Honors staff prepares students for 2016 graduation and beyond


By Jim North
Southeast Campus Editor

Twenty-six graduates will be recognized with distinction by Honors medallions and the designation on their transcripts.

The 46th commencement for Tulsa Community College (TCC) will take place on the campus of Oral Roberts University’s Mabee Center on May 6, 2016, at 7 p.m.

The ceremony will feature musical performances by the TCC music department orchestra and concert band, concert choir and student vocal quartet.

Also included will be a presentation of the flags, recognition of graduates and the conferring of degrees.

Mike Turpen, partner of the Riggs, Abney, Neal, Turpen, Orbison and Lewis law firm, will be the commencement speaker, addressing some 2,000 TCC graduates.

Turpen is also a standing member of the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education.

In order to graduate as an Honors scholar, one must have applied and been accepted into the program officially.

A 3.5 GPA or above has been maintained, as well as having completed 24 hours of Honors classes. Fifteen hours must have been in the general education category.

Students who complete 21 hours, plus a service learning project, also qualify.

An exit essay is required by graduates, describing in detail how the program has enriched their academic experience.

The Honors program came into being at TCC in 1985. Susan O’Neal is the program’s current coordinator, having held the position since 2011.

She has served TCC for 20 plus years, currently teaching courses in Composition I and II, American and British Literature and Introduction to Literature.

Her bachelor’s degree in English is from Centenary College in Louisiana and master’s degree in English from the University of Mississippi at Oxford.

She serves specifically as the Metro Campus coordinator as well. Others are Jennifer Kneafsey at the Northeast Campus;
Dr. Jane Varmecky, the Southeast
Campus; and Ann Phillips, the West Campus.

Lynn Richmond is the full-time specialist, working with all of the coordinators.

O’Neal appreciates the great value placed by TCC on the program through the years.

Faculty members periodically provide feedback regarding their course sections and vote on students who model exemplary characteristics in the classroom.

Results of the votes can translate into talent awards, also known as “Foundation Awards,” distributed every spring to select scholars.

O’Neal further describes what it means to be an Honors scholar. First, they must be engaged; they are pursuing education because they want to learn; they have a high level of curiosity and want to learn about a wide range of topics.

“They don’t see it as just a hoop they have to jump through, to accomplish what they want to accomplish in life, professionally or financially … or because everyone else is
doing it. They’re really
motivated to be educated,” she says.

Participants love in-depth learning and esteem their professors, who are mentors, according to O’Neal.

Honors scholars are “amazingly creative” and work “outside of the box,” both in and out of the classroom. They aspire to be well-rounded and have diverse interests.

“They carry those attitudes into the other aspects of their lives, that engagement, that curiosity, [and] that desire for community with other like-minded people.”

“You’re going to get as much enthusiasm sometimes from a biology major who’s in a literature class.” she says.

O’Neal wants to assist students in gaining access to selective four-year institutions after they transfer from TCC.

As coordinator, she helps facilitate a national undergraduate transfer scholarship on behalf of the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation.

“I want them to have somebody that they can go to who will help them … and to make sure that all the other academic opportunities that an engaged student is interested in are accessible to them.”

O’Neal desires that four-year institutions be a good fit for transferring students, allowing for continuation of achievement in preparation for a future profession or for life.

The well-rounded characteristics of these learners help them to remain the same kind of people in the world, no matter how they may engage themselves after graduation, she says.

Additionally, she stresses adaptability as a desirable attribute to keep intact for the long-term.

Students who wish to join the program should begin the process by taking an Honors class. The next step is filling out an application. Taking a class alone does not constitute enrollment.

Benefits include up to 18 hours tuition waiver each semester, capped at 95 hours.

Honors is a small community within the larger TCC community, with multiple levels of support.

Articulation agreements assist a more seamless transfer to similar programs in four-year colleges.

She sums up the function of those who serve in the Honors capacity: “You’ve got somebody who’s watching your academic back and making sure you don’t miss out on things.”

O’Neal urges students not to skip their 2016 graduation ceremony: wear the robe, cross the stage, receive the diploma and let friends and family cheer on those hard-earned accomplishments.

The ceremony is a student’s “minute” of opportunity—to stop and measure how far they have journeyed.

“This is a great school,” she concludes.

TCC evolves all the time, she says, but common factors which remain are the changed lives toward a new world of work, or successful transition toward a bachelor’s degree at the next level.

The Honors office feels positive about the 2016 TCC graduates: passionate, stimulated and experiential learners within and beyond the classroom.

For more information about TCC’s Honors Program, contact Susan O’Neal or Lynn Richmond at (918) 595-7378 or visit the program’s Facebook page.