Honors program entices students

To get a step ahead of her fellow Modesto Junior College students, Deanna Crichton has enrolled in the campus's honors program.

Crichton, 39, is working toward her associate degree in accounting and bookkeeping and working full time. The mother of two grown children isn't sure whether she'll transfer to a university after MJC, but wants to keep her options open.

"The possibilities of the incentives ... dangled in front of us appealed to me. And it's a feather in my cap," Crichton said.

Started this semester, the program has 14 students and 15 more applying, coordinator Eva Mo said.

If students fulfill the honors requirements, they can take advantage of enhanced trans- fer agreements with four-year universities, priority admission and registration, and scholarships. The program is in its first semester and Mo is still hammering out transfer deals with private universities as well as campuses of the University of California and California State University systems.

Participants must maintain a certain grade point average while in the program and attend cultural and academic events on and off campus.

MJC students don't need to take extra classes. They work with their instructors to develop reports, presentations or research for the classes they're taking.

For her macroeconomics course, Crichton is research- ing the relationship between the inflation rate and the local housing market. She'll write a paper, give a presentation and submit the project to the honors program advisory board for approval.

"It's outside the scope of the class but within the scope of economics," she said. She's expected to spend at least 25 hours on the project over the course of the semester.

Taylor White, 18, is going to write a 10-page research paper on the history of bootlegging at the national and local levels for his U.S. history class.

White graduated from Beyer High School in June after taking several Advanced Placement classes. He sees MJC's honors program as a continuation of taking more rigorous classes.

Some people think of a community college as a last resort for students who didn't get into four-year universities; White said he hopes MJC's honors program changes that misconception.

"The program makes community colleges a better option," said White, who's studying political science with plans to transfer to the University of California at Berkeley to study law.

About half of the state's 109 community colleges have honors programs. MJC had one several years ago and is reviving it, said Mo, who also teaches history at MJC. Columbia College and California State University, Stanislaus, also offer honors programs for students.

"We had a lot of great faculty and great students. ... This helps our top students be recognized for their extra work and the extra mile they go," Mo said.

The focus of honors work is to encourage students to think more critically and give back to the community or class they're in, Mo said. The program also allows honors students to network with each other.

"I recommend this to anybody who thinks they need more challenging courses," White said.

For more information on MJC's new honors program, call Mo at 575-6105 or go to www.mjc.edu/honors.

Bee staff writer Michelle Hatfield can be reached at mhatfield@modbee.com or 578-2339.