I’m often asked what type of person would make a good honors student. The answer is always the same: the one who has a genuinely curious mind. An ideal honors student will be curious about lots of things, and often those things are in vastly different disciplines. Perhaps the best way to define an honors student is talk about some of the exceptional students I have encountered in the past seven years at Southern New Hampshire University.
I just found out yesterday that a former student, James Merrill, passed the bar. He was a history major for us (beginning in sport management) then went on to law school at the Catholic University. James was always a curious student who seemed to just “get it” when it came to classroom discussion. He always seemed like a graduate student to me, and I am not surprised that he passed the bar. His Honors thesis on Shakespeare and William Shatner is still talked about among our students.
Nicole Doane was a student of mine who spent a great deal of time in my office. It was a pleasure to watch her mature into a confident young woman whose love of literature took her to Dartmouth this past fall. Although I am happy to hear that she is already serving as a teaching assistant, I do miss our conversations. Nicole’s love of books and ideas brought her to the top of her class. She was not only a great student in the classroom, she was also involved in many things on and off campus. She is a model for what it means to be engaged.
Melissa Hurley is at the University of Rhode Island working on her Masters in Library Science. Melissa’s thesis on the dark side of Roald Dahl’s fiction was one of the most satisfying experiences I have had working with a student. She is smart and independent, which are qualities I highly value in my students. Melissa was (and probably still is) an athlete who has one numerous awards. She took on several challenges and never complained when I suggested yet another book or article she should read for her thesis.
Craig Sorvillo was Sancho to my Quixote for my first years at SNHU. Craig is attending the University of Pennsylvania and is making quite a name for himself from what I hear. Craig was an outstanding leader for the University Honors Program, but more important than that, he is the one who informed me that the Go-Getters page on SNHU’s website is where “good professors go to die.” Thankfully I made it to Go-Getters hell after he graduated. The University Honors Program is still looking for a leader like him among our students.
One of the most quiet and reserved students I have ever encountered was also one of the smartest. Nate Boesch is now at the University of Michigan Law School studying to be an environmental lawyer. I recently found out that he has been selected by the faculty 1L (first year law) as representative to the Environmental Law Society. Nate traveled to Africa with one of our professors (Michelle Goldsmith) to study gorillas in the wild. I think it would have been much easier to go to the Bronx Zoo, but no one listens to me. He also studied at The Hague. Nate is also a creative writer and is the epitome of the all-around honors student one loves to have in one’s class. He was another student who seemed to be involved in so many things. By his second semester at SNHU he had already published a story, but that might just be on account of the good genes he inherited from his mother, the author Diane Les Becquets. In my literary theory class I gave him an A-. Nate wanted to take a risk with his final paper and we discussed before hand if it would be better to take a “safer” approach. He decided to take the risk and it almost worked. He never once complained about the A-, the only one he received that semester (all A’s in his other courses), and this just illustrates the integrity he had and still has. I now feel bad about the A-.
There are countless others who could easily serve as examples of exceptional students in our Honors Program. The common denominator is the desire to think for the sake of thinking, which always places the thinker at risk. These students also bring out what is best in the professor and the institution. Unlike research institutions, it is what out students go on to become that defines a lot of who we are as teachers and scholars. I’ve been very lucky to have come across some very good students who have really taught me a thing or two in the end.