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MCC Honors Program impresses IVCCD Board

The spotlight was on the Marshalltown Community College Honors Program at last week’s meeting of the Iowa Valley Community College District Board of Directors. MCC Biology Faculty Dr. Danielle Kness, Honors Program advisor, told Board members that the Honors Program “challenges students to think, analyze, investigate, and discover at a more advanced level than commonly demanded” in the classroom.

To qualify for the MCC Honors Program, students must have a minimum 3.33 college grade point average (GPA), 3.5 high school GPA, or 26+ ACT/SAT score. An application is required, and those accepted complete the Honors criteria in the ensuing year.

“Honors students can complete three Honors Seminar courses, three Honors Course Contracts, or an Honors Independent Study Project,” Dr. Kness explained. “The Honors Seminar courses challenge students through small-group engagement and discussions. Past Honors Seminar courses have included Ghosts & Monsters, Art in the Environment, The Leaf in the Pen, The Hunger Games, and The Marketing of Frank Lloyd Wright.” Upcoming Honors Seminars are on the topics of Disease Outbreaks, Math Myth Busters, and Classical Mythology.

MCC students may also choose to write an Honors Course Contract, whereby they do an honors project “above and beyond” what’s called for in the regular course syllabus. Those pursuing an Honors Independent Study Project work one-on-one with a professor who provides a challenging and academically engaging experience that the student would otherwise not have gained at MCC.

MCC Honors students Emily Vest and Danica Wilson were at the meeting to explain their current Honors efforts.

Vest is doing two Honors projects this fall. As part of her Introduction to General Chemistry classwork with Dr. Jason Poock, she has an Honors Course Contract to develop “dancing gummy worms” that incorporate and demonstrate complicated chemical interactions including mixing a bicarbonate and a weak acetic acid. She is also doing an Honors Independent Study Project with Sociology Professor Brian Agnitsch, where she meets during the MHS Friday Evening Program with students from various grades and schools to assist them in overcoming barriers to success and dealing with difficult situations.

After graduating from MCC, Vest plans to transfer to Iowa State or UNI to major in Education with an emphasis in Math and a minor in Criminal Justice. She’d like to be a GED teacher for prisoners or work with juveniles in a correctional or learning academy setting.

Wilson signed an Honors Course Contract as part of her Speech class this semester with Professor David Engle. She is giving four speeches in addition to those required for her regular classwork. Her first honors speech will be on the topic of Sexual Development Throughout a Lifespan, which will also be shared with an MCC Human Growth & Development class. Wilson also plans to run a set of cognitive tests on Piaget’s Cognitive Theory, which will tie in to her future plans to transfer to Iowa State University to study Human Communications and Social Work.

After completing advanced degrees, Wilson hopes to work for a non-profit agency that assists animals or children. She also wants to pursue grant writing.

Dr. Kness emphasized that the benefits of “graduating with Honors” are numerous. The Honors coursework improves MCC students’ transfer and scholarship opportunities, it qualifies them for priority registration, it pairs them with faculty mentors, it includes additional advising opportunities, and it qualifies them to wear a Gold Medallion at the MCC commencement ceremony. Last spring, five MCC students graduated with honors; this fall nine students are pursuing honors credits.

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