Had Pennsylvania College of Technology offered an honors track when Randy Moser studied there, he would have applied for the program.
Moser attended the community college before transferring to Penn State to finish his undergraduate degree. Now an associate professor of mathematics at Horry Georgetown Technical College, Moser is providing his most promising students with an opportunity he never had.
“That’s what the program’s really all about,” he said. “It’s giving students amazing opportunities that otherwise they wouldn’t have access to.”
HGTC’s new honors program will begin in the spring and the college is already accepting applications. The school becomes the fourth of the state’s 16 community colleges to offer such a program, said Kelly Steinhilper, spokeswoman for the S.C. Technical College System. The others are Greenville, Piedmont and Tri-County.
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At HGTC, the program will consist of two cohorts, one at the main branch in Conway and the other at the Grand Strand campus in Myrtle Beach. School officials envision each group consisting of 12-15 students who will take honors classes together. The courses will have heavier workloads but the class sizes will be smaller, focusing on individualized learning. Each cohort will also take a leadership course that will include a community service project, and the students will have the opportunity to assist faculty on research.
The idea of an honors program has been discussed for years but began gaining traction last fall.
“This came from the faculty,” said Marilyn Fore, HGTC’s senior vice president for academic affairs. “Faculty have had students in their classes that yearned for more challenge or they have a particular curiosity about a subject matter and so they want to go beyond what their course requirements are and they want to have experiences that carry them deep into a topic.”
College officials hope to find a way to include a study abroad component into the honors program. HGTC is in its seventh year of offering a study abroad package that combines British literature and history courses and takes students to England as part of the curriculum.
“It changes their life forever,” Fore said. “Some of these students have never been away from South Carolina. They’ve not known anything about other cultures. They’ve never traveled anywhere.”
In developing the honors track, HGTC faculty researched other similar programs and followed the recommendations of the National Collegiate Honors Council. There are two sets of admissions criteria: one for incoming high school students (1200 SAT score, 26 ACT score or minimum 3.5 GPA; letter of recommendation from teacher; and essay) and another for those already enrolled or transferring to HGTC (minimum 3.5 GPA; two letters of recommendation from faculty; and essay).
School officials have also reached agreements with four-year institutions to ensure HGTC students’ honors courses transfer to those colleges.
“When they transfer, they wouldn’t miss a beat at all,” Moser said. “They’d probably get a two-year degree here and all the classes that they have would transfer, but they would be honors classes. In the future, what we’re hoping is to broker some honors-to-honors agreements with some of these universities.”
News of the honors program is just beginning to spread on campus, but some students have already expressed interest.
Kate Russell, a student in the nursing program, is considering applying for one of the cohorts. She has an undergraduate degree in literature and participated in an honors English program at her former school.
“People who feel invested, people who are surrounded by likeminded people, can really have the potential to propel others,” she said. “It was just nice to have a community to share ideas with and bounce ideas off of each other.”
Now a 34-year-old mother of three, Russell said she wants to show her children, particularly her two daughters, that women can thrive in math and science courses.
“I would like to be an example,” she said. “That stigma that is insisting that if it’s hard you can’t do it, it’s not true. You just have to push through. And I think that having an honors program at [Horry]-Georgetown Tech could really encourage those to move forward with their studies.”
Although honors programs are often perceived as simply tougher classes, Moser said HGTC’s cohorts will provide much more for students.
“It’s going to be a lot more work,” he said. “But it’s the extracurriculars — the professor interactions, the small class sizes, the camaraderie... that’s what’s really going to make this program unique and worthwhile.”
Contact CHARLES D. PERRY at 626-0218 or on Twitter @TSN_CharlesPerr.
For more information about Horry Georgetown Technical College’s honors program, contact Randy Moser at 843-477-2193.