By: Steve Soman
The St. John’s University Honors Program features small classes, faculty mentoring, and an impressive number of academic and cultural opportunities for students to excel. These opportunities range from performances at the Metropolitan Opera, New York City Ballet, and the New York Philharmonic to museum visits and Manhattan walking tours. For students to complete the Honors Program, they have to take a minimum of 30 credit hours in Honors courses or their equivalent and maintain at least an overall GPA index of 3.3. Pharmacy students only have to complete 24 credits as the final two years of pharmacy are counted as 6 credits for a total of 30 credit hours. The Honors credit can be obtained if the students take classes designated as ‘Honors’—Advanced Placement (AP) credits for core classes, International Baccalaureate (IB) credits—and gain a 3-credits of research experience, among other requirements.
It is with great pride that the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences announces the completion of the Honors Program by six of their students. The Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) program is challenging in and of itself, and it is amazing to see students investing time and effort to pursue the Honors Program Certificate. Thus, we congratulate Pooja Patel, Tawfeek Khan, Mahdieh Danesh Yazdi, Jayoung Park, Anika Raisa, and Wendy Chan for completing the Honors Program.
The Honors Program Certificate can be earned by completing 30 credits through various means. I was able to take six honors courses, with phenomenal professors, including Dr. Robert Forman, one of the chairmen of the Honors Program. These faculty members were some of the most inspiring and motivating people I have met, encouraging me to work my hardest and moving me to develop my own opinions and means of independent thinking. I was also able to complete an ‘honors contract,’ in which I was awarded honors credit for a regular course based on a special project approved by the instructor and the chairman. This was a unique experience because I was able to focus on an area of interest to me, online pharmacy regulations, during my contract in my Pharmacy and Legal Issues class. I was able to look at the legal issues related to online pharmacies, in terms of national and international regulation of products, and verification of valid prescriptions. I also addressed the issues related to consumer protection from receiving counterfeit or illegal substances through online pharmacists, specifically the risks that relate to the patients. I thoroughly enjoyed this project because I was able to take it wherever I wanted it to go, which the Honors Program really supported and encouraged. Another way that I earned an Honors Program credit was by completing “Discovery Essays” while I was studying abroad. Here, I was able to able to document particular experiences that provided eye-opening insights into the countries I was living in. This was different from what I could do with the Honors Program for the rest of my years because I was able to focus on something outside of science. I was able to explore Spain, France, and Italy and really appreciate the art, architecture, and cultures of these places. These “Discovery Essays” helped me document some of my most memorable moments, such as when I first saw Gaudí‘s La Sagrada Família, when I lost myself exploring the numerous exhibits in the Musée du Louvre for hours, and when I celebrated Easter Sunday Mass at the Vatican. I was also awarded six graduate credits for my pharmacy courses that I took during my fifth and sixth years.
I am beyond grateful for the experiences I had during my participation in the Honors Program. Being part of the Honors Program is like being part of a family. Whenever I stepped into the Honors Commons, I was greeted with a warm ‘hello’ from my fellow students. Dr. Forman was always available to talk and was genuinely supportive and interested in how I was doing throughout my academic career. He really is the backbone of the Honors Program, and he really cares about the well being of his students. He is very dedicated, and I will miss this kind-hearted man once I graduate.
Mahdieh Danesh Yazdi:
For the past six years I’ve had the privilege of studying pharmacy at St. John’s University. As this journey comes closer to its end, I’ve had an opportunity to reflect upon my experiences here, and I must admit that few have been as rewarding as being a member of the Honors Program.
My friends and I would look forward to the shows we went to each semester from the Nutcracker ballet, and to the operas: The Magic Flute, The Barber of Seville, Le Comte Ory, Tosca, and Faust. They were a much-needed break from our often-stressful pharmacy classes, not to mention that they allowed us to see a side of New York City that we had not experienced before.
My favorite part of the Honors Program has to be the Honors Commons. Members of the Honors Program also have access to the Honors Commons, which is a lounge area for their specific use and is open 24/7. I can’t recall how many times my friends and I have stayed overnight in the Honors Commons studying for D&Ds, compounding, kinetics, and every other difficult class we have had over the years. We would store food in the refrigerator, heating it up as we became hungry while studying late into the night. These nights are some of my fondest memories.
I would be remiss if I did not thank all the professors who taught me through the Honors Program, who gave me a platform to learn and grow. I especially thank Drs. Robert Forman and Robert Pennachio, who run the Honors Program at St. John’s University. Dr. Pennachio helped us keep track of our requirements for the Honors Program and was instrumental in my completion of the program. Dr. Forman is the heart and soul of the Honors Program. He is a generous advisor who will do everything in his power to make students feel welcome and help them navigate the waters of a post-secondary education. He is also one of the kindest people I have met, and he has enriched my college experience. I will forever be grateful to him for his guidance and compassion. It was an honor to be part of this program and to be considered for the Jack P. Franzetti Award.
The honors program is one of the best things offered by St. John’s. Students who have maintained academic excellence in high school qualify for entrance and because of the high standards for acceptance into the Pharmacy program, almost all Pharmacy students can enter. The problem is that students never formally accept the invitation into the program. I did and I am glad for it. The courses offered by the program are focused on the Core requirements by the university and are structured to have a smaller numbers of students to foster a better Professor-to-student relationship. Most of my classes had an average of 25 students or less and I found that I was given more opportunities to voice my opinion and be heard than my larger, non-Honors courses. The professors do expect a higher level of performance from students but this didn’t mean that my classes were harder or required more work. I found that the core courses like Theology or Philosophy became more interesting because the Professors that taught it were so passionate about their subjects and expected us as students to reciprocate the same enthusiasm that they had. I feel like my Honors courses resembled my daydreams for what college courses would be like; the personal feel and the possibility for involvement in discourse highlighted what I expected and wanted from my Core classes.
Outside of the academic responsibilities that most students seem to focus on, the Honor’s program has had a large impact on my social life. With events designed to bring students from different years and fields of study together scattered throughout the semester, I found a way to focus my rare free time in things outside of simply “Pharmacy.” The highlight of each semester I feel is opportunity to visit the various Opera, Ballet, and Philharmonic performances at the Lincoln center. The Honor’s program offers free tickets to select performances as well as Walking Tours around the city and trips to museums. They fill the Metropolitan mission of St. John’s well and have made my educational experience all the more fulfilling.
I would love to thank Dr. Foreman and the entire Honor’s Program for awarding me the Jack P. Franzetti Award. My acceptance into the program has been a bright spot in my academic career and the Professor’s and fellow students that I have become acquainted with have provided me with intellectual stimulation and joy. Dr. Foreman has always been guiding and supporting us in any way that he was able to and I am touched that he considered me and Mahdieh for this honor.