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Honors Program

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The Program

The Honors Program in Liberal Studies at Gwynedd Mercy University offers excellent students in baccalaureate degree programs enhanced educational opportunities through an integrated curriculum, combining an enriched general education in liberal studies with study in the major. Developing the theme of "The Quest for Community and Freedom: The Individual and Society," courses examine and explore the contributions made by the Western Tradition and the American experience to people's understanding of human freedom, responsibility in the community, and their relation to nature, giving attention as well to cross-cultural comparisons to these traditions. The final course, Towards Global Community, looks at the intersecting worlds of the late twentieth century and the future, seeking centers in times of rapid change.

The Honors Program at Gwynedd Mercy University was one of the first courses I took that allowed me to think about philosophical issues and have open discussions during class. This differed dramatically from the rote memorization form students typically encounter.… The ability to think dynamically and expound on various topics has been beneficial thus far in my medical education. (M.K. Class of ’02)

…I learned more in those six classes than most of my others combined. It was a truly exceptional learning experience. (S.K. Class of ’03)

The program was excellent. The classes were thought provoking, and the assignments were challenging but fun. It’s great not to try to fit into a teacher’s mold and just say what you really think. (E.F. Class of ’01)

Overall, I consider the Honors Program to be the most enriching aspect of my experience at Gwynedd-Mercy. (Anonymous)

The teachers were unfailingly passionate about their topics, and it was satisfying to take the in-depth and detailed looks that the classes allowed. (R.K. Class of ’05)

I think the Honors Program made my college years what they were. So many of my memories come from those classes. (Anonymous)

I think it [participation in Honors] makes any transcript and resume shine. (A. P. Class of ’05)


  • Recognition of Honors Program standing on transcripts and diplomas
  • Enhanced eligibility for graduate study and employment
  • Small seminar classes emphasizing interactive learning, critical thinking, and writing in an informal atmosphere
  • Advising by Honors Program Director and Program Adviser
  • Cultural and social events and occasions for informal gatherings with Honors faculty
  • Flexible entry points allowing participation of both full-time and part-time students
  • Addition of .25 to grades earned in Honors courses
  • Participation by traditional and returning adult students from a cross-section of academic majors

Admissions Criteria

Enrollment in the Honors Program is by invitation and is based on the criteria listed below.

Entering Freshmen

  • 1040 Combined SAT scores
  • Upper one-fifth high school rank
  • 3.25 grade-point average
  • Faculty/guidance counselor recommendations
  • Optional interview with Honors Program Director

Transfer Students


  • 3.25 G.P.A. from transfer institution(s)
  • 2 letters of recommendation from faculty at previous institution(s)
  • Interview with Honors Program Director
  • 1040 Combined SAT scores

Students deficient in any one area may be admitted to the program at the discretion of the Honors Program Director. Students already enrolled at the University may qualify for entrance into the Honors Program if they demonstrate academic excellence and apply to the Director of Admissions.


To apply or receive additional information, contact the Director of the Honors Program

Dr. Carol Breslin
Gwynedd Mercy University
1325 Sumneytown Pike
Gwynedd Valley, PA 19437
(215) 646-7300, ext. 136


Honors Program students at Gwynedd Mercy University take a sequence of six Honors courses in Liberal Studies. These courses are interdisciplinary and team taught and develop the theme of "The Quest for Community and Freedom: The Individual and Society."

The first three courses focus on the ways that the Western Tradition has shaped the contemporary understanding of human freedom, responsibility to the community, and our relation to Nature, giving attention also to cross cultural comparisons to this tradition. The next two courses reflect on the American Experience and investigate the ways in which plurality, diversity, and unity are embodied in national life. The final course, Towards Global Community, explores the intersecting worlds of the second half of the twentieth century and of the future, seeking centers in times of rapid change.


  • To provide students with a sound introduction to the various ways of knowing in the arts and sciences
  • To develop a shared intellectual experience
  • To create a learning community that fosters intellectual growth and encourages the development of self-confidence and leadership skills
  • To encourage students to reflect on the values and principles central to the vision of civility and community of Western democratic, Judeo-Christian and other traditions

Program Completion Requirements

Students admitted to the Honors Program complete six courses for which they receive a Certificate of Completion. Students who finish the program with a 3.0 G.P.A. in Honors courses and a 3.35 G.P.A. overall are recognized on their transcripts and diplomas as having graduated in the Honors Program.

All Honors courses satisfy the University's General Education requirements, so that students need not take Honors courses in addition to those required for graduation in their majors. For Honors courses, students receive both General Education and Honors credit.

Honors courses fulfill General Education requirements as follows:

LIB 100-Literature, Philosophy, or Religious Studies
LIB 101-Literature, Philosophy, Religious Studies, or History
LIB 102-Literature or History
LIB 200-Literature or History
LIB 201-Literature or Religious Studies
LIB 300-Philosophy or History


  • 6 Honors Courses: Liberal Studies Certificate
  • 3.0 G.P.A. in 6 Honors courses plus overall G.P.A. of 3.35 for 125-127 credits in bachelor degree program: Degree with Honors

Course Descriptions

LIB 100 Origins of the Western Tradition (3 cr.)

Introduces the ancient world of the Western Tradition from the perspectives of major thinkers and texts of the period. Readings include pre-Greek myths, biblical texts, Greek and Roman dramas and epics, the dialogues of Plato, and others.

LIB 101 Medieval Life and Thought (3 cr.)
An interdisciplinary look at Western Europe in the Middle Ages. Through their texts, Augustine, Boethius, Eloise and Abelard, Marie de France, Chaucer and the like tell the story of a tumultuous millennium.

LIB 102 The Modern Age (3 cr.)
Beginning at the Italian Renaissance, this course charts the journey to the modern world of the Industrial Revolution by examining several key movements: Humanism, the Reformation, the Scientific Revolution, the Enlightenment, and Romanticism.

LIB 200 The American Experience I (3 cr.)
This course traces the evolution of the American Dream in historical and literary texts beginning with the Age of Settlement and concluding in the mid-nineteenth century.

LIB 201 The American Experience II (3 cr.)
Continues the exploration of life and culture in America from 1848 to 1940 with special emphasis on religious issues.

LIB 300 Towards Global Community (3 cr.)
The course explores global trends from 1945 into the twenty-first century and the promises and conflicts these trends provoke concerning personal identity, the meaning of democracy and the interaction between science and the environment.

Carol Breslin, Ph.D., is a professor of English. She earned her doctorate in literature from Temple University with a specialty in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. Current research and teaching interests include women writers of the Middle Ages, the life and legacy of Nobel laureate Pearl S. Buck, strategies for effective teaching of grammar and writing as well as continued exploration of the works of Chaucer.

Donna Allego, Ph.D., Associate Professor of English

Felicia Corsaro-Barbieri, Ph.D., Professor of Chemistry

Betsy Chapin, Ph.D., Associate Professor of English

Robert Clewis, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Philosophy

Michael Clinton, Ph.D., Associate Professor of History

Joseph F. Coleman, M.A., Lecturer in Philosophy and Education; Director of the Center for Lifelong Learning

Marcia Cooper, M.A., Lecturer in Art

Sister Anne Donigan, RSM, Ph.D., Asso. Professor of Biology and Chairperson of Natural Science and Math Division

Carol Evans, M. Mus., Assistant Professor of Music and Education; Director of the Voices of Gwynedd

Wayne Huss, Ph.D., Professor of History; Chairperson of the Humanities Division

Lisa McGarry, Ph.D., Associate Professor of English and Chairperson of the Language, Literature, and Fine Arts Division

Patrick Messina, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Philosophy

Edward J. Miller, Ph.D., S.T.D., Professor of Religious Studies

Extra-Curricular Activities:

  • SEPCHE Honors Conference and NCHC Conference
  • Annual Receptions
  • Travel Opportunities
  • Class Field Trips


SEPCHE Honors Conference
SEPCHE (Southeastern Pennsylvania Consortium for Higher Education) was formed several years ago to allow its member institutions to share resources and cooperate in ways designed to enhance educational opportunities for their students. Member institutions in addition to Gwynedd Mercy University are Chestnut Hill College, Cabrini College, Arcadia University, Neumann College, Holy Family University, Rosemont College, and Immaculata University. Each spring, the SEPCHE Honors Programs sponsor an academic conference to showcase the research and writing of their students. All students in the Gwynedd-Mercy Honors Program are invited to attend the conference and to submit proposals for presentations. Proposals are invited for both academic papers and performing arts. SEPCHE colleges rotate as hosts for the conference.

NCHC Conference
Gwynedd Mercy University has an institutional membership in the National Collegiate Honors Council, an organization of colleges and universities that provide undergraduate honors education. Each year this organization conducts a national conference for faculty and students in Honors. The conference offers many opportunities to connect with students and faculty in Honors from all over the country as well as numerous educational and social events, field trips, and more. Additional information may be obtained from the Director of the Honors Program.

Annual Receptions
Fall Reception for New Members: Shortly after classes begin each fall, new members of the Honors Program are welcomed at an informal reception. This occasion introduces the new students to the upper classmen in the program and gives them the chance to meet and mingle with Honors Program faculty and college administrators. Light refreshments are served at the late afternoon gathering, and a short program, often featuring Honors faculty or graduates, rounds out the event. Recent presentations have included lectures on contemporary approaches to reading Homer, stemming from faculty participation in summer seminars at the Center for Hellenic Studies in Washington, D.C.; a talk on global awareness given by the Honorary consul General of Liberia; and a panel of recent Honors alumni discussing the impact of the Honors Program on their graduate school and work experiences. Invitations to the reception are issued at the beginning of the fall term.

Spring Reception for Graduates: As the spring semester closes each year, the students and faculty of the Honors Program acknowledge the achievements of those about to graduate at an informal reception. Honorees, along with their guests, enjoy light refreshments and a brief program. At one recent reception, Dr. Ed Miller, professor of Religious Studies, shared his research on the life and work of John Henry Cardinal Newman. At another, four senior students shared their research and creative efforts with the Honors community. Invitations to this event are usually sent mid-April.

Class Field Trips
Most of the Honors Program courses include at least one field trip as part of the learning activities of the course. These trips are usually free to Honors Program members. Typical excursions include the following:


  • Lib 100 Origins of the Western Tradition—The Museum of Archaeology at the University of Pennsylvania
  • Lib 101 Medieval Life and Thought—The Philadelphia Museum of Art; The Cloisters at MOMA, New York City
  • Lib 200 American Experience I—Fonthill Museum, Doylestown, PA; National Constitution Museum in Philadelphia
  • Lib 201 American Experience II—Balch Institute; Michener Museum, Doylestown, PA
  • Lib 300 Towards Global Community—Local theater productions


Travel Opportunities
Participants in the Honors Program are firmly convinced that experiencing a culture first hand is an excellent way to concretize learning. Each year we try to make available to our students and faculty a trip abroad or stateside to complement classroom activities. In the spring of 2001, students, faculty and friends traveled to several European cities including London, Amsterdam, Munich, Lucerne, and Paris on a fourteen-day "Heart of Europe" tour. In spring 2003 we went on a study tour of New Orleans and we're reviving our plans for a Grecian cruise and land tour at a later date.


The Honors Program at Gwynedd-Mercy was established in 1995 and had its first graduates in 1997. Since then about 67 students have completed the program and have entered graduate schools or begun careers in a variety of fields.

In a recent survey of those who completed the program between 2005 and 2008, graduates reported the following:


  • Carolyn D., ’05: Earned a master’s degree in Modern History from NYU
  • Dennis Kharchenko, ’05: Completed his MBA ; currently pursuing entry into law school
  • Rachel K., ’05: M. Litt. From University of Glasgow ‘06; currently pursuing Ph.D. at University of Glasgow, fully funded by Overseas Research Students Awards System
  • Anne S., ’05: M.A. in English with distinction from Arcadia University completed in 2008; teaching at Germantown Academy in Philadelphia
  • Jennifer T., ’05: A student in the M.S. in Environmental Studies Program at University of Pennsylvania
  • Jennifer L., ’06: Third-year medical student at PCOM in Philadelphia
  • Lynn B., ’06: Full-time teacher at William Penn Middle School in suburban Philadelphia area; part-time graduate student in the Reading Program of the School of Education at Gwynedd-Mercy College
  • Shawn O., ’06: Full-time English teacher at North Penn High School in Lansdale, PA; part-time student in graduate program in English at Arcadia University
  • John C., ’07: Full-time English teacher at Mt. St. Joseph Academy, a prestigious prep school in Chestnut Hill, PA
  • Ken M., ’08: Currently studying toward a master’s degree in English at Villanova University, which awarded him a full-tuition scholarship.