school students from across the country opened their minds through higher
learning and critical thinking in the Summer Honors Program held July 10–23 at the Cook Honors College.
learn right now is new,” said Ken Zhang, a senior from Queens, New York, who is
enrolled in the Mathematics of Counting course.
“There are no numbers. It’s all letters. It’s all logic. It’s critical
to apply math to any situation,” said Cora DeFrancesco, a junior from Camp
Hill. “We’re focusing on coding and counting. We’ve learned to take the basic
skills we’ve learned and we can solve a problem. We’re not solving for x or y.
We’re learning about transmitting messages, and that is used in everything we
touch today like in phones and computers.”
mathematics course, John Lattanzio is teaching coding theory, graph theory,
linear algebra, and elements of combinatorial counting. “In the mathematics discipline students are
certainly exposed to a variety of mathematical concepts,” Lattanzio said. “However, emphasis is
placed on how certain problems can be solved by implementing several different
mathematical areas simultaneously in an attempt to solve a particular problem.
This exposes the student to not just advanced mathematics but also to problem
solving strategies they can incorporate into their own specialty areas
mathematical or otherwise.”
There are 145
rising high school juniors and seniors in the program, which serves as an interactive exploration by the students and
professor into the course topic.
exploring questions,” said Kevin Berezansky, the Honors College associate
director. “The questions are ambiguous and big. Students are used to answers
and confirming them. The Cook Honors College curriculum exposes them to various
ways to answer questions.”
two Honors Core courses, one in humanities and social sciences, and one in a
discipline-specific class in mathematics, psychology, biochemistry,
nanochemistry, journalism and public relations, the Science and Nature
of Shakespeare Through the 21st Century, Constitutional law, or WWII in America.
described the Honors courses and that they are discussion based, I preferred a
lecture,” DeFrancesco said. “Now that I experienced the classes I can tell you
what happened in class. I can actually tell you what I learned on Tuesday. I am
learning every class. I was so worried about it before I got to experience it.”
Emma Foster, a
junior from Norfolk, Virginia, who is studying English, biochemistry, and sociology,
said students in her English class study poetry including lyrics of the late
rapper Tupac Shakur.
about how poetry relates to us as humans,” Foster said. “We even listened to
Tupac. How is that poetry? It is. We’re learning poetry. We’re realizing
emotions, beliefs and morals. In biochemistry it’s been fascinating. Dr. Bharathan is extremely knowledgeable. He’ll give us
questions and work us to the answer. We understand to a deeper level.”
In the English core course, Instructor Wesley
McMasters leads students to try to answer the question "What does it
mean to be human?" by reading and writing poetry.
“We've worked with a variety of poetry and tested the limits
of what we mean by poetry and art by working with everything from T. S. Eliot
to Tupac Shakur,” McMasters said. “What's most
important to me is that students gain an understanding not only of the power of
poetry, but of their ability to create valuable work and make meaningful
“These students are brilliant, active, and unendingly creative,”
McMasters said. “Poetry has provided a good means of expression for these
students, particularly. By engaging deeply with some tough but fascinating
poetry, the students have really gained impressive language to talk about big
questions. They've also been able to write some really fantastic poetry that
can help point to some really important answers.”
Erin Adams, a
senior from East Setauket, New York, is discovering facts about women who served in WWII
and how she and others feel about what they are learning. “It’s
incredibly interesting and eye opening,” said Adams, who is taking the course WWII in America Women in the Homefront.
“We get to see documentaries. We get to talk about it. We open up our minds.
Everyone says what they feel. We talked about what shocks us like female
pilots. We’re like ‘What? They weren’t all nurses?’”
Will Durham, a
senior from Springfield Twp., Montgomery County, is learning the legalities of
the death penalty in Constitutional Law. “We’re
exploring the law at a level we never experienced before,” Durham said. “We’re
learning what the law says. We’re examining the Constitution.”
In the biology
core course, Bob Hinrichsen leads discussions on the human genome sequence
and synthetic life. “They are to
think about things,” Hinrichsen said. “It’s bioethics more than hardcore
biology. I take a topic and bring up questions. Even if you don’t like science,
it affects you. Science is a part of our lives. We talk about what good came of
the human genome sequence in the past 10 years. We talk about the misuse of it.
We are talking about how we can synthesize life.”
the students discuss their viewpoints based on religion and philosophy. “Science and
religion—can they work together?” Hinrichsen asked. “Almost everything we talk
about is not going to have a right and wrong answer. I try to get students to
express their viewpoints. Some have a real affinity for technology, and others
are leery of technology. I’m really impressed. The level of their discussion is
like my Honors College class. The first goal is an appreciation that science is
interesting and important to society, and the second is the confidence to talk
about things and form opinions.”
classroom, students have opportunities for evening social events. They have
participated in star gazing, bird watching, slime games, a campfire at Memorial
Park in Indiana, a Nickelodeon obstacle course, Pokemon Go, musical jam
sessions, open mic nights, and Twitter poetry.
1994, the Summer Honors Program offers a diverse experience for students before
they have to make their college choice.
“There are no
grades,” Foster said. “There is no pressure. In high school, it’s about getting
an A. I am interested in biochemistry now, and I’m interested in going to IUP.”
visited the campus twice, also plans to enroll at IUP.
“I found this
campus a year ago,” Adams said. “After being here for these two weeks this is definitely
“The success of
the program depends on a lot of IUP personnel and offices,” Berezansky said. “The
support this program gets from all the professionals at IUP is amazing. Our
growth over the years has been diversity. It’s a diversity of ideas and
backgrounds. This enables students to gain perspective. Seeing the
world in a new way through the experiences and expertise of another is at the
heart of the program.”
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