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Success in Action: Developing a Successful Community College Honors Program. Dr. Don Tomas, President Dr. Thomas Brooks, VP for Instruction & Student Services Cheryl Contino -Conner, Director - Student Support The League of Innovation Conference March 10-13, 2013. Today we will discuss:

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success in action developing a successful community college honors program

Success in Action: Developing a Successful Community College Honors Program

Dr. Don Tomas, President

Dr. Thomas Brooks, VP for Instruction & Student Services

Cheryl Contino-Conner, Director - Student Support

The League of Innovation Conference

March 10-13, 2013


Today we will discuss:

    • How to Create an Honors Program
    • Establishing an Honors Review Committee
    • Mission and Benefits of The Honors Program
    • Guidelines for Proposal Review
    • Granting Honors Credit/Transcript Notation
    • Securing University Honor Program Partnerships
    • Program Expansions
    • Lessons Learned
    • Your BLUEPRINT for start-up

Member of the North Carolina Community College System – 58 institutions strong

  • Founded in 1964
  • 3,606 curriculum students
  • 5,558 continuing education students
  • Participate in NC Comprehensive Articulation Agreement

What you are about to hear happened without forming a new committee. Yes, you read this screen correctly.

  • We created an Honors Program WITHOUT a, “rally the troops how-to, investigative, design, brain-storming, trouble shooting, process discussion, process review, re-convene, implementation” committee.

Decision: Create an Interdisciplinary Honors Program to:

  • Afford transfer students full University Honor Program/College opportunities;
  • Cultivate high achieving students (at SCC) in all disciplines;
  • Extend teaching and learning to advanced levels;
  • Re-energize faculty with studentmentorship and research.

Determining Applicant Eligibility requirements:

“Who can participate?”

  • High School graduate/first semester attending SCC:
    • A high school weighted GPA of 4.00 or higher, or;
    • A high school class rank in the top 10%, or;
    • An SAT of 1875 or an ACT of 30 or higher
  • All other SCC students
    • A 3.5 or higher cumulative GPA with at least 12 semester hours of college level coursework.

In the Fall of 2008, SCC offered students and faculty the opportunity to engage in the Honors Program. Four contracts were approved.

In 2009, in addition to Southwestern, five additional NC Community Colleges responded positively to the NCCCS survey regarding Honors Programs.


Establishing an Honors Program Review Committee

The Review Committee provides program oversight with regards to:

    • Mission, Benefits and Marketing of the Honors Program;
    • Review of proposals for approval, recommendation, or denial;
    • Assistance in Institutionalizing Honor Program goals;
    • Edit, revision or implementation of new policies and procedures, as necessary.

SCC’s Honors Program Review Committee (eight members) is composed of:

    • Vice President for Instruction and Student Services
    • Dean of Arts and Sciences
    • Dean of Career Technologies
    • Dean of Health Sciences
    • Dean of Student Services
    • Dean of the Macon Campus
    • Director of the Honors Program
    • President of Faculty Senate

Mission of The Honors Program at Southwestern Community College:

    • Challenge high achieving and highly motivated students to purposefully engage in Honors coursework. Honors coursework is designed to enrich and expand the expectations of the traditional college course.
    • Intentionally focus on academic excellence including critical thinking, communication skills, and academic inquiry. Honors coursework generally will be more writing, research and/or project intensive.
    • Engage students and faculty across all disciplines.
    • Encourage and support Honors students in leadership and service to the college and the community.

Benefits of the Honors Program at Southwestern Community College:

  • Opportunity to participate in the highly motivating and academically challenging Honors program; 
  • Honors designation on transcripts and degree/diploma;
  • Special recognition at graduation and honors medallion;
  • Enhanced transfer opportunities;
  • Invitation to honors luncheon/forum with SCC Executive Cabinet;
  • Increased emphasis on communication and critical thinking skills;
  • Direct link to University Honor Programs/Colleges;
  • Leadership and mentoring opportunities.

Guidelines for Honor Proposal Review

The proposal review process consists of the Review Committee feeling confident the applicants (student and faculty mentor) thoroughly explained all questions on the application.


Sample of Honor Project Topics:

    • CJC – Initiate contact with an elementary school and secure permission to complete a set of inked fingerprint impressions/current student photos.
    • MAT 271 – Southeastern math competition at Gainesville State College.
    • PTA 120 – In depth evidence based research of the anatomy and biomechanics of the shoulder girdle with the activity of weight lifting.
    • SPA 111 – English to Spanish medical directory for local health departments, approximately 100 entries.
    • CHM 131 – Residential radon testing
    • MAT 151 – Literature review of Freakonomicsby Levitt
    • EDU 216 – Ethnograph examining sociocultural aspects of public elementary school within our service area.
    • ACC 121 – Research into how forensic accounting was used to prosecute and convict German World War II officials and companies of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Granting Honors Credit /Transcript Notation

15 class calendar days to submit


Students who successfully complete the course in which an honors proposal was approved with a grade of “A” or “B” by semesters’ end earn honors credit. Credit is awarded based on the credit hour for the approved class.

Credit is awarded on the STNT mnemonic per positive outcome.


  • Successful completion of program of study with a 3.5 or higher GPA;
  • Successful completion of a minimum of 12 hours of HP credit.
  • Honors Program designation on the Degree/Diploma is provided with an Honors Program seal.

Honor Program Stats:

What the stats represent:

172 students and 194 approved contracts;

Honors contracts have been developed in 82 classes;

35% of approved contracts have been mentored by adjunct faculty;

63 instructors involved;

13 Honor Program graduates.


Lessons Learned:

    • Location, location, and relationship – helpful with first MOU.
    • Friendly university competition helps with second MOU
    • 10 days too soon for contract/proposal submission.
    • Summer contracts - not successful.
    • Scheduling honor luncheon forums in subsequent semesters does NOT produce good student attendance.
    • Faculty need an opportunity to have dialogue regarding the contract proposal process/standards.
    • If it feels like “extra credit” it is not worthy of honors credit.
    • Student notation on graduation program may require an early deadline for projects.

Program Expansions

    • Student Appeals Process
    • First Honors Class (Math 273) - Spring 2012
      • Encouraging interest from faculty to offer Honor Classes in: BIO 111, BIO 169 and ENG 113.
    • Honor Guard
    • Honors Program Lounge
    • Funding for student projects

YOURBLUEPRINT for start-up:

1) HP catalyst: ______________________________

2) Executive HP champion: _____________________

3) Existing committee:_______________________

4) First faculty mentor:_______________________

5) First MOU will be signed with: _________________


For information about The Honors Program, please contact:

Cheryl Contino-Conner

Southwestern Community College, Sylva NC

(828) 339-4245