Honors classes give motivated students extra opportunities

Written by: DeChele Covington

The 14 students in Professor Fran Davidson’s Honors Poetry class are sitting around a conference room table discussing the poem “Do not go gentle into that good night,” by Dylan Thomas. The students examine the poem in depth, discussing its structure and organization and what they felt the writer’s thoughts and emotions were while crafting that particular poem.

Every student participates; all are  engaged. The environment is more comfortable than the regular Mercer classroom and no one is ignoring the professor and texting under the table . The professor listens and gives feedback when needed, but  in general the students, rather than the professor, are leading the class

Mercer’s Honors Program began in the spring of 2007 under the leadership of the Honors Program coordinator, English Professor Dr. Carol Bork. Her vision was to give motivated students, with a GPA of 3.5 in 12 or more college-level credits, a chance to excel academically among like-minded peers.  In each Honors class there are usually 10 to 15 students, so they get more one on one time with the professor. Classes are held around a single oval table while sitting in comfortable chairs.

The Honors Students  are given more challenges, but not more work than students in regular sections of a class. So, for example, an Honors student might have the same assigned reading for an English class, but have to lead class discussion and write an essay on a more challenging topic than students in the regular section.

“I like the smaller class size and everyone has input.  It is very helpful to listen to other people’s opinions. The classes are harder and more work, you have to be engaged in the class.  Taking Honors classes has made me a better student and improved my study habits,” stated second year Liberal Arts major Victoria Covert.

Students who complete the program get a special Honors designation on their Mercer diploma. Being an Honors student makes you a stronger transfer candidate after graduating from Mercer. Students exiting the program in the past two years have gotten into highly selective and prestigious colleges such as Mount Holyoke and Hampshire among others, and several have received full-ride scholarships.

To enroll in an Honors Class,  students must contact one of the instructors or coordinators, fill out an application and meet the GPA requirements. At present the majority of the Honors classes offered are in courses that work for a Liberal Arts major, though there are plans to expand to include more courses in other divisions. There are currently about ten Honors classes running each semester, a number that is likely to increase each year the program continues.

Professor Davidson, who teaches the poetry class, when asked what advice she would give to students thinking about taking Honors classes says, “Go for it. It’s a great opportunity to explore subjects more deeply in a smaller class setting.”

For all the poetry lovers, Professor Davidson’s Honors poetry class will be presenting poetry to the senior citizens at the Lawrence Library on April 29 from 1-3pm.  The students will recite and discuss poems with the seniors.

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DeChele Covington

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