Spring semester is around the corner, meaning students are taking the important step of making their schedule before registration ends on Jan. 3.
What many students are not aware of is that their classes can improve significantly by enrolling in an honors course —which no, is not part of an elite society— but an academic program that encourages and celebrates curiosity.
Story by Marisela Perez-Maita
The ACC Honors Program provides a number of benefits for ACC students —from classes to internships and scholarship opportunities. Dr. Anne-Marie Thomas, Chair of the Honors Program and also an honors English professor, has seen over the years how students connect with one another and live experiences that traditional classes do not normally offer.
“Small classes allow a lot more close interaction between the students themselves and the faculty,” Dr. Thomas says. “To me, that’s a big selling point. All honors classes have a substantial discussion component which encourages and strengthens the spirit of inquiry in the students.”
In honors classes, students get the opportunity to get a deeper dive into a particular subject, Dr. Thomas says. She teaches composition with a focus on science fiction as well as a literature course on apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction.
Students still cover the same transfer requirements as a traditional class but with deeper discussions and experiences, including field trips, visits from guest lecturers and service learning.
“For example, the theme for Professor Endl’s Astronomy class is about whether there is life in the universe, and apart from studying the possibilities for life on other planets, with an instructor who has actually discovered an exoplanet, students get the opportunity to use the telescope at the Round Rock campus,” Dr. Thomas says.
Students realize the difference between traditional and honors classes right away. Aatmodhee Goswami, an ACC Computer Science student, started his academic journey in 2020 during the pandemic, “Since it was online, it was a little bit harder to get that sort of interaction with professors, especially with 30 or 40 people in a Zoom call,” Goswami says. “I learned, but it wasn’t as interactive as I would’ve liked it to be.”
Upon finding out about the smaller class sizes that honor classes offer, Goswami decided to sign up. Since then, he shared that taking these classes provided a fun and interactive academic experience, “I personally really like the fact there is a personal connection with each of the professors. I can remember specific experiences with them,” Goswami says.
For example, Goswami explained that each one of these courses has influenced his academic journey and general interests. The Microeconomics course with Professor Croxdale prompted him to self-study AP Macro, and after his first composition class with Professor Thomas, he is now into science fiction.
Students may get the misconception that these courses are difficult, but according to Goswami, even a class like Calculus II is interactive, “I do suppose Honors classes take more work, but I for sure take more out of it and they are more fun,” Goswami says.
There is no due date for enrolling in an honors class as they follow the regular registration timeline. However, not all courses are offered every semester and there is a maximum of 15 students per class.
It is important that students check early to make sure their plans are aligned with which courses are available.
To be part of the Honors Program, it is necessary to apply and meet only one of the listed requirements among which include having a 3.25 college GPA from at least 9 college hours or being in the top 15 percent of one’s graduating high school class.
Once accepted, students can become even more involved in the program. The paid internship opportunity to be an Honor Ambassador includes students engaging in leadership activities at ACC events, doing recruitment and classroom presentations and creating social media content.
Nora O’Halloran signed up to be an ambassador after her first honors class, “As an ambassador, everyone does what their strengths are or what they are interested in learning. For example, we have people who love editing videos and that’s what they are learning in school, so they get to edit the fun videos that we work on,” O’Halloran says.
The position has online and in-person flexibility so students can choose what works best for them.
“We have ways to make things accommodating, which is one of the many wonderful things about being an Honors Ambassador,” O’Halloran says. “The key is to get involved as much as you can; reach out to Dr. Thomas and explain your interests. You can volunteer in the Honors Student Organization as well. All of these will help you in the long run.”
Apart from Honors Ambassadors, the Honors Program has a partnership with the University of Texas at Austin called UT’s Youth and Community Studies (YCS) Fellows Program. It consists of a series of spring workshops about civic leadership, community building, social justice and restorative practices. Students who participate and complete the YCS Fellows program are eligible to become interns in another program at UT along with receiving transfer advising from the university’s advisors.
The YCS program provides a certificate upon completion, which, along with all the experience from the internship, can help students get into UT if that’s what they are aiming for.
Even more, if students need help regarding honors courses and transfer goals, they can set up an appointment with the honors advisor Jana McCarthy in the Honors Programs.
To find out more, the Honors Program’s social media provides information about what they are up to as well as future ambassador openings. For example, two weeks ago was Honors week across the ACC district. Daily events were hosted across ACC campuses and remotly To mention a few were the Columbia University School of General Studies Information Session and “A Legacy Beyond Bloodline” talk with UT Austin professor Dr. Octavious Butler.
If students want additional recognition on their transcripts, they can go to the website and read how to become an Honors Scholar along with the steps to apply for the Honors Scholarship.
Be the student that takes advantage of all of these benefits and celebrate curiosity with the Honors Program by enrolling in honors Spring semester classes!