Mercyhurst’s Honors Program during COVID

Madeleine Plourde, Contributing writer

Mercyhurst has long been an institution seeking to make a positive change in the world. In doing so, Mercyhurst equips every student who steps through the gates to be service-oriented and intellectually curious.

For years, students have had the opportunity to be a part of the Mercyhurst Honors Program where they can take their education and service to others to a deeper level.

Each year, the program accepts incoming students based on GPA and test scores. When invited to apply, the student submits a profile as well as writing samples and courses they have taken. Once accepted, members must maintain a 3.5 GPA take a minimum of 18 credits of honors courses, as well as attend 10 events, and complete 15 service hours yearly. In addition, students must complete a yearly portfolio or Honors Thesis Scholarship as seniors.

Currently the Honors Program is offering a variety of courses from Eastern Philosophy to Theatre Appreciation and everything in between. Creating a wide range of classes is necessary to facilitate mediums perfect for in-depth student discussion and engagement with material. In terms of events, the Honors Program is always busy. Not only will students soon begin working on their end-of-year portfolios or scholarships, but there are also workshops and weekly events happening. One upcoming event is the annual “Are You Smarter Than a Professor?,” a combination of Jeopardy and “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?” where a team of students and professors go head-to-head in competition. Best of all, this event is open to the whole campus, even those not in the Honors Program.

“Events such as these bring students and faculty together in ways that they don’t always get to be together,” said Justin Ross, Ph.D., Honors Program director.

Over the past year, the program has undergone numerous changes. The most recent is the program’s transition from Blackboard to the HUB. This change has been a pretty significant one, although worthwhile because the HUB is generally more accessible. “[Blackboard] was a very good tool for us, but we are finding that the HUB had many of the same features and more than [Black-board] does not have,” Ross said. Eventually, Ross hopes that the HUB can be the “main communication method” and a very accessible place for students to find and work on projects like their portfolios.

Needless to say, along with the rest of the world, COVID has changed many things. “The Honors Program has had to adjust certain expectations such as rigid event attendance and has had to be more flexible and understanding this semester with service hour completion due to the extenuating circumstances COVID has landed all of us in,” said junior Biology major and secretary of the Honors Program, Avery Corriero.

“Perhaps the most difficult challenge has been the inability to offer a lot of the in-person networking events and the opportunity to find a more niche group of like-minded friends,” senior History major and treasurer Ethan Wagner, said.

Despite this, the program continues with business as usual to keep challenging members and to provide benefits to them. The Honors program presents a great challenge to students, and COVID amplifies these challenges, yet just as before, students, staff and faculty are taking these challenges gracefully, and are enthused for the remainder of the semester.