The silent heroes of the civil rights movement; a five-year strategic plan for Citibank; an analysis on New York’s bail reform policy; a closer look at modern poetry; children in the criminal justice system. These are just some of the impressive Contract and Capstone student projects that came out of Mercy College’s Spring 2020 Global Honors Program.
“Contract” projects allow students to earn honors credit by undertaking an additional research project in a non-honors course, under the supervision of a faculty member.
“Capstone” projects are conducted during the culminating course of the Global Honors Program. Under the guidance of a faculty member, students develop a project – a research paper, creative work, laboratory experiment, or community-based learning project – that explores a topic of intellectual or social significant from an interdisciplinary perspective.
These research projects demonstrate the Global Honors Program’s mission: to transform highly motivated and intellectually curious students into critical and reflective future leaders in a global society through collaboration, interdisciplinary practice, and experiential pedagogy.
Associate Professor and Natural Sciences Chair Irina Ellison, Ph.D. and Assistant Professor Patrick Fazioli, Ph.D. are co-directors of the Global Honors Program. They both praise the program for providing students the opportunity to engage in self-directed learning, a critical process that builds confidence, instills discipline, and builds creative capacity – skills that are essential to professional success.
Global Honors students typically present their projects at an in-person honors symposium, but due to coronavirus (COVID-19) concerns, the program directors pivoted to a virtual presentation and graduation ceremony. The change in format did not detract from the students’ impressive works. Instead, they were able to present their research projects in compelling ways, using impactful images, videos, and narrations.
“The willingness of the students to persevere in the face of everything that’s going on speaks to their commitment to the program and the commitment to their learning,” Ellison said. Additionally, “The projects can stay up on the website in perpetuity, for all who are interested to view,” Fazioli explained.
What does Fazioli enjoy most about co-directing the program? “It is incredibly rewarding to see students’ transformations from the first week when you review the requirements of the course and the steps to completing the independent projects,” Fazioli said. “They have this look on their face that says, ‘there’s no way I can do this.’ I reassure them that they will be so proud of what they accomplish at the end of the semester. And they always are.”
Other facets of the Global Honors Program, in addition to research projects, include small, engaging seminar-style classes, mentorship from students and faculty in the honors program, official recognition at commencement, priority registration, and opportunities to participate in special extracurricular activities and events, such as undergraduate conferences, receptions, invited speakers, and trips to local cultural and historical attractions.
“It is such a wonderful opportunity to expose students to things that they may have not seen or experienced otherwise. The experiential component of the program is critical – students learn more when they’re doing, so we want to engage them in these opportunities,” Ellison said.
As co-director, Ellison most enjoys equipping already motivated students with the necessary skills to continue their passions after graduation and building a community of students who are share an interest in learning. “To see that moment when a student finds their community, and when they seek out each other’s perspectives and learn from one another – that’s the type of connection and collaborative learning relationship we aim to foster,” Ellison reflected.