Honors Program

Honors Program Fact Sheet



As a comprehensive community college, Manchester Community College is committed to providing the very best education possible for all of its students.   In response to student requests, an honors program was developed which has been running successfully now for almost 15 years.

Students in the Honors Program have an opportunity to investigate topics of interest, conduct research, work on special projects, and actively share in this learning process with other classmates and their teacher. This program also helps students demonstrate high levels of motivation and performance to prospective employers and transfer institutions.

As one participating honors student said, "I now think the Honors Program is about the freedom to be curious... curious about aspects beyond the chapter questions, beyond what the teacher says and other classmates think.   I've done more thinking in the past few months than I have in the past two years!"

There are two ways to pursue Honors work at MCC:

Honors Courses. These are courses offered exclusively for Honors students. They are designed to offer students the opportunity to pursue special topics, to work with other highly-motivated MCC students, and to work closely with their professors. Honors courses enroll only students who meet the prerequisites.

Honors Options . These are regular sections of classes that offer interested students the opportunity to work independently with their professors to complete Honors level work. Students enroll for and meet all the regular requirements for the class, but they also meet with their instructor and develop an additional program of work (a large project or a group of smaller activities) that they complete for Honors credit.   Students have two weeks at the beginning of each semester to decide if they will select the Honors Option.

Recognition of honors work is designated on student transcripts.

Eligibility: To qualify for honors courses or an honors option, students must have completed 12 credit hours with a cumulative GPA of 3.4 OR receive permission from the course instructor.

For more information, please contact the Honors Program Coordinator, Professor Patrick Sullivan, English Department. Office: AST Tower, Room T509. Phone: 860-512-2669. E-mail: psullivan@mcc.commnet.edu

Offering an Honors Option

As the Honors Program Coordinator, I want to personally thank you for your interest in the Honors Program. Although our program is small (usually offering one Honors course and enrolling only about 5-15 students per semester), we feel that it is a very worthwhile opportunity to offer students. Community colleges are many things to many people, and for a small group of our most motivated students, the ability to do Honors-level work has proved to be been an important and very enjoyable component of their educational experience here at MCC.

The Honors Program does have a coordinating committee. The following faculty members currently serve on this committee:

  • Joan Paterna, Psychology Department
  • Jill Zimmerman, Math Department
  • Georgia Buckles, Accounting Department
  • Patrick Sullivan (Chair), English Department

What is the protocol to follow if a professor wishes to offer an Honors Option?

We recommend taking the following steps:

  • Consult first with the coordinator of the Honors Program. Do some brainstorming and spend some time thinking about how you would like your Honors Option to work for your students.
  • Consult with your Division Director to let him or her know that you are planning to offer an Honors Option and to get any ideas he or she may have about developing your material and content.
  • Consult again with the coordinator to finalize your ideas. Please note: The Honors Program Committee recommends that you build some flexibility into your proposal so those students can help shape the content and scope of their project.
  • Construct a brief, but detailed description of the Honors Option that you will be offering to your students. Type this description up and attach it to your syllabus. We recommend that you draw students' attention to this on the first day of class. In this description, you should provide detailed information about the following:
    • The work you are requiring.
    • When this work is due.
    • How much each component of the Option Project is "weighted" in terms of the student's final grade--especially in relation to the other work the student is doing for this class.  

Professors should also provide a very carefully articulated description of their Add/Drop policy.   Please note : You are free to develop their own policies concerning Add/Drop for Honors Option students.   You may wish to allow students to withdraw from the Honors Option right up until the last day of class (as I do).   Or you may wish to set an earlier date. It's up to you. Just make sure you make this very clear to students before they begin.

Please also tell students that they have two weeks to decide if they wish to sign up for the Honors Option and invite them to ask you questions. Remember: Anyone with a 3.4 GPA and 12 semester-hours of credit OR your permission can participate in the program.  

  • You may wish to ask students who are interested in pursuing an Honors Option to provide you with a recommendation from an MCC faculty member (written or verbal), which can offer evidence of their ability to complete Honors-level work. Or you may feel that even though a student is interested and perhaps meets the standards, they may not be prepared to complete--or benefit from--this kind of work. In that case, it is best to trust your judgment and instincts. You can certainly tell such students that you think that their energies might be better focused on meeting the regular demands of the course and that you do not think pursuing Honors work in your course is a good idea for them at this time.
  • Report the names of your Honors Option students to the Registrar during the third week of the semester (please also send a copy to me). Some semesters you may get three of four students interested; other semesters, you will have none. The important thing for this program isn't so much the numbers we get, but the fact that the Honors Option is available for students who may wish to pursue it. By simply offering an Honors Option (even without any "takers"), you are contributing in some very significant ways to providing valuable opportunities for our most motivated and talented students.
  • Review your Honors Option rosters online at www.online.commnet.edu sometime around the fifth week of the semester.   Report any errors or omissions to the Registrar.
  • Work with your students on their Option projects.   Have fun!   Enjoy!
  • Report final grades online at the end of the semester.
  • If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me, Patrick Sullivan, the Honors Program Coordinator, at 860-512-2669 or come see me at my office in the AST Tower, Room T509.

How Much Work Should I Expect Students To Do for an Honors Option?

Each academic discipline is different, and what is appropriate, say, for an Honors Option in Communications 173 or Math 109 will obviously be different than what might be appropriate or desirable for an Honors Option in Economics 101 or History 101.   With this in mind, the Honors Program Committee offers the following list of what we regard as minimum standards for Honors Options--but which are still meant to be suggestive rather than prescriptive:

  • Students should do at least 5-7 pages of formal, academic writing (typed, double-spaced) in addition to meeting the other requirements for the course. If research is involved, proper documentation should obviously be required.
  • Successfully completing an Honors Option should require students to devote at least 12-20 extra hours of work beyond that needed to meet the other requirements for the course.
  • You should spend at least 2-5 hours conferring with students about the project.   We recommend that professors "touch base" with students at least three times during the course of the semester to monitor their progress.   Much of the value of our program derives from this kind of close student/teacher interaction. We understand that this is time that you are "volunteering" (without compensation), and we want to thank you for being willing to expend your energy and valuable time on such a worthy cause!
  • Students may be asked to present a 3-5 minute report to the class at the end of the semester which is some way reports their research to the class or in some way summarizes what they have learned during the course of completing their Honors Option.


Honors Courses must be approved by your Department, your Division, and the Honors Program Committee. The Curriculum Committee must also be informed (notification only).

Honors Options must be approved by your Division Director and by the Honors Program Committee.

Sample Honors Option

For your convenience, here is a description of the Honors Option I offer students in my English 246 class. Again, this is meant to be suggestive and helpful rather than prescriptive:

The Honors Option: English 246

This course is offered with an Honors Option. That means that if you choose to do the extra work described below and complete it successfully, you will receive honors credit for the course, which will be noted on your transcript.

The focus of the honors option for English 246: Modern Western Literature is on "experiencing" literature outside of the classroom--and having some fun. I would like you to select and complete at least three of the following to earn honors credit:

  1. Attend a play produced by a professional theater company, like The Hartford Stage Company (Hartford/for information call 860-527-5151/single tickets for students, day of performance: $16.00); The Nutmeg Theater at UConn (Storrs/860-486-3969)/single tickets for students, day of performance: $8.00); Goodspeed Opera House (East Haddam/860-873 8668)/single tickets day of performance: $23.00--33.00); and Long Wharf Theater (New Haven/(203) 787-4282).

    These companies are local and offer top-notch drama, and most offer special discounts for students (noted above). Maybe bring a friend so you can talk about the production afterwards. You may even be able to attend a performance when castmembers come out after the production to chat with the audience and answer questions (inquire at the box office about this). Write a 500-word critical analysis of this play and the production, and post it in the Honors Option Forum for your classmates to read.
  2. See a movie or rent a video of a movie that is based on something literary, like "Shakespeare In Love," "Great Expectations," "Sense and Sensibility," "Il Postino," "Streetcar Named Desire" (w/ Marlon Brando!) or "How to Make an American Quilt." Or see a movie by an acclaimed director like Charlie Chaplin, Robert Altman, Federico Fellini, Woody Allen, or Spike Lee. Or select a great old movie that you've always heard a lot about but have never seen, like "The Grapes of Wrath," "Wuthering Heights," "Cassablanca," "It's A Wonderful Life," or something with the Marx Brothers in it. Or just select a great movie, like "Amistad," "Life Is Beautiful," "Annie Hall" or "2001." Maybe watch the movie with a friend so you can talk about it afterwards. Write a 500-word critical analysis of the film, and post it in the Honors Option Forum for your classmates to read.
  3. Attend a poetry reading on campus here at MCC, at another campus, or at Border's Books and Music in Manchester (there is Open Mike Poetry Night on the last Thursday of every month at Borders at 7:30 pm). You may also want to call Border's to find out what's coming up (860-649-1433). You may also want to talk with Professor Steve Straight of the English department to find out what's going on locally (860-512-2688). He's very knowledgeable about poetry and upcoming events involving poetry. Write a 500-word critical analysis of the reading, and post it in the Honors Option Forum for your classmates to read.
  4. Write a 500-word review of a song or music CD that you think has particularly good or interesting lyrics, and post it in the Honors Option Forum for your classmates to read.
  5. Watch a recent foreign film! Try "Il Postino" (1995/Spanish and Italian/about the poet Pablo Neruda and the humble postman who befriends him); "Babette's Feast" (1988/a story about two sisters and a Parisian refugee named Babette); "Himalaya" (2001/a story about a generational struggle for the leadership of a tiny mountain village in Nepal between its proud old chief and a headstrong young man/breathtaking scenery!); "Amelie" (France/2001/a story about a young woman who secretly and ingeniously helps those around her); "Eat Drink Man Woman" (1994/an Ang Lee movie!/a family story about a chef and his three daughters); and "Like Water For Chocolate" (1993/Spanish/a great love story). They're all wonderful. Maybe watch the movie with a friend so you can talk about it afterwards. Write a 500-word critical analysis of the film, and post it in the Honors Option Forum for your classmates to read.
  6. Browse through a book of poetry! I recommend the following wonderful books (all of which I have read and enjoyed tremendously): "Otherwise: New and Selected Poems" by Jane Kenyon; "The Water Carrier" by MCC's own Steve Straight (of the English Department); New and Selected Poems" by Mary Oliver; "Sun Under Wood" by Robert Hass; "Close To Death" by Patricia Smith; "Good Woman" by Lucille Clifton; "Sailing Alone Around the Room: New and Selected Poems" by Billy Collins; "What the Living Do" by Marie Howe; "Vice" by Ai; "The Essential Haiku" edited by Robert Hass; "Full Woman, Fleshly Apple, Hot Moon: Selected Poems of Pablo Neruda"; "The Selected Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke," translated and edited by Stephen Mitchell. Write a 500-word critical analysis of the book you choose, and post it in the Honors Option Forum for your classmates to read.
  7. Create your own activity. Write about it, and post it in the Honors Option Forum.


  1. Talk with me if you are interested, either in person or by phone or e-mail.
  2. If you would like to pursue the Honors Option, you have two weeks from the start of the semester to notify me. Anyone with a 3.4 GPA and 12 semester-hours of credit or my permission can participate.
  3. Let me know what you plan to do.
  4. Do it.
  5. We will talk at least three times during the course of the semester to discuss your experiences and your work. Your work will count as 10 percent of your final grade for the course. Your other grades will be adjusted proportionately. All work must be completed by the last scheduled day of classes.

Note: You many withdraw from the Honors Option until the 10th week of the semester without penalty.

Last Update: August 23 2012
For additional information, contact: Patrick Sullivan