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Honors College Going Beyond the Classroom

By Walter Villa – Special to STU

Surrounded by scholars.

Motivated by mentors.

Those are just two reasons why Cameron Williams is a proud member of St. Thomas University’s Honors College, but there are plenty of others as well.

Williams, a Psychology major from Miami Palmetto High School, said there have been numerous noteworthy events he has participated in since joining STU’s Honors College two years ago. One of the best events, Williams said, was last spring’s Florida Undergraduate Research Conference (FURC 2023) hosted by St. Thomas University. FURC 2023 was the largest ever FURC conference in history.

“I got to meet other psychology students from around the country and internationally as well,” said Williams, who has a stellar 3.875 grade-point average. “I also got to meet recruiters from graduate schools, and that will be useful down the line.

“But just as importantly, I met students doing research in marine biology, cancer, stem cells and a lot more. It was just a huge melting pot of data and knowledge, and it was cool to be around the best of the best – both in terms of students and faculty.”

Ann Claveus, another member of STU’s Honors College, was also at FURC 2023. She is majoring in Chemistry, but, after FURC, she added a minor in Physics.

“That conference opened up other sides of science in my mind,” Claveus said. “I met so many students who are passionate about space, planets, and the stars.”

But Claveus and Williams are surely not the only students who are enjoying their association with the Honors College.

Professor Christtian Travieso, who is in his third year as the Director of STU’s Honors College, said there are a total of 47 students in the program.

Professor Travieso is focused, among other things, on personalized attention for his students with the goal of developing ethical leaders.

The qualifications for entry into the Honors College include a minimum 3.5 cumulative GPA, a letter of recommendation, a completed application, and an interview with Professor Travieso.

Benefits of the program include innovative honors courses, one-on-one mentorship and advisement, academic scholarships, funded research, and internship opportunities, and help with LSAT/MCAT preparation.

“Honors courses challenge students more than a typical class,” Professor Travieso said. “It provides a space for students to think deeper about issues in society. It provides an avenue for career exploration, focusing on the development of skills students will need in the work force.”

But it does not end there. STU’s Honors College offers study-abroad opportunities, networking with South Florida leaders, and attendance at the National Honors Society’s annual conference.

Professor Travieso said Honors College students are expected to volunteer for community-service projects.

“The expectation is for our students to serve campus, local and global communities,” Travieso said. “The expectation is for our students to partner with campus ministry groups, attend local events, and support worthwhile organizations.

“We want them to think greater than just of themselves.”

STU’s Honors College strives to create a classroom with no boundaries. The goal is to develop ethical and resilient leaders for life.

To be sure, STU’s Honors College requires rigorous academic focus. But, in exchange, the program delivers a transformative education that can create a link to purpose, passion, and opportunity.

The key, Professor Travieso said, is to develop students intellectually, emotionally, socially, and spiritually.

“We are addressing the entire student,” Professor Travieso said. “That’s why STU should be appealing to students. We take a holistic approach – heart, soul, mind, and body.

“It’s inspiring to be around these students, but it’s also a call to action. There are a lot of problematic issues in society, and I see a need to develop students who can approach others with a smart mind but also a compassionate heart.”

Williams, who first heard about the Honors College when he was invited to a St. Thomas University basketball camp, said that the students and professors at STU have allowed him to push himself more than ever before.

Over the past year, for example, Williams has worked as a teaching assistant with STU professor Pamela Dahlin.

“We have conducted a lot of research that allowed me to grow my understanding of psychology,” said Williams, who is interested in becoming a psychiatrist.

Williams also credited Professor Travieso with building the Honors College as more than just an intellectual endeavor.

“We’ve had bowling night and a group dinner,” Williams said. “We’re planning a fishing trip. We’ve had a game night where food was catered. We played board games and listened to music.

“It was great to hang out, but it was also a chance to collaborate with fellow students.”

Walter Villa

Author Walter Villa

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