Honors Program members tell all about the program

Written By Cassandra Harris, Staff Writer

On the fourth floor of Lawrence hall sits the Honors office. The glass doors give a glimpse inside, but hide plenty of questions.. What even is the Honors Program? What does it do for students? And what is the honors workload like? Let’s take a look. Junior broadcast journalism major Natalea Hillen is the president of the Honors Student Organization. She says that she decided to join the Honors Program before she came to Point Park. She discusses why joining the Honors Program opened a path of opportunities for her. 

“If I wasn’t a part of the program, I wouldn’t have met one of my best friends,” Hillen said. “I received my internship [partially because of my involvement with the honors program]. It has helped a lot, without that internship I wouldn’t have been able to learn and grow as I have.” 

  The benefits that Hillen receives from the program don’t come for free. She says that she works hard to balance modeling, a job, a work study, track and field, U-View and other important duties on campus. She schedules out her time to make use of every moment, allotting 30 minutes for dinner and leisure when she gets home. 

“Honestly, it is a lot,” Hillen said. “I just stay really organized and I write down everything I do. I make sure to set 30 minutes aside when I come home to chill and eat before I start all of my homework at night. As an Honors student you need to make sure you’re organized and on top of your work. One thing I do is just making sure that I am mentally good most of the time. I try my best to put myself first.”

Dr. Dorene Celetti, acting director of the Honors Program for Fall 2022 and Assistant Director of the program, realizes the stress the program can create.

“Things are as stressful as we allow ourselves to make them sometimes,” Celetti said. ”I think that within the Honors Program we strive to find balance and we want it to be a holistic program so students have a lot of flexibility. What they’re doing is choosing courses they would like to honorise to get that additional credit. So they can develop a schedule that works for them. So there’s a lot of flexibility there for them to build an honors schedule that works for them.” 

Jessica McCort, Honors Program director, also acknowledges that having honors classes can sometimes be stressful for students. However, offering a challenge to students that want one is why the program exists. 

“The way that the Honors Program is structured at Point Park affords those students that are interested in an extra challenge in their classes, is really just an added layer,” McCourt said. “We have the honors certificate at the university that they can work on. The honors certificate consists of 21 credits throughout a student’s time at Point Park. That work starts from the time they step foot on campus. So they take either honors sections of classes, or students do what we call, honors contracts.”

Each path McCourt mentioned has a different set of responsibilities. According to McCourt, students who take “honors sections” for their classes work with their professor to add two layered assignments to pre-existing coursework. While “honors contracts” are more independent for a student. A student decides on what type of challenge they want to add to a class. At the same time, the extra projects that come with honorised classes are not simple. 

“When you’re honorising a class it’s not like just writing an extra paper, we want students to be very creative,“ McCourt said. “One of the students I had in the past who was in the haunted America class decided that they were very interested in urban legends. So they investigated a place that was located around Pittsburgh and looked into the history of it and where the legend came from”

The project was conducted as a research paper and formatted into a blog post. Celetti explains that the extra workload that comes with honors is a choice rooted in whatever field the student chooses. This presents an opportunity to these students to be more prepared for a job.

“There is an opportunity for honors students to enhance their career readiness,” Celetti said. “One of the students this semester, she got selected to attend a summer opera workshop. So that will become the basis of her experiential learning project in that course. There is a bit of an additional workload, much of it is self directed so it’s around the area of their choosing that will ultimately benefit them in terms of their overall growth and development.“

Hillen committed the time to honors and has received different opportunities that she otherwise would have passed up on. She thinks that other students should want those opportunities too if they’re willing to work for it.

“I think the Honors Program helps students get the extra initiative to get those opportunities,” Hillen said. “It’s up to you at the end of the day. It’s up to the individual student if you want to take that opportunity or not. The directors are two great connections to go to and open up opportunities on the outside working world.”

Correction: Hillen was initially stated to have received her internship through the Honors program. In actuality she received her internship in part because of her work with the Honors program.