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Honors Program Graduates 90 Impressive Seniors Against COVID Backdrop

Despite a major rupture to their college career, 90 honors seniors persevered to earn University Honors Program distinction upon graduation.

The 2020-2021 academic year came to a close last May with some of the usual fanfare, but conspicuously absent from the commencement calendar was the annual Honors Program banquet. With in-person events paused for the duration of the school year, the Honors Program was unable to hold the popular banquet during which students, faculty, and staff dine in fellowship and recognize the graduation accomplishments of the senior class. In lieu of this event, the Honors Program staff held an outdoor ice cream social and graduation cord pickup in May, which gave graduating seniors a chance to reflect with one another on their Saint Louis University education and their honors journey.

Graduation with honors distinction requires perseverance, focus and hard work. Last year's graduates participated in a first-year honors seminar (Crossroads); earned additional in-class honors credit in their major/minor area(s) of study; pursued out-of-class credit in the forms of internships, research, honors workshops, teaching assistantships, and our international partnership program; and completed substantial capstone projects in which they synthesized years of learning in a final scholarly artifact. Many of them shared their research as part of the 2021 Virtual Senior Legacy Symposium after being nominated by faculty in their major department/program. The honors journey is demanding but rewarding, according to our graduating seniors. Here are a few reflections from the graduating class:

“I have loved my experience in the Honors Program because it really helped to bridge the gaps between my studies in education and Spanish. It also provided me with the opportunity to dive deeper into the experiences I was having in my education classes. The program and its requirements gave me the chance to create experiences for myself that I would not have been able to have otherwise.” - Gwen Cataldo (Education/Spanish, ‘21)

“The community of honors students, faculty and administrators I have met has shaped my outlook and molded me into the person I am today. I have been challenged intellectually, spiritually and socially to expand my network and understanding of the world around us.” - Dawson Myers (Neuroscience, ‘21)

“The greatest benefit I got from the honors program was the opportunity and challenge to apply for competitive fellowships and scholarships. Working with the program to develop my essays and really focus on my goals led me to apply for Ph.D. programs for next year. I couldn't be more excited to attend Syracuse next year and I'm not sure I would have landed here without the honors program challenging me to apply for various opportunities.” - Sarah Jones (Sociology/International Studies, ‘21)

“The honors program benefitted me most in the way that some of its components pushed me to do things I didn't necessarily intend on doing in my undergraduate career, but will benefit me in the long run. The intentional activities incorporated into the Honors Study Abroad course pushed me towards a more reflective experience I might not have otherwise had. The Professional Development and Vocational Discernment class gave me the opportunity to contemplate the vocations towards which I am being called and how that plays into my life plan. The Scholar in Society seminar class gave me the opportunity to engage with students from a variety of academic and personal backgrounds, helping me to better understand how concepts of globalization and social justice relate to what I want to do with my life. The Honors Capstone has taught me the true meaning of self-discipline, and given me the opportunity to try my hand at original research. All of these experiences have made me a stronger, wiser, and more confident student and person.” - Emily Westropp (Environmental Studies/International Studies, ‘21)

The postgraduate outcomes for the Honors Program class of 2021 feature top-ranked graduate/professional schools, businesses and non-profit organizations, and service organizations around the country. A website dedicated to senior accomplishments is available here.

The Honors Program at Saint Louis University, established in 1938, engages intellectually curious and academically successful students in a community oriented towards the Jesuit ideals of holistic learning, academic rigor, and community engagement. Through a combination of individually tailored curricula, experiential learning opportunities, and developmental guidance and mentorship, the Honors Program prepares students to become citizens who engage in the process of inquiry and apply their knowledge in service to society.