Summer Honors Program Gives Students Taste of Cook Honors College

Posted on 8/3/2018 2:17:17 PM

Students in the Summer Honors Program share a laugh as they work together on an experiment in a lab

Students attending the Summer Honors Program work on an experiment in a lab.

Gathering in the lab around their professor, students in the Cook Honors College Summer Honors Program listen to directions for extracting DNA from the food they’ve brought with them to class.

Professor Narayanaswamy Bharathan has their attention as he talks about the process, mixing some humor into his instructions before setting the students to work in teams of two.

Students Michelle Wang and Samantha Diodata start working on the experiment.

“We have a lot of resources here,” Wang said. “We’ve been doing experiments with DNA and testing our saliva. It’s only our third day here, and we have already done two or three experiments.”

Her lab partner, Diodata, said she’s using lab equipment at SHP that she has never used before. “It’s fun, and I feel like I’m learning a lot here.” she said. “I love it!”

Intriguing Classes for Curious Minds

About 90 high school students from all over the country are trying out the Cook Honors College experience through the Summer Honors Program, July 22 to August 4, on the Indiana University of Pennsylvania campus.

“The emphasis of the camp isn’t just academic,” said Kevin Berezansky, associate director of the Cook Honors College. “Though these are high-achieving students who are looking for an enrichment experience in the classroom, the other half of the day is social experiences. It’s a summer camp as well.”

While Professor Bharathan’s biochemistry students tested the DNA of raw and processed foods and learned about genetic engineering, other SHP students were learning about investment analysis and portfolio management, the science and nature of Shakespeare, nanoparticles, the role of communications in politics, electro-optics, mathematical applications, women during World War II, and the relationship between the brain, the mind, and behavior.

Exploring Topics on a Deeper Level

For many of the students, the program is the first time they have been away from home for two full weeks or lived with a roommate. They get a first-hand look at what life on a college campus is like and how Cook Honors College classes are different from their high school classes.

Students follow the Cook Honors College core-class style by applying some of the most basic and debated questions of human existence to each subject, such as “How do we create and use the past?” and “What do we know? What do we believe? Is there a difference?”

The questions take students deep into the topics and encourage them to share and debate their perspectives—part of the Cook Honors College tradition. It’s a style that appeals to student Josh Matthew.

“It’s been really fun. The core classes are really interesting, and I’m learning things I didn’t know in the biochemistry class,” he said.

Field Trips and Lots of Evening Activities

Relevant field trips and labs are key to the hands-on style of the courses, such as a trip to Yellow Creek State Park for the science and nature of Shakespeare class and a trip to two electro-optics facilities for students studying electro-optics.

In the evenings, students can choose from a variety of activities, like reading original poetry at literature night, or heading out across campus or into town led by one of the counselors, who are all current Cook Honors College students.

“The evenings are fun and relaxing,” Matthew said. “Anytime you want, you can talk to a counselor, and they’ll take you where you want to go to get food as a group. We played volleyball and basketball, had a pool tournament run by the counselors, played cards, went to Walmart and Goodwill, and had a movie night.”

Because of the generosity of alumni, a $1,000 scholarship was offered to each student who participated in the Summer Honors Program, reducing about two-thirds of each student’s cost for the two-week program, according to Berezansky.

“The last day of camp is bittersweet for many of the students, which is evidence of their experience here, as are the reactions of their parents and the connections they’ve made,” Berezansky said.