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Spotlight on Honors

Program grows and diversifies thanks to inclusive, student-centered approach
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News Feature

[Editor's Note: This is the third story in our Back to School series.]

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The Honors Program at Bridgewater State University is growing and diversifying.

More than 600 Bears are participating this academic year, compared to 350 students in 2012. And, 196 of them are first-year students. Meanwhile, people of color comprise an increasingly larger share of honors students.

This trend may be due to more flexible honors admissions requirements; BSU’s new use of the Common App, which makes the college application process easier; and the program’s inclusive, student-centered approach and one-on-one faculty mentorship, explained Dr. Jenny Shanahan, assistant provost for high-impact practices.

To learn more, we asked new and upper-class Bears why they value the Honors Program.

Aaron Bisson, ’20, Plymouth

As an aspiring college professor, Aaron sees the Honors Program as a way to challenge himself in preparation for graduate school and his career.

“I think it gives you an opportunity to do work you are particularly interested in,” the English major said. “It gives you an opportunity to try things you wouldn’t necessarily be looking at in the coursework itself.”

Aaron, who transferred to BSU from Stonehill College and is minoring in anthropology and African studies, encourages new honors students to talk to their advisors and peers and take advantage of opportunities to learn in new ways.

Patricia Diaz, ’23, Brockton

Patricia wasn’t set on attending BSU until visiting campus.

“I decided to come here because I felt special here,” the English and secondary education major said. “I felt like I had a place among thousands of people.”

She looks forward to connecting with fellow honors students by residing in a living learning community in Scott Hall. She hopes the Honors Program will help her break out of her shell.

“I’ve been a pretty shy person for as long as I can remember,” she said. “When I heard about small and challenging classes, it caught my attention because I thought it would connect me with other people. It would make it easier for my voice to be heard.”

Hannah Deane, ’21, Blackstone

Hannah came to BSU because it was, as she puts it, the “financially responsible” choice, but the university exceeded her expectations.

Hannah Deane

“It ended up being the best decision because of all of the opportunities here,” the biology major said.

The Honors Program opened doors to leadership experiences, research and courses that stress real-world applications.

As president of the Honors Student Congress, Hannah looks forward to planning community service, social and educational events for fellow honors students. She encourages new Bears to become involved on campus from Day One.

“I found the Honors Program really engaging,” she said. “I wanted a little more of a challenge and figured the Honors Program was a pretty good way to do that.”

Joanna Gordon, ’23, Plymouth

Joanna succeeded in high school at Archbishop Williams, a Catholic school in Braintree. Now entering much larger Bridgewater State, Joanna seeks a home within the university.

“I know the Honors Program is close. There’s more one-on-one (interactions with professors) like in my high school,” the physics major and Spanish minor said. “I know I can learn a lot in that environment.”

Joanna was impressed with what she saw in the Department of Physics, including optical tweezers developed by undergraduates under the guidance of Dr. Thaya Paramanathan. Even her parents came away thinking “Wow.”

“I love physics. It makes me excited,” she said. “I’m more excited to be with other people who love the things I love. I’m hoping we’ll all be close.” 

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