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NMU Honors Program Marks 20 Years

Marquette, MIDecember 1, 2018 – Northern’s Honors Program was established in the fall 1998 semester with 12 students; it has since grown to 327 participants, expanding both in scope and function. Throughout its development, however, the core mission has held steady. The Honors Program provides Northern’s brightest students with access to the finest teaching faculty over all four years, and to courses that offer increasing opportunities for specialization in their areas of interest.

Students embark on an interdisciplinary curriculum that enables them to earn general education credits in small, discussion-based courses. In their final two years, they begin earning Honors credit by individualizing courses within their majors.

“This process is the hallmark of the program,” said David Wood, Honors Program Director and professor of English. “It encourages students to engage in one-on-one work with faculty mentors, culminating in senior capstone research or creative projects. It’s thrilling to witness the amazing work that our mid-sized institution can foster for its most extraordinary students.”

Recent Honors Program graduates have advanced to top medical, veterinary, PA, and law schools. Some have also earned prestigious scholarships, such as the Fulbright.

“The small class sizes and off-the-beaten path topics and writing prompts made it both interesting and a challenge to engage in studying subjects other than my passion: science,” said alumna Emily Burghardt, who is pursuing a doctorate in biology. “However, the real difference that the program made in my life was the professors I had the honor to work with.”

Alumna Charlotte Cialek, who plans to become a biological data scientist in the genomics industry after graduate school, said, “The content that didn’t pertain to my major helped mold me in to who I am today. Some of my favorite memories include an entire semester on Don Quixote and traveling to the Shakespeare Festival in Ontario. The ideas in the Honors classes also helped open my mind about complicated topics in science.”

Wood has led the Honors Program since 2010. He has been joined by Assistant Director Michael Joy, professor of Spanish, who has integrated the award-winning NMU Quiz Bowl team he advises within the Honors Program. Discussions with the Honors Student Organization have led to two other recent developments.

The “Honors Atelier” is a social and meeting space in the Olson Library, which is used for release parties for the second development: the undergraduate journal, Conspectus Borealis. Based on the Latin term for “a Northern perspective,” this annual journal attracts campus-wide, faculty-approved, undergraduate academic work spanning all academic majors. Honors Program students select and edit the blind submissions.

Former NMU Trustee Mary L. Campbell established a scholarship fund that was critical to the formation of the Honors Program two decades ago. Sustained support from private donors has contributed to its growth and success. The “John and Shirley Berry Annual Scholarship” draws upon a $5 million gift to attract business and STEM-related majors, and the “Anna and Rich Lundin Summer Research Fellowships” fund five $5,000 awards to support upper-level, faculty-mentored research projects each year.

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