even further than they thought they could—because their communities, now and later, need their very best energies and vision.”
Julie Conlon can be contacted at email@example.com