Honors program provides awesome experiences for Mennonite College of Nursing students

Why do students join honors programs? For the perks, of course! Honors programs can make students even more marketable as they apply to jobs and graduate school. And while the distinguishing quality is certainly an important part of the Honors Program at Illinois State University, it’s only the icing on the cake.

Students in the Illinois State Honors Program enjoy a number of opportunities, including early registration, specialized advising, and academic partnerships with faculty members. Honors Program participants can also live on Honors Themed floors and have further opportunities to engage with peer and professional networks and special events.

Mennonite College of Nursing Honors students

Each academic program has different requirements for its honors program participants. Kelly Fiedler, a Mennonite College of Nursing Honors student, sat down with us to talk about these requirements, the positive experiences that she had with the program, and to shed some light on what future honors program students in the Mennonite College of Nursing can expect.

“All Honors Program students need to have an ‘Honors experience’ each semester, and this holds true for Mennonite College of Nursing as well! If you come to ISU as an Honors student your freshmen year, you’re automatically enrolled in an ‘Honors section’ of a basic course and everyone does an extra project. It was a really good way to meet people in the program.

“After that, I did a study abroad experience as an Honors project, where I researched the difference between nursing in the United States and nursing in Brazil! The health care system is super different there. We went to an infectious disease clinic and a public health clinic. We spent a few days in the hospital, and I got to shadow a nurse in the ER. Overall, it was a really great experience.”

Fiedler also enjoyed being a part of the Honors Program Leadership Team as an Honors mentor. It was a hired position, and she had to interview in order to get the job. Once a week, she helped an instructor teach a class. Fiedler also met with each of the students to answer any questions that they had about college or the Honors Program and helped with their transition.

“I would say that my participation in the Honors Program Leadership Team was the highlight of my experience in the program. I learned a lot! Not only things like interpersonal and mentoring skills, but also how to teach in general.”

Honors Contracts allow students deeper understanding

One important aspect of the Honors Program is the opportunities provided from Honors Contracts. Honors Contracts allow students to gain a deeper understanding of topics that they find interesting. Generally, students pick the topic from a class that they are currently enrolled. They then work together with the instructor on a project that will not only extend their learning of the topic, but that can also be shared with an audience.

Fiedler remembers her Honors Contract fondly: “I did an Honors Contract with my clinical instructor, Jamie Penrod. I took the research that I did for that to complete my Honors in the Major project, which ended up being a poster that I’ve presented at several conferences.

“One thing that’s a really hot topic in psych nursing right now is metabolic syndrome. In layman’s terms, that’s being overweight, having difficulty controlling your blood sugar, having high lipid levels in your blood, having high blood pressure, stuff like that. This is a common side effect of medications that a lot of psychiatric patients are on. So, I researched that and looked up things that nurses can do to intervene with patients who have it and ways that they can help and prevent this in psych patients. My project now is a poster that can be hung at the nurses’ station at a psychiatric hospital. It reminds nurses of the things that they can do to help patients with metabolic syndrome. In a lot of the research that I found, nurses felt that they didn’t have the training or the education they need. That was the basis for why I made the poster.”

So far, Fiedler has presented at the Memorial Medical Center in Springfield and Mennonite Scholar Symposium, which is held at the Alumni Center. When we talked to Fiedler , she was also going to an APNA (America Psychological Nursing Association) conference, held April 27 in Chicago.

Applying to the Honors Program

Fiedler encourages future students to apply to the Honors Program.

“The Honors Program has definitely helped prepare me for my nursing career. Apart from having it as a line on my resume that makes me more employable, the experience gave me public speaking skills, opportunities to go above and beyond what I was learning in class, and it gave me more in depth and hands on knowledge of nursing practices. If I hadn’t done my poster, I wouldn’t have gotten the opportunity to travel to all of these different conferences and present on a topic that I’m passionate about.”

The Honors Program is designed to attract a broad range of students. The program admits students as freshmen, as current students, and as transfer students. Interested students can apply after being admitted to Illinois State University.