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Community Outshines Academics at UNLV Honors College

By Albania Guido-Verduzco
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Providing a tightknit community is the single most important thing the UNLV Honors College can do for its students, according to Dr. Marta Meana, dean of the Honors College.

“We offer a tightknit community,” said Meana, “and we know that community is really important to make people want to do well and be in a place and stay,”

Brandon Gaston, a Biology student in the Honors College, entered college not wanting to fall into mediocrity and found the Honors College was a place which “surpasses a lot of the academics and hits the individual.”

“Joining the Honors College kind of pushed me in that sense of ‘okay, we’re all going to do this, we’re all going to attempt at this goal, and if we hit it then great, but let’s try to, in that sense, surpass that goal and go beyond and find a deeper meaning in life.’”

Gaston said the Honors College is a community “just trying to be better,” socially and academically.

“It’s a community of people trying to grow and be better people, to be the best person they can be, to challenge themselves,” Gaston said.

“It’s not a stressful environment, people trying to compete to get ahead,” said Andrew Garcia, an English major in the Honors College. “We’re trying to study and be friends and just enjoy life while we can, as much as we can. And I really like that.”

Garcia also described the Honors College as a home away from home and another family.

“It’s really important to feel like you belong to a place,” Meana said. “I think that’s what the Honors College does really well. You belong here. We’re like a family.”

The Honors College, located on the first floor of the Beverly Rogers Literature and Law Building, is home to more than 700 students.

With a much smaller amount of students than the university, it’s easier for students to get connected and receive personal attention from faculty, Meana said.

Being relocated to the RLL building has provided a lot more space for the students and increased the opportunities for faculty and students to interact.

“We have much bigger space for the students in the computer lab and in the study lounge, as well as a seminar room where the Honors Student Council meets and a lot of activities take place,” Meana said.

“We also now have all the faculty in one place,” she said. “When we were in the Lied Library, we had faculty all over the campus, so there weren’t as many opportunities for the faculty to interact with the students.”

The Honors College should also be known as a place for students to get involved.

“We want the Honors College to be known as not just a place where you can come to challenge yourself, because that is going to happen,” said Conner McCubbin, president of the Honors Student Council, “but a place where you can come, get involved, make the most of the university, and give back to the community you came from.”

“I wanted to find a sense of community and challenge myself when it came to school,” said Dara Tinoco, a Political Science and Pre-Law Honors College student.

Tinoco found that the Honors College not only challenges her academically, but also as a person in the community.

“They challenge you to be the best version of yourself,” Tinoco said. “You get to volunteer as a community, like for the MDA Muscle Walk, so we grow together as individuals,” she said in reference to the Muscular Dystrophy Association’s annual Muscle Walk.

“It definitely challenges you to be humble,” Garcia said, “because there’s a lot of cool people out there and seeing that makes you kind of want to get to that level, not to surpass them but to say that you’re bettering yourself.”

“The Honors College really cares about not only academically that you’re succeeding and you’re on the right path,” McCubbin said, “but we also want to integrate you into the social realms that you would like to be integrated into.”

In addition to volunteering, the Honors College encourages and funds students to study abroad.

“The majority of our students do a semester abroad, which I think is really transformative,” Meana said. “It’s challenging, because you have to leave home and you’re in a new place, but I think it really enhances their experience,” she said.

There are two ways to get into the Honors College: straight out of high school into a program called University Honors or through a program called Research Honors for students already attending UNLV.

Requirements for students straight out of high school are “pretty flexible” and every application is looked at separately, Meana said.

“I don’t have like a hardcore line where I say you have to have this or that,” she said.

Students are not admitted into the Honors College solely because on their GPA and SAT test scores, but also on their leadership roles in the community.

“I will look at every application individually,” Meana said, “because there are also some people who maybe their grades aren’t that high, but they’ve done incredible leadership things in the community and I want those students.”

When recruiting high school students, Meana encourages anyone with a 3.70 or above unweighted GPA to apply.

According to Meana, the average unweighted GPA of the Fall 2015 entering class was 3.85.

In order to be accepted into the Honors Research Program, a student must have a cumulative university GPA of 3.50 or higher, have sophomore standing and excellent writing skills, according to the Research and Creative Honors Program Description website.

Students typically apply for RH at the end of their sophomore year or early in their junior year and must be accepted at least two weeks prior to the start of the semester, according to the site.

The Honors College is not restricted to only honors students, however.

“One of the things that we do is we groom students for nationally competitive awards, like the Goldman, the Truman, the Rhodes scholar, all of that,” Meana said.

“We are constantly going out there saying if you have a great student who you think would be competitive for one of these awards, bring them to us. They don’t have to be an honors student, they don’t have to be in our college, and we will really prepare them to compete for those awards.”

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