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Honors Program Offers Challenging Classes, Leadership Opportunities to High-Achieving Students

Honors Program Offers Challenging Classes, Leadership Opportunities to High-Achieving Students

Posted: September 23, 2019

With a 1490 SAT score and a 3.7 high school grade point average (GPA), Calogero Tiermini had his pick of colleges.

Buffalo State was attractive to the Canandaigua, New York, native for its affordability and excellent reputation for educating teachers; Tiermini dreams of teaching either high school history or English. Also, he was familiar with the college because his mother, aunt, and uncle are all alumni.

However, it was a tour of the campus that hooked him.

“I could see myself as a student here. I loved the architecture and the feel of the campus,” said Tiermini, now in his second year at Buffalo State but with the credits of a junior. “I didn’t have that gut reaction from the other colleges I visited.”

While attending Orientation in fall 2018, he discovered another benefit, one designed for high-achieving and intellectually committed undergraduates—the Muriel A. Howard Honors Program. Established in 1984, it currently enrolls 439 students who are afforded perks such as priority registration, co-curricular and social activities, and leadership opportunities. Each year, roughly 45 honors students receive scholarships of $1,250 a semester. Tiermini is one of them.

In his public high school, Canandaigua Academy, Tiermini took Advanced Placement courses and was named a distinguished scholar. While there, he sang in three choirs, played in two orchestras, and performed in every musical. Outside of school, he did community service projects and worked part time.

“I learned from a young age to balance my schedule,” he said. “It’s the only reason I did so well. And I don’t panic now.”

He’s taking his fourth honors course this fall, along with regular coursework in his major, history and social studies education, and minors, English education and museum studies. His favorite honors course, thus far, has been Being Human, taught in two parts by Jason Grinnell, chair and associate professor of philosophy, and Amy McMillan, professor of biology and honors program director.

“I like the way the honors courses are set up more like a discussion around a topic,” he said. “We write essays where you have to explain your point.”

McMillan, who was named honors program director last summer, described the curriculum as focusing on necessary twenty-first-century skills, such as expository speaking and critical thinking.

“It’s really about helping high-achieving students move toward the next stage of their lives,” she said, adding that the current cadre of students enrolled in the Honors Program proportionally represent every school within Buffalo State.

Another benefit of being in the Honors Program is the opportunity to live with other high-achieving students in Bishop Hall.

Bishop has a sense of community,” said Tiermini, who serves as one of the hall’s resident assistants. “There’s always something to do and always people around.”

Each floor boasts two lounges where students can congregate to study, enjoy game nights, or as Tiermini has done, make a student film.

McMillan said the goal is for Bishop Hall to become exclusively an honors residence hall. This shift should happen organically as the program grows over time. McMillan’s goal is for the Honors Program to eventually encompass 10 percent of the college’s undergraduates.

One way to achieve this is by offering more outside opportunities for students, such as a leadership series the Honors Program is offering to students on Saturdays this fall.

Also, thanks to Tiermini and Carol Beckley, assistant director of the honors program, Buffalo State now has a new Honors Student Association, which they founded last February. Tiermini, the group’s president, said he wanted a vehicle for students to network and have fun.

“[The association] is a cool way to get involved on campus,” Tiermini said. “We’re young but growing.”



Photos by Bruce Fox, college photographer

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