The SAT “Confirming” Test for National Merit Semifinalists: What Is It?

Of the 16,000 students (~top 1%) who become National Merit semifinalists, about 15,000 become finalists, most often because some semifinalists have a few low grades, a poor essay, or do not have sufficient SAT confirming scores (see below). And only about 7,500 actually become National Merit Scholars. One reason: many National Merit Scholars choose to attend one of the many prestigious colleges that do not offer any merit scholarships. For example, Harvard might have 250 National Merit Scholars in a given freshman class, but none will receive a merit scholarship of any kind.

(Please see this post for a discussion of PSAT scores and SAT confirming scores.)

The SAT “confirming” score: In order to become a finalist, a student must take the SAT no later than December of the senior year, but taking it no later than early November is recommended. Earlier tests taken as a sophomore or later may also be used. Superscores are not allowed. The National Merit Scholarship Corporation must receive your SAT scores by December 31. This only leaves about a week after receiving December test scores to make sure of the notification. 

According to the NMSC, the “SAT Program will not report your scores to NMSC unless you request it, and you cannot substitute a photocopy of the score report sent to you or your school for the official report. Send all testing and score reporting fees directly to the SAT Program.”

The ACT does not count for confirming purposes. And, you guessed it, the SAT for purposes of NMS eligibility also has a selection index. 

The SAT selection index differs from the PSAT selection index. Because the SAT has a maximum score of 1600 versus 1520 for the PSAT, the maximum section scores for the SAT selection index are higher. The maximum scaled section score for the SAT is 40 (versus 38) and the maximum selection index score is 240 (versus 228). (But below is the recommended “simple” way to calculate the SAT selection index (SSI).

Another difference is that, for the SAT, the confirming score is national, one SAT selection index total for everyone, regardless of state or location of residence. In the past, an SSI score that equals the PSAT selection index score for commended students has been the minimum acceptable SSI. The good news is that very high scorers on the PSAT should be very likely to meet the “commendable” threshold of the confirming SAT.

Students in states where the commendable PSAT score is the same as the seminfinalist qualify score, and who just did make the commendable score, may have to take the SAT more than once to confirm. Taking the SAT multiple times to reach a confirming score is well worth the effort given the many advantages that come with NMS status.

Example: PSAT selection index score is 2011 = commended student.

Student A has an overall SAT score of 1430, with an evidence-based reading and writing (EBRW) score of 710 and a math score of 720. (These SAT percentiles are 96 for EBRW and 95 for math.)

The simple formula for the SSI is to drop the zeros from the scores, thus making the above scores 71 and 72, respectively. Then multiply the EBRW score by 2, and add the math score.

Example: 71 x 2 = 142; 142 + 72 = 214. An SSI of 214 exceeds the PSAT SI score of 211 and should be sufficient for confirming purposes.

You can also calculate the SSI by doubling the total EBRW score (710 x 2), adding the total math score (720), and dividing the total sum by 10.

Example: 710 x 2 = 1420; 1420 + 720 = 2140; 2140 / 10 = 214.

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Q & A with Inaugural Honors Dean at Kentucky’s Lewis Honors College

Editor’s Note: The following detailed Q & A is between editor John Willingham and Dr. Christian M.M. Brady, the inaugural Dean of the Lewis Honors College at the University of Kentucky, where almost half of the inaugural class is receiving full tuition scholarships or greater awards. Dr. Brady is the former longtime Dean of the Schreyer Honors College at Penn State. [Emphases below are added.] Please see earlier post, Kentucky to Open New Honors College with Gift of $23 Million.

Dean Christian M.M. Brady, Lewis Honors College

Editor: Can you say what the expected test score and GPA requirement will be, at least approximately at LHC?

Dean Brady: This year’s incoming class has an average unweighted GPA of 3.86 and an average ACT of 31.4. Please note that these figures are determined after the fact. The LHC does not use standardized test scores, but rather has an holistic selection process. The formal statement on the website currently reads*: “Applicants to the Lewis Honors College typically have at least a 28 ACT or 1310 SAT (M + EBRW) and an unweighted GPA of 3.50 on a 4.00 scale.” These minimums are not guarantees of admission to the program, but act as a benchmark for consideration. All applicants should be aware that Honors admission decisions are made independently of Competitive Academic Scholarships and applications will not be reviewed until a student has been admitted to the University….[A]n applicant’s essay responses carry a large amount of weight in the admission process….The deadline for submission of the application and all required documents is December 1.

*These minimum requirements are likely to change.

Editor: In what ways will the LHC differ from the previous honors program? In what ways the same? Will the number of honors sections be significantly increased?

Lewis Hall

Dean Brady: Honors was created at UK in 1961 and has taken on various forms in its nearly 60 year history. With the establishment of the Lewis Honors College we will continue the more recent progress of a university-wide honors program with certain key features. The development of a foundational course and experience that all Lewis Honors College Scholars will participate in, the expansion of departmental honors courses, and the strengthening of the honors thesis or capstone requirement. Students are also required to do 6 credits of “honors experience,” which can be accomplished via study abroad, service learning, and research. The LHC will have up to ten lecturers who will teach the Foundations Seminar and other honors courses through the relevant departments. We will also have two endowed lectureships: one in the area of organizational behavior and the other in entrepreneurship. There is a new Career Advising Center being created, with a staff of four advisors. There will also be five Academic Advisors. These new staff positions, along with other student programing positions, will all be in place by the end of fall 2017. Staff will be housed in the new Lewis Hall.

Located directly across from the WT Thomas Library and next to “The 90,” a dining and classroom space, Lewis Hall is one of three Honors residence halls and includes 346 beds. It also has over 20,000 square feet of office and meeting space, including four classrooms and a café. There is a spacious outdoor patio venue as well. One particular concern that I think will come to the fore is the commitment to helping students from their earliest moments on campus to discern their pathway forward. (E.g., they might have always thought they should be an engineer because they are good at numbers and like creating things, but they might actually be more of a business person. Or vice versa.) This will be determined and elaborated later in this semester, once we have the opportunity to meet with students and faculty.

Editor: What is the size of the class of 2021, and anticipated size thereafter?

Dean Brady: The incoming class is predicted to be 540 and our target is to maintain 10% of total student population, roughly 2,200 LHC Scholars.

Editor: What is your personal vision for LHC, building on your long experience at Penn State and contacts in the honors community?

Dean Brady: I believe firmly that every honors college and program should reflect what is distinctive and unique about the larger university community of which it is a part…. [W]e should also have a particular distinctiveness that reflects the Kentucky identity. This does not mean that we are regional, quite the opposite. The traits I have already seen in terms of work ethic, humility, and commitment to community are those that we should seek to inculcate in all students. Over the next 5 to 10 years we will build one of the strongest honors colleges in the nation. Founded upon the strength of excellent faculty, great breadth of offerings at UK (it is one of the most comprehensive research universities in the nation, with every professional school, aside from veterinary, within 1 mile of the honors complex), and developing men and women to understand and meet their own potential while benefitting their communities. As some have put it, “doing well while doing good.” The LHC will also become a standard within the nation and the world for innovation….With over thirteen years in the honors community, I look forward to working with our colleagues around the world to continue to learn from their best practices, develop exchange opportunities for our students, and help establish new standards for honors education. We will be submitting a proposal to host the [Honors Education at Research Univerity] HERU meeting in 2019 and I look forward to working with my SEC colleagues, many of whom I have already met through HERU and Big Ten conferences.

Interior view of Lewis Hall

Editor: What are the amounts and availability of merit scholarships, and do LHC students automatically qualify for university scholarships? Does the LHC offer its own merit scholarships?

Dean Brady: I am still learning where exactly all funds reside, but this is certain: the LHC has more than $8MM in scholarships each year. Almost half of all incoming students will have a scholarship at least cover full tuition. We are also preparing to enter into a capital campaign in which developing further scholarship and grant funds (for research, study abroad, and internships) will be a priority.

Editor: Can you tell us more about the honors residence halls and the LHC administration building?

Dean Brady: I referenced the new Lewis Hall earlier. There are also two other Honors residence halls, all built within the last 5 years, that are beautifully appointed with learning spaces for the students on each floor, ground floor lounges, and located next to the library and the new, $112MM Jacobs Science Building.

Another view of the Lewis complex

Editor: Can you tell us more about the size of the LHC staff and their assignments; are any staff dedicated to prestigious awards?

Dean Brady: When fully staffed we will have over 30 staff members including an associate dean for academic affairs, a director of academic affairs, five academic advisors, and up to twelve lecturers. We will have a senior director of student affairs who will oversee a director of career advising and 3 career advisors, a director of recruitment, a director of the Residential College (student programming), and an administrative assistant for student affairs and receptionist. We will also have a budget officer, director of communications, and a philanthropy officer.

Editor: What are the levels of honors completion and the semester-hour requirements for each level; is there a thesis required; is there a limit on honors conversions (contract courses?

Dean Brady: There are some adjustments being made, but the basic requirements beginning in 2018 will be:

• Total of 30 honors credit hours

• Writing, Reading, and Digital Studies/CIS (accelerated two-semester course)

• 2 first year courses + foundational seminar

• 2 upper level courses + directed elective (“Honors students must choose at least three credit hours in HON 301 [an honors ‘pro-seminar’] or departmental Honors sections outside their general discipline of study, including declared majors, minors, and certificate programs at the time of course enrollment.”)

• 6 cr Honors experience study abroad, experiential & service learning, research

• Senior Thesis

UC Berkeley, UT Austin Lead Publics in NSF Graduate Research Grants

The National Science Foundation has named 2017 grantees for the prestigious NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program (NFSGRFP). UC Berkeley and UT Austin led all public universities while MIT and Cornell led private institutions.

Below please see a list of the 50 universities with the most NSFGRFP grants in 2017.

For the 2017 competition, NSF received over 13,000 applications, and made 2,000 award offers.

Past fellows include numerous Nobel Prize winners, U.S. Secretary of Energy, Steven Chu, Google founder, Sergey Brin, and Freakonomics co-author, Steven Levitt.

Fellows share in the prestige and opportunities that become available when they are selected. Fellows benefit from a three-year annual stipend of $34,000 along with a $12,000 cost of education allowance for tuition and fees (paid to the institution), opportunities for international research and professional development, and the freedom to conduct their own research at any accredited U.S. institution of graduate education they choose.

NSF 2017 top 50 pubpriv.xlsx

NSF Grants 2017Top 50
UC Berkeley64
MIT59
Cornell43
Harvard36
Yale35
UT Austin34
Stanford32
Brown30
Princeton29
Washington27
UC San Diego25
UCLA25
Wisconsin24
North Carolina22
Arizona St21
Columbia21
Florida21
Georgia Tech20
Michigan19
Maryland18
Rice18
Arizona17
Minnesota17
USC17
Caltech16
Chicago16
North Carolina St16
Colorado15
Duke15
Illinois15
Penn15
CUNY14
Ohio St14
Pomona14
UC Davis14
Pitt13
Purdue13
Florida St12
Swarthmore12
Tennessee12
UC Irvine12
Virginia12
Auburn11
Johns Hopkins11
UC Riverside11
Clemson10
Georgia Tech10
Northwestern10
Notre Dame10
Texas A&M10
Washington Univ10

Job Opening: Honors College Dean University of New Mexico

The University of New Mexico (UNM) invites nominations and applications for the position of Dean of the Honors College. UNM’s Honors College grew out of one of the oldest and most nationally respected honors programs in the country. For nearly 60 years, it has provided challenging opportunities for intensive interdisciplinary and cross-cultural liberal education to highly motivated, talented and creative undergraduates. The excellent instruction and individual attention offered in UNM’s Honors College create the benefits of a first-¬rate, small liberal arts college atmosphere within a flagship research university setting. It has long served as a model for many other successful programs across the nation and its faculty and administrators have been actively involved in Honors education at the national level.
The Honors College offers students the options of pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Honors Interdisciplinary Liberal Arts, a minor in Interdisciplinary Studies, or a designation in Interdisciplinary Studies. Ten fulltime, tenure-track faculty teach honors courses and pursue tenure within honors, not in other departments. The Honors College currently has 1,774 active students and has been steadily growing each year. The Fall 2016 incoming freshman class was 632 students.
Completed applications must include:
— A letter of interest addressing preferred qualifications for the position and the applicant’s interest in leadership of University and the Honors College.
— Curriculum vitae.
— Names and contact information of at least four professional references, at least one of whom should be from the candidate’s current institution or organization.
Applications must be submitted online at UNMJobs (no fax, email or mail applications will be accepted) which can be accessed through the following link: unmjobs.unm.edu

For best consideration submit application by January 31, 2017; however the position will remain open until filled. 

For the full job description, visit: unmjobs.unm.edu/applicants/Central?quickFind=89883
If you have questions about this position, please contact the Search Coordinator, Jessica Ramos, at jdramos@unm.edu or the Search Committee Chair, Craig White (Dean of UNM Business School), at cwhite@unm.edu.

How Alive Are the Liberal Arts in Honors Programs?

The short answer: very alive.

After an extended period during which more and more students have felt the need–regardless of personal interest and aptitude–to major in business, engineering, or computer-related fields, the liberal arts, especially the humanities, have faced declining enrollment.

The impact that this trend has had on personal growth and enlightened participation in civic life is evident, given the tone and outcome of the presidential election.

In the meantime, several prominent public universities have endured attacks on their humanities departments and commitment to learning for learning’s sake, most notably UT Austin, Florida universities, and, very recently, UW Madison. Most states have dramatically reduced financial support for their universities; some regents have used the real or manufactured budget crisis as a pretext for attacking non-vocational disciplines.

But the liberal arts and, yes, the core humanities that are essential to the liberal arts, have survived in public honors colleges and programs. Some students express resentment that, in order to be in an honors program, they must take a series of interdisciplinary seminars and electives in the humanities. Under pressure from parents or highly focused on their chosen vocational discipline, they want “to  get on with it” and reach a point where they can start making real money and pay back those student loans.

This is understandable. But honors educators know that almost every bright student is in many ways unformed and searching for paths of meaning in their lives. One course in history, or philosophy, or literature, or maybe in religious studies or film, can guide a student toward a lifetime of serious inquiry, self reflection, and greater compassion for others. These and other courses in the liberal arts reinforce the application of informed judgment to facts that are often contradictory or in flux.

Consensus is emerging that for many students, “We don’t need more STEM majors. We need more STEM majors with liberal arts training.” Indeed, this is one of the two or three major advantages of honors programs. STEM majors who otherwise would take few liberal arts courses (and an extremely small number of humanities classes), must take them as members of a university-wide honors college or program.

But one other major–business–could likely benefit even more from greater exposure to the liberal arts and, again, to the humanities

Recent research shows that “critical thinking,” measured after adjusting for entrance test scores, shows the greatest gains for students in the liberal arts.  Engineering and technology students have high raw entrance test scores and strong critical thinking ability, but after adjusting for the effect of the high test scores, their critical thinking skills are relatively lower.

Business majors do not receive high raw or adjusted scores in critical thinking. Given that a plurality of bachelor’s degrees are awarded in business subjects, this is a matter of significant concern.

English is the discipline most offered by honors programs. This is so because many of the required English classes have a heavy writing component, often associated with the study of rhetoric. In these classes the humanities and vocational mastery come together in a way, for the most successful and most fulfilled professionals often have outstanding communication skills and a heightened sensitivity to the thoughts and needs of others.

So what are the “liberal arts”? The answer to this question varies, but here we will include the following disciplines, all of which are traditional core offerings in liberal arts colleges (humanities, natural sciences, and social sciences):

Humanities: English, history, philosophy, fine arts, foreign languages, religious studies, film, classics. Sciences: math, biology, chemistry, physics, geology. Social Sciences: sociology, anthropology, gender studies, psychology, communications, political science, economics, and geography.

(One can see that many of these can be, and often are, “vocational” in themselves.)

Using the above as our “liberal arts,” we used data gathered for our most recent book, Inside Honors, which included 4,460 honors sections. Of these, we found that 59% were in the liberal arts, not counting interdisciplinary seminars, which accounted for another 26% of sections. Most of these seminars had a humanities focus, so about 85% of honors sections were in the liberal arts.

By discipline, English had the highest percentage of sections, even when sections in business, engineering, and technology are included. Math and business disciplines combined had about the same number of sections as English.

The STEM disciplines are strongly represented, however, accounting for 25% of honors sections. (But the science and math sections counted here are also part of the overall liberal arts group.)

Engineering and technology, considered separately, make up  8% of honors sections. Admittedly, the “regular” courses in these disciplines are usually rigorous enough in themselves.

Not all of the humanities are strongly represented, however, with classics, film, and religious studies combined counting for only 1.4% of honors sections. In fairness, the classics do feature prominently in many interdisciplinary seminars.

 

 

 

 

 

 

How Many of Those Honors Classes are Restricted to Honors Students Only?

Editor’s Note: Thanks to honors Deans and Directors from across the country, we received more data than ever before in 2016. Most of the data appear in our new book, but periodically we will report on other discoveries that we did not have time to include.

We have written about honors classes several times, having reported on average class sizes and the various types of honors class sections–honors seminars, honors-only classes in the disciplines, mixed honors classes (honors and non-honors students), and contract sections, in which honors students do extra work in a regular class for honors credit.

Before presenting data that show the percentage of class work honors students do in the various class types, here is a brief recap on the average class sizes of honors sections, based on actual, detailed data from 50 major honors programs:

  • Honors-only class section size= 19.0 students
  • Mixed sections for honors credit= 51.1 students
  • Contract sections for honors credit= 60.1 students
  • OVERALL average size of class sections for honors credit= 26.3 students

But now for the additional, unpublished data.

Since class sizes vary significantly according to the type of class section, here is a summary of the percentage of classroom time that honors students spend in the different section types:

  • In 22 of the 50 programs we rated, all honors credit sections were “honors-only” sections (no mixed or contract sections).
  • Across all 50 programs, 83.1% of enrollment time was in honors-only sections.
  • 13.6% of enrollment time was in mixed sections that included both honors and non-honors students. Many of these sections had separate honors-only breakout or lab components.
  • The remaining 5.1% of enrollment time was in contract sections, in which students in regular classes had to complete extra work for honors credit.

Honors-only classes may be seminars that are generally interdisciplinary, or more discipline-specific classes.

  • Our findings show that 45.8% of honors-only classes are seminars are interdisciplinary sections, which are typically offered through the honors college or program itself.
  • The remaining 54.2% of honors-only classes are centered on the academic disciplines, many offered directly by the academic departments.

 

 

Update No. 3: The 2016 Edition Is Coming Soon, with Important Changes

By John Willingham, Editor

The 2016 edition will have a new name– Inside Honors: Ratings and Reviews of 60 Public University Honors Programs. It is in the final proofing stage now. The goal is to publish in late September. Each edition includes a somewhat different group of honors colleges and programs, so there will be changes, even among the 40 or so programs that are reviewed in each edition.

As I have noted in previous updates, the book will take an almost microscopic view of 50 of these programs and also provide more general summary reviews of 10 additional programs. I can say now that there will be a few more programs that will receive the highest overall rating of five “mortarboards” than there were in 2014. (The final list of programs we are rating and reviewing for 2016 is below.)

The rating system makes it possible for any honors college or program, whether a part of a public “elite” or not, to earn the highest rating. Similarly, the ratings allow all types of honors programs to earn the highest rating. Those receiving five mortarboards will include core-type programs with fewer than 1,000 students and large honors programs with thousands of students. And absent any intentional preference for geographical diversity, the list does in fact include programs from north, south, east, and west.

By microscopic, I mean that the rating categories have increased from 9 to 14, and so has the depth of statistical analysis. The categories are, first, the overall honors rating; curriculum requirements; the number of honors classes offered; the number of honors classes in “key” disciplines; the extent of honors participation by all members in good standing; honors-only class sizes; overall class size averages, including mixed and contract sections; honors grad rates, adjusted for admissions test scores; ratio of students to honors staff; type of priority registration; honors residence halls, amenities; honors residence halls, availability; and the record of achieving prestigious scholarships (Rhodes, Marshall, Goldwater, etc.).

Sometimes readers (and critics) ask: Why so few programs? Doesn’t U.S. News report on hundreds of colleges?

The answer is: Honors colleges and programs are complicated. Each one of the 50 rated reviews in the new edition with by 2,500-3,000 words in length, or 7-8 pages. That’s almost 400 pages, not including introductory sections. The rest of the answer is: We are not U.S. News. With myself, one assistant editor, a contract statistician, and an outsourced production firm, our ability to add programs is very limited.

The 2016 profiles are full of numbers, ratios, and averages, more than in 2014 certainly–and too many, I believe, for readers who would prefer more narrative summary and description. So, yes, it is a wonkish book, even to a greater extent than this website tends to be. But then, they are honors programs after all.

Full ratings:

Alabama Honors
Arizona Honors
Arizona State Honors
Arkansas Honors
Auburn Honors
Central Florida Honors
Clemson Honors
Colorado State Honors
Connecticut Honors
CUNY Macaulay Honors
Delaware Honors
Georgia Honors
Georgia State Honors
Houston Honors
Idaho Honors
Illinois Honors
Indiana Honors
Iowa Honors
Kansas Honors
Kentucky Honors
LSU Honors
Maryland Honors
Massachusetts Honors
Minnesota Honors
Mississippi Honors
Missouri Honors
Montana Honors
New Jersey Inst of Tech
New Mexico Honors
North Carolina Honors
Oklahoma Honors
Oklahoma State Honors
Oregon Honors
Oregon State Honors
Penn State Honors
Purdue Honors
South Carolina Honors
South Dakota Honors
Temple Honors
Tennessee Honors
Texas A&M Honors
Texas Tech Honors
UC Irvine Honors
University of Utah Honors
UT Austin Honors
Vermont Honors
Virginia Commonwealth Honors
Virginia Tech Honors
Washington Honors
Washington State Honors

Summary Reviews:

Cincinnati Honors
Florida State Honors
Michigan Honors
New Hampshire Honors
Ohio Univ Honors
Pitt Honors
Rutgers Honors
Virginia Honors
Western Michigan Honors
Wisconsin Honors

 

Honors Testimonials: UNC Honors Carolina

Editor’s note: This is one in a series of testimonials from students and faculty at leading public university honors colleges and programs.

Rachel Myrick, Political Science & Global Studies Double Major–Honors Carolina has given me an opportunity to study with incredible professors in small classes, and to engage in academic experiences that extend far beyond the classroom. Looking back on my college experience, I realize that Honors Carolina opened so many doors for me. Without those opportunities, I would never have been in a position to win a Rhodes Scholarship.

Sam Bondurant, English & Economics Double Major–From joining my professor at his home to use his personal printing press to seeing firsthand the landmarks that inspired J.R.R. Tolkein in Oxfordshire, Honors Carolina has brought me unique experiences that have indelibly shaped my UNC experience.

Emma Blackwell, Mathematics & Geology Double MajorI love that Carolina is a large university, but one of the things I valued most about Honors Carolina was that it gave me a community I could be part of the minute I stepped on campus. Honors Carolina really helped me feel more at home in my first semester.

John Hu, Business & Computer Science Double Major–Honors Carolina opened a lot of doors for me. It helped me make meaningful connections with people who were very open and enthusiastic about helping me prepare for the employment recruiting process because of our shared experience. I’m extremely grateful to the Honors Carolina network for getting me to where I am today.

Jerma Jackson, Associate Professor of History–My most rewarding teaching experience at the University was in an Honors Carolina course. Students consistently posed such thoughtful questions that the course became an exhilarating teaching — and, indeed, learning — experience for me.

Ashley Rivenbark, Asian Studies & Romance Languages Double Major–It’s almost impossible to sum up the incredible experience that the Weir Fellowship provides. If you want top notch academics, amazing teachers, and classmates who will guide you every step of the way in your Chinese improvement, a vibrant colorful city with delicious food and warmhearted people, and an internship experience that will leave you with powerful impressions and lasting connections, then you have to apply for the Weir Fellowship.

 

Honors Testimonials: CUNY Macaulay Honors College

Editor’s note: This is one in a series of testimonials from students and faculty at leading public university honors colleges and programs.

Born in Kolkata, India, Raj Basak (’15) spent his childhood in Oman and the United Arab Emirates. While he is a physics major, he chose to study photography in Italy as a study abroad option through the Macaulay Opportunities Fund and to volunteer on a sustainable farm in Oregon. The Horace W. Goldsmith Scholar is also a pianist and vocalist in the Macaulay Musicians’ Collective, a jazz-pop ensemble. This creative side fits squarely with Raj. As a high school senior, he performed at the International Fringe Theater Festival in Scotland.

Raj speaks five languages: English, Hindi, Bengali, Urdu and the universal language of music. “Academically, I am most proud of co-authoring two peer-reviewed scientific articles as an undergraduate,” he says. “Outside of academics, I am very proud of founding the Macaulay Triplets and making it a self-sustaining musical ensemble.”

The best part of my Macaulay experience has been interacting with a truly remarkable group of students who are incredibly intelligent, passionate and well rounded.
Both of Raj’s parents are physicians and while at Macaulay, Raj worked at the Columbia Medical Center in an Immunobiology Lab where he studied malarial drug resistance. To further his studies, he also interned in a Biochemistry lab at Brown University for a summer.

At City College of New York, he was awarded the Ward Medal in Physics. While he immersed himself in science, as a Hertog Scholar, Raj also dove deep into classical works of literature and explored critical questions related to culture, politics, and society.
Yet, as Raj says, “although I have thoroughly enjoyed all my classes, research and New York City, the best part of my Macaulay experience has been interacting with a truly remarkable group of students who are incredibly intelligent, passionate and well rounded.” He adds, “getting to know these students and developing lasting friendships with them has been a gift

Originally from Quito, Ecuador, Paula Garcia-Salazar (’15) came to the United States when she was just seven years old. Now she has turned her experience navigating the U.S. immigration system into a career.

Her four years at Macaulay, including her participation in CCNY ‘s honors pre-law program as a Skadden Fellow, set in motion Paula’s vision of becoming an international human rights lawyer. Proudly, she will be the first in her immediate family to become an attorney.

To lay the groundwork for her legal career, Paula credits the Macaulay Opportunities Fund with giving her the ability to pursue an unpaid internship at the non-profit Human Rights First. While there she helped asylum seekers and other immigrants traverse the challenges and barriers of immigration law. After graduation, she will begin a two-year fellowship at Immigrant Justice Corps providing direct legal services to underserved immigrant communities in New York City.

Paula’s vision of human rights doesn’t stop at immigration. She has been actively involved in organizing with labor unions and has interned at Housing Works and the Roosevelt Institute. While at the Institute, she worked on the book Women and Girls Rising: Progress and Resistance Around the World.

While Paula has made a difference in social justice, she has also flexed her muscles on the Quidditch field. Calling them her “second family,” she says she has been on the team since her first year. She is a Horace W. Goldsmith Scholar and Lisa Goldberg/Revson Scholar.

Jake Levin ‘16, Macaulay Honor College at Brooklyn College–Simply put, I would not be where I am today without Macaulay Honors College. As a member of the class of 2016 at Brooklyn College and as one of the few students from out of state, my experience has been unique and rewarding. As any New York City student knows, you are afforded many wonderful opportunities to complete valuable internship, research, and work experiences while you take classes. These opportunities were encouraged and augmented by Macaulay, an institution truly in and of the city.

From specialized seminars focused on different aspects of New York City to the rapidly growing number of intimate courses offered only to Macaulay students, the term “hidden gem” could not be more applicable. The advising is personalized and unique, with staff placed on your home campus to facilitate cross-campus communication and mitigate potential issues. CUNY’s resources are vast, and as a Macaulay Honors College student I was better positioned to take advantage of them.

Like many other universities, students are required to complete a study abroad, internship, or undergraduate research experience before graduation. Unlike many other schools, Macaulay provides students with the direct financial support to make those experiences a reality. The Opportunities Fund made it financially feasible for me to study abroad and conduct independent research in Havana, Cuba. As the founder of a large cross-campus initiative, I was encouraged and supported by the dedicated student affairs staff who often work long hours to ensure students’ needs are met.

I am the recipient of a Harry S. Truman scholarship, an award I would not have won without the advising apparatus Macaulay has developed to assist students with personal statements and applications. I have never once heard of a student idea or initiative being denied, no matter how ludicrous. In fact, the more “out there” the idea the more likely you’ll receive Macaulay support.  Being a Macaulay Honors College student means finding a close-knit family in a system of 500,000; the community, accessibility of high-level administrators, high-caliber academics, location, and opportunities for personal and professional growth make Macaulay unbeatable.

Sara Louie ‘17, Macaulay Honors College at City College- I currently serve as the president of the Macaulay Scholars Council, Macaulay’s undergraduate student government. Macaulay provides a challenging, nurturing environment for students to grow as scholars and leaders. For me, that’s meant funding study abroad through the Opportunities Fund which challenged my understanding of the global water crisis (my academic focus) and included an honors course in the Dominican Republic that altered my intended academic major.

Macaulay has also placed me into an incredible network of passionate, driven students from a wide range of fields. It’s inspiring and motivating to work with my classmates in our New York City honors seminars and clubs. Being part of the Scholars Council has allowed me to follow my passion in helping others, while also getting to know the incredible staff at Macaulay. I’ve seen how they truly care for students and how hard they work to develop new opportunities for us.

I attribute much of my success to my advisors who truly take the time to know students well so that they can offer tailored opportunities and advice, both personally and academically. Because my advisor is not tied to a specific major and has been with me since freshmen year, she has given me very open-minded information, support, and advice about my majors and extracurricular activities. With her help, I’ve been able to devise two independent majors in sustainable development and digital media. The latter, I discovered after interning in the field, an experience supported by a Macaulay specific grant.

Also, Macaulay’s full tuition scholarship has allowed me to explore my interests without financial burden, including covering the costs of summer and winter courses. I cannot imagine a better way to study at a large urban university system, while also enjoying the close-knit community of a small college.

Kelly L. O’Donnell–I have been a part of the Macaulay community since 2013 and it has been a real privilege to be able to teach and interact with our wonderful Macaulay students. In the classroom, Macaulay students always fully engaged with whatever task is put before them. They are determined to explore every angle of a problem and come up with creative solutions and their genuine curiosity is inspiring. I can come into class and make reference to a discover in the plant world that is not related to that day’s content and by the next class meeting at least one of my students will have researched the finding and come in with questions to discuss. I will often have multiple students stay after class to ask insightful scientific questions and discuss how these topics relate to their fields of interest. It is truly a delight to be in the classroom with them.

Because our students are of such high quality and are so willing to be engaged, Macaulay Honors College is a great place to develop new and innovative educational programs. One such program, Science Forward, allows our students to explore multiple fields of science with an eye to the skills that all scientists use when they do their work. This curriculum has our students fully engaged in the scientific process from collecting data at our BioBlitz (a 24-hour species diversity survey of a park in NYC) to asking questions of those data and performing data analysis to presenting their original results at a college-wide scientific poster conference. It is always rewarding to watch my students interact with each other and other faculty as they present their excellent work.

Honors Testimonials: Georgia Honors Program

Editor’s note: This is one in a series of testimonials from students and faculty at leading public university honors colleges and programs.

STUDENTS:

Nivita Sharma (Class of 2018)

As only a sophomore at The University of Georgia, I can confidently say that in another two years from now I will define my undergraduate career by the opportunities that have been presented by the Honors Program. I have been given the privilege to attend the first state chartered university in the nation with a student body of 36,000, while also receiving specialized attention through the small liberal arts college atmosphere of the Honors Program.

Honors classes are taught by world-renowned professors who have the genuine desire to foster intellectual growth inside and outside the classroom. But what has made my college experience particularly unique is the cutting edge research I have been conducting with the unwavering support and guidance of a UGA faculty member. As an Honors student, I was able to engage in research in an area of my own interest through the Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities (CURO) from the very first day I set foot on campus.

Besides the academic endeavors I have embarked on with the support of the Honors Program, the motivation and core values provided by the intimate community of faculty, administrators, fellow students, and alumni is unparalleled by any other institution in the nation I know of. The social support and many activities sponsored by Honors student groups, especially the Honors Program Student Council, add to the strong community that Honors students enjoy.

The University of Georgia Honors Program has gone above and beyond to help me achieve goals that I could have only dreamed of before.

Torre Lavelle (Class of 2016; Udall Scholar and Schwarzman Scholar)

The UGA Honors Program is incredible in its commitment to undergraduate research and connecting some of the university’s (and world’s) leading professors with students. During my second year at UGA, I was able to pursue research on anthelmintic resistance through CURO. Dr. Vanessa Ezenwa, my Honors research mentor, played an invaluable role that went far beyond the usual job description, a common depiction when Honors students talk about their faculty mentors—UGA professors value undergraduate research in a manner that I have found to be unmatched at any other institution. She even connected me with an internship this past summer at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) in Virginia.

Honors-funded travel grants have been invaluable in allowing me to delve into my academic interests undeterred. From presenting my research to other students at the Clinton Global Initiative University Conference to spending part of my summer in Fiji, where I studied human-environment interaction and participated in a homestay in the coastal village of Waitabu, my adventures have always begun with a simple phrase of support from Honors administrators: “What’s next?”

I have also always been struck by the Honors Program’s ability to serve as a strong yet diverse community, and constant source of support and inspiration. It has built its alumni portal in a manner that allowed me to connect with a graduate who works at the State Department, and covered the cost of many a lunch during networking events.

Lastly, the support of the Honors Program as I applied for, and ultimately was awarded, multiple national scholarships is the reason why I have the life-changing opportunity to pursue my graduate work internationally, and why I feel confident in the academic direction I have taken.

Karishma Sriram (Class of 2016; Goldwater Scholar)

Entering college as a Foundation Fellow–UGA’s top academic scholarship which is housed in the Honors Program–I was immediately immersed in an encouraging and creative environment. Through the Fellowship, I have been able to participate in intriguing book discussions, dinner seminars and conversations that helped me shape my understanding of the world around me.

Further, the Fellowship afforded me the ability to travel during my career. Through its aid, I’ve taken a class under a Fellow of All Souls College at Oxford University, traveled to Harvard College to present my stem cell research, ventured to Bolivia to observe the health care conditions in the impoverished La Paz, and studied abroad in Morocco and Bali with cultural and religious immersion experiences.

Beyond the extensive travel and enrichment opportunities, the Fellowship has provided me with a community of peers and advisers that have guided and aided me in my growth as a student, friend and person.

FACULTY MEMBERS:

Dr. Marcus Fechheimer, University Professor of Cellular Biology, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences

The academic rigor at UGA has risen dramatically in the last decade. The average undergraduate student at UGA today would have been in the Honors Program 10 years ago, and students in the Honors Program today would have been in the top 1% 10 years ago. It is truly impressive that our Honors Program continues to recruit and engage these outstanding students! This is the view of a faculty member who is completing his 30th year at UGA.

The characteristic that best describes the UGA Honors Program is engagement of faculty and students working together to learn, discover, and create. This engagement is most patent in Honors classes that feature smaller sections and advanced material. Some courses employ an Honors option so that students earn Honors credit by doing extra work such as (in my cell biology class) writing analytical reviews of recent publications in the primary literature. I also regularly teach an Honors seminar in the area of neurodegenerative diseases- a topic too specialized for the regular curriculum. This type of class utilizing exclusively primary sources represents a level of scholarship and mentoring that is expected at the 8000 level for doctoral students. In the UGA Honors Program, sophomores engage at this level.

Finally, undergraduate research promotes engagement of Honors students across every discipline at the University. Research transforms students who develop persistence, creativity, teamwork, and communication skills. Engagement in research promotes self-confidence that emanates from authentic accomplishment. The Honors Program promotes research participation and engagement in many ways including CURO scholars, Gateway seminars, Summer Fellowships, CURO Symposium, Theses, and the CURO Scholar transcript notation.

By providing such opportunities for engagement and discovery, the Honors Program is the engine for both the transformation of students and for the rise of UGA to the elite among public universities.

Dr. Loch Johnson, Regents Professor of International Affairs, School of Public and International Affairs

Having been a University faculty member for almost forty years, I have many wonderful memories of campus life. My happiest moments, though, have been the many semesters when I have been engaged in the UGA Honors Program. The students in the Program are uniformly first-rate: smart, engaged in student and community activities, active in classroom discussions, and always punctual in the completion of assignments with a high level of excellence. These students have also been amenable to experiences beyond the classroom, whether discussions of current events over coffee, longer conversations over lunch, or coming to my place for a home cooked meal (as my Honors classes always do). The size of the class–always less than twenty–makes it possible as well to have rich dialogues among the class members and the instructor, which is more difficult in our typically larger classes.

I have also enjoyed the diversity of the Honors classes, with students from a wide variety of ethnic backgrounds. Often many of the students are immigrants, or their parents are, which brings a wonderful international dimension to the classroom—especially valuable for my International Affairs Department.

Finally, I would note that the administrators of the Honors Program are top-draw in every way: the classes are well-organized and thoughtfully scheduled, the students come with an outstanding work ethic and a lively interest in intellectual matters, and the “home office” in Moore College is invariably a font of sound counsel and encouragement.

The UGA Honors Program is a five-star operation!

Dr. David Mustard, Meigs Associate Professor of Economics, Terry College of Business

Throughout my career at UGA, I have taught Honors classes, mentored Honors students, and advised students through CURO. In these capacities I have had the privilege of interacting with a cadre of extremely smart, interesting, and motivated students.

Over the past ten to fifteen years, UGA Honors students have been extremely successful in national and international scholarship competitions. I have myself taught and advised two Rhodes Scholars, a Marshall Scholar, two Fulbright Scholars, a National Science Foundation Graduate Fellow, a recipient of the top university-wide Ph.D. assistantship at Duke University, many winners and finalists of other prestigious scholarships, and also multiple Olympians, including one gold medal winner.

Such students exhibit enthusiasm for learning, are intellectually inquisitive, engage the readings and class material, and work extremely hard, which fundamentally changes the manner in which I teach classes. For example, in my education policy Honors class, instead of using a textbook, the required readings are largely articles from peer reviewed academic journals. In that class I also assign group research projects that have generated many excellent papers. Many of these students leverage that opportunity to do research into additional undergraduate research experiences that have produced five CURO Best Paper Awards, book chapters, and a co-authored publication in an influential economics journal.

My participation in the UGA Honors Program has truly been one of the highlights and most rewarding aspects of my professional career.