GGC Honors Program challenges motivated students

Honors Program seal and ribbonBrandon Seay is not an average student.

A sophomore pursuing a bachelor’s degree in biology, he not only works hard on his studies, he also works to accumulate experiences that enhance and expand his education. For example, this summer, Seay was accepted to the immersive education program at the Highlands Biological Station in Highlands, N.C. and participated in the intense, two-week field course, “Biology of Southern Appalachian Fishes.” He also is active in community service.

Elease Dillard is far from typical, as well. A junior majoring in biology, she has twice been accepted to participate in the prestigious Morehouse School of Medicine Neuroscience Institute’s Summer Research Program, and this past summer, she was selected for the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s Summer Research Program. For 10 weeks, she focused on substance abuse treatments and related communications and marketing at the University of California in San Francisco. More recently, her peers at GGC elected her president of the campus’ Golden Key International Honour Society chapter.

Students like Seay and Dillard want more from their college experience.

It is for students like these that Georgia Gwinnett College offers its Honors Program, which provides qualified students an integrated educational experience and enhanced opportunities in scholarship, service, leadership and creativity – the college’s four pillars.

“The GGC Honors Program challenges students of distinction to discover the deepest meanings of these pillars and apply them to their studies, potential careers and daily lives,” said Dr. Jennifer Wunder, director of the Honors Program.

Members participate in a rich and varied set of curricular and extra-curricular experiences that challenge them academically, develop their creativity, foster their commitment to civic engagement and enhance their leadership skills.

The program is selective, representing only about one percent of the student population drawn from across the college and its degree programs.

“This program is specifically designed for those students who want the most out of college,” Wunder said. “They understand that these are the years during which they can develop and strengthen skills and perspectives that will better prepare them for future success. Most of our members have impressive goals for their lives, and they know their Honors Program experiences will help them reach those goals.”

Honors Program Benefits

  • Honors versions of several core curriculum classes, designated as such on student transcripts
  • Honors seminar for first-year students
  • Interdisciplinary Honors seminars for advanced undergraduate study
  • Honors Learning Lounge

The program’s activities are wide-ranging, appealing to numerous interests and enabling students to explore and build various skills while expanding their horizons. Opportunities include field trips, dining discussions with faculty and subject matter experts, meetings with state and national leaders, professional- and leadership-oriented workshops, cultural events and much more – even white water rafting.

“We also offer our students assistance with scholarship applications and support students pursuing research, internships and scholarly publications,” Wunder said. “Our students have presented at a variety of conferences, including the National Collegiate Honors Council’s national conference, and some have won awards for their work or earned regional, state, and national internships, research fellowships and scholarships. We are excited to see how these students excel in pursuit of their dreams.”

The Honors Program classes provide a close-knit, student-centered learning experience with enrollments capped at 20. Faculty emphasize in-depth discussions, guest speakers and hands-on learning. Students also explore topics of study via field trips, creative projects and other experiences that go beyond traditional lectures and textbooks.

students at Relay for Life
Sisters India and Elease Dillard, both biology majors, glance toward the camera as they participate with other GGC Honors Program members in the American Cancer Society’s candlelight “Walk of Honor,” which celebrates cancer survivors during the annual Relay for Life.

Students also participate in community activities and service, such as the American Cancer Society’s “Relay for Life.”

“I have particularly enjoyed participating in numerous events and projects that serve the local Lawrenceville community such as Gwinnett County’s Great Days of Service, and I am also a devoted volunteer at GGC’s Community Garden,” Seay said.

Recently, Honors Program members built a creative mechanism to pour three buckets of ice water at once onto individuals who wanted to participate in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.

3 people doing ALS ice bucket challenge
A team of Honors Program members created and constructed a unique device that efficiently poured ice water onto multiple people as part of the recent national “ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.”

“Even simple, fun projects enable students to develop skills like organization, planning and leadership,” Wunder said.

The group’s next big project is producing the college’s first-ever theatrical production, Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” As both cast and crew, the students are working with experts from the Aurora Theatre to organize, market and produce the play.

Honors Program members may graduate from the College “with honors” and their Honors Program membership noted on their transcripts and diplomas if they demonstrate:

  • A minimum GPA of 3.5 in college-level courses.
  • Commitment to leadership, creativity, scholarship and service.
  • Mastery of the program’s learning outcomes, which include creative and critical thinking, civic engagement and effective, multi-modal communication
  • Active engagement at GGC and in the Honors Program for at least four semesters. Members also wear a special medallion as part of their commencement regalia.

Of course, what really matters is that the program succeeds in helping its members achieve more from their college experience.

“Being in the GGC Honors Program has taught me to dig deeper and pursue the highest level of development and achievement as a student and to serve and lead others to their greatest potential.”

– Seay, ‘17

“This program has allowed me to integrate my ideas and interests. More importantly, it has encouraged and challenged me to wholly define and surpass what engagement means in a broader, more thorough context, both as a student and member of the local and global community,” said Seay. “Being in the GGC Honors Program has taught me to dig deeper and pursue the highest level of development and achievement as a student and to serve and lead others to their greatest potential.”

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