By Angeline Boyer, Assistant Director of Media Relations, Saint Peter’s University
Susan Ragheb ’16, senior policy advisor to New Jersey Assemblyman Nicholas Chiaravalloti, has accomplished quite a bit in her short professional career since her recent graduation from Saint Peter’s University. Prior to her role as a policy advisor, she served as a campaign organizer and traveled the country working on presidential and congressional campaigns. In the future, she hopes to pursue a career in international politics.
While there are many factors that have played a role in Ragheb’s success thus far, one that she specifically credits is her participation in the Honors program at Saint Peter’s. In fact, it was one of the main reasons she chose to attend the University!
Ragheb had always been an Honors student throughout high school and while she was accepted to a number of universities, the high cost of attending many of them affected her decision. Fortunately, Ragheb was accepted to Saint Peter’s with a generous financial aid package, and when she learned about the University's extensive Honors program, that sealed the deal. She never questioned her decision and continues to recommend the Honors program for the high level of support it provides to eligible students.
Beyond the support, one of the things that Ragheb appreciated the most about the Saint Peter’s Honors program was the ethnic diversity of its students. In fact, when she attended the 2016 AJCU Honors Conference at Gonzaga University, she joined a group of Saint Peter’s Honors students on a panel to discuss that very subject.
“By nature of the Saint Peter’s community, diversity becomes a part of everything we do,” said Ragheb. “Many schools boast about their commitment to diversity, but at Saint Peter’s, we don’t just talk about it: we live it!”
Shereen AbdelJaber ’17, a double major in elementary education and American studies, was also a member on the diversity panel at the 2016 AJCU Honors Conference and shared similar sentiments about the benefits of the group's diversity.
“Being such a standout group at the conference felt incredibly special to me,” said AbdelJaber. “The diversity of the students in our program truly helped us to build mutual respect for each other’s cultures in both a personal and academic sense.”
Daniel Murphy, Ph.D., director of the Honors program at Saint Peter’s, takes great pride in the diversity of his students. Incidentally, he did not realize how uniquely diverse the group was until he began to compare it to other Honors programs across the country. In order to be in the program, students must have had a 3.4 GPA or higher in high school and maintain that throughout college. They must take eight Honors-designated courses and/or special study experiences; complete an Honors thesis in their senior year; and publicly defend the thesis in the spring before graduation.
While the program can be incredibly demanding, many of the students believe that the benefits are worthwhile. These include a well-funded research assistantship program, a growing alumni network, a designated honors house, and opportunities for travel.
As a senior who has been in the Honors program since she began her college career, AbdelJaber certainly does not take the Dr. James V. Bastek ’67 Honors House for granted. It has served as a sanctuary throughout her time at Saint Peter’s. It was a place for her to study or hang out with fellow Honors students and share resources with each other. She especially enjoyed when they had leftover pizza from events on campus!
But it wasn’t just the Honors house that made a positive impact on AbdelJaber; it was the people involved with the program. “In a word, my experience in the program has been awesome,” she said. “The former director of the program, Dr. Rachel Wifall, was there for me every step of the way, along with Dr. Murphy and Lois Borroum, the administrative assistant of the Honors program. The individualized support made all of the hard work for the program worthwhile.”
AbdelJaber’s experience is not uncommon, which is why the Honors program continues to grow. There are currently 183 students involved, but Dr. Murphy expects there to be well over 200 within the next two years. The current student breakdown is 71 freshmen, 52 sophomores, 23 juniors and 37 seniors, all of whom come from a wide variety of programs. While many Honors students are in fields such as biology and biochemistry, there are also substantial numbers of students in business management, marketing, political science, mathematics, computer science and English, among other majors.
Earlier this month, a new group of Saint Peter’s Honors students attended the 2017 AJCU Honors Conference at Loyola University New Orleans where they shared their experiences in the Saint Peter's program and enjoyed learning about other Jesuit Honors programs across the country.
To learn more about the Saint Peter's University Honors program, please click here.