Dr. Melissa Sloan

USF Sarasota-Manatee’s Honors Program expands

By: Rich Shopes

Posted: December 22, 2016

SARASOTA, Fla. (Dec. 22, 2016) USF Sarasota-Manatee’s Honor’s Program is seeing a surge of interest.

Launched in 2009 to challenge students, the program is seeing a spike in applications for the spring term with more than 26 students seeking formal entry. Typically, about a dozen apply to the program.

Honors Program Coordinator Dr. Melissa Sloan attributes the wave of interest to a push by her and other faculty to spotlight the program. This past fall, professors urged top students to apply and dozens attended an information session at Selby Auditorium. The average GPA of interested students was 3.76.

“We had several 4.0 students,” Dr. Sloan said, adding that high achievers, including those considering graduate school, typically apply. Participation can boost the odds of being accepted into a graduate program.

The program is open to high-achieving juniors in any academic major, but is limited to 15 students yearly.  Applications are due mid-fall for the cohort that begins the following spring. Last year, five students were accepted.

“This is a value-added experience, and it’s designed for students who want to do extra work,” she said.  “It gives students the ability to work on an extended research project, and having that experience really is the best thing they can do to enhance their graduate school application.”

The program is research-intensive and akin to a graduate-level thesis with a faculty mentor, an extended period for research and writing and a jury of faculty to evaluate the students’ papers. Thesis work typically begins during the summer with in-depth reading and students and mentors collaborating on data collection. The effort intensifies with more research and writing as the academic year progresses.

“The whole program is nine credits, a sequence of three three-credit courses from spring through the following fall,” Dr. Sloan said.

The program helps students develop topics connecting their interests with faculty expertise. Among some recent studies are those related to PTSD treatment for veterans, the impact of pet ownership and personality on depression, and an examination of memoirs from World War I soldiers.

“The opportunity this program provides students is really unique,” she said.

“Not a lot of universities have the ability to enable undergraduate students to work with faculty mentors one-on-one on a student-initiated project,” Dr. Sloan said. “Given our small size and dedicated faculty, we are able to do that, and many who complete the program say it’s the best experience of their undergraduate years.”

For more about the Honors Program, visit usfsm.edu/college-of-liberal-arts-sciences/honors-program.

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