Honors Program Newsletter
By Michael Andranovich ‘16 SJC
The history of Greenwich Village is fascinating since it reflects how the greater City of New York also developed. Because of this, I was drawn to a lecture given by noted New York architectural historian Barry Lewis. Mr. Lewis came with a variety of photos and digital maps which outlined the history of the Village in a way that was both informative and engaging. He used these graphics to help identify its borders and to illustrate how it evolved from a rural farm area to the hip, trendy community it is today.
Perhaps the best part of Lewis’s lecture was not the actual history, but the personal stories that he included. These short anecdotes ranged from hilarious to somber and represented the diverse history and important sites of Greenwich Village. He ended his presentation by showing the audience a variety of eccentric and strange features that have made the Village the magnet for young people that it is today. Afterwards, Mr. Lewis, who also lectures at Cooper Union, was gracious enough to stay and enthusiastically answer questions from the audience.
By Tamara Terzian ’15 CPS
Many college students dream of traveling abroad after graduation, though often the reality of having to find a job and pay off their college loans is more pressing, so that dream is put on hold. However, some students do have the privilege to make their dreams of working and studying abroad a reality after graduation. Amber Veldt, a 2013 St. John's Honors Program graduate, is currently taking advantage of one of these extraordinary opportunities, teaching English to students in the country of Andorra, sponsored by the Fulbright Scholars Program. She is also studying Catalan, the official language of Andorra, and its role in the government.
Exploring countries is nothing new for Amber. The quintessential global citizen, Amber, the daughter of missionaries, grew up in various countries such as Romania and Spain, and studied French, all before she entered college. When asked about why she chose to attend St. John's, Amber, who graduated summa cum laude with a B.A. in Government and Politics and French, said, "I wouldn't say that I chose St. John's, so much as St. John's chose me." Since she was essentially an international student, Amber didn't quite know how to compare schools in the United States, but after receiving several brochures from St. John's, she finally applied. She received a generous scholarship offer, and decided to attend St. John’s based on its location in New York. She also accepted the invitation to be part of the Honors Program, not realizing what a significant impact it would have on her experience until she was at St. John's. Amber explained that being around honors students who were passionate about their studies and devoted to academic excellence helped inspire her to do her best.
The Honors Program encouraged Amber to delve deeper into her studies, and also led her to opportunities that would prepare her for her future. After seeing a post from her Honors Program classmate on Facebook about the Critical Language Scholars (CLS) program, Amber decided she wanted to learn Urdu, one of the principal languages of India. She chose Urdu because it relates to Hindi but uses Arabic script, which would make it easier for her to learn Arabic or Persian in the future. She also thought India would be an interesting and exciting country to visit because of its culture and natural beauty. Amber applied and was accepted to the CLS program, which allowed her to study in India the past two summers.
It was during her CLS Pogram orientation that Amber was informed about the Fulbright Scholars Program, and she decided to apply. When she learned that studying in Andorra was an option within the program, she knew that this would be her choice if offered the scholarship, since it was closer to her family in Spain. Amber was accepted as a Fulbright scholar in April. She was one of only ten St. John's students to receive this honor in 2013.
Amber describes her life in Andorra as being "intellectually stimulating," since she is working with professors, renowned Catalan authors, and university researchers. She has discovered that Catalan, Spanish, and French are spoken by most of the people living there, and many also speak Portuguese. English, and Russian. Amber said that "teaching English is both a joy and a challenge," and added that she is delighted to be able to transmit American culture to her students.
Andorra's location near the Pyrenees Mountains also provides great opportunities for recreation. Amber explained that one is never far from a ski slope. In fact, two of her students are former Olympic athletes who grew up skiing. Amber recommends students seeking similar educational and travel opportunities apply to the two programs she is part of. She said, "Both the CLS and the Fulbright are fantastic ways to broaden one's perspective and learn about other people, while offering many other new experiences that you may not have thought of before."
While at St. John's, Amber, was a member of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, the Chamber Music Society, and the Ultimate Frisbee Team. She also participated in events with the Catholic Students Community and received many awards including Dean's List recognition, the Pi Delta Phi French Honors Society, the Pi Sigma Alpha Political Science Honors Society, and the Who's Who Among American Colleges and Universities. Upon graduation, Amber received the Arthur F. Gianelli Award for Outstanding Service to the University and the Honors Program.
While St. John's and the Honors Program are grateful for the things Amber contributed to the student body, she is equally appreciative to St. John's and the Honors Program for all it offered her. She particularly enjoyed having the opportunity to see performances at the Metropolitan Opera and the walking tours of Manhattan with Dr. Forman. Amber also enjoyed the time she spent with Dr. Heidi Upton, who shared her love of music, and with Hadia Sheerazi, an Honors Program graduate and native of Pakistan, with whom she practiced Urdu. Amber said, "St. John's focus on service humbled me and gave me a better perspective on how to put my faith into action and honor God through work in the community." As a teacher in Andorra, she has done and continues to do much to help the world community and carry out the St. John's mission of serving others.
By Sabine Stamer ’17 TCB
Charming, loveable, bursting with infinite useful facts to spice up classes and a wicked sense of humor, it is no wonder that Dr. John Greg is the darling of the Honors Program. Dr. Greg has been part of the Honors Program since it began. In fact, he taught his first honors course in 1978 when the Honors Program was called the “Independent Study Program.” The four-credit course in public speaking was initiated by a group of students who asked him to teach it. Since then, Dr. Greg has witnessed the Honors Program expand from 20 to over 1,200 students.
Teaching and debate are Dr. Greg’s greatest passions. He got his first taste of public speaking when he joined the debate team in high school and has enjoyed it ever since. After receiving his B.A. in English from St. John’s in 1962, Dr. Greg went to Wayne State University in Detroit to pursue a master's degree in Rhetoric and Public Address and to serve as debate coach. By the fall 1963, he was teaching as a graduate student. In 1972, he received his doctorate from Wayne State. It took him almost nine years to complete his Ph.D. because he enjoyed teaching so much that he had accepted a full-time position which required he postpone his dissertation. After receiving his doctorate, it was a twist of fate that led Dr. Greg back to St. John’s. He was offered teaching positions at several universities but turned them down. Unfortunately, the position he was interested in at Bradley University in Illinois became unavailable. He then called his friend, the director of debate at St. John’s, and asked if he knew of any institutions looking to hire a debate coach. He was not considering returning to St. John’s, but his friend told him that the school was in need of a debate coach and offered him the job. Dr. Greg has been teaching at St. John’s ever since. In addition to public speaking, he also teaches Argumentation Inquiry, Advocacy and Legal Argumentation, and other speech electives.
Since Dr. Greg is such a brilliant communicator and expert debater, I was surprised that he never pursued a career in law. When I asked him about this, he said that unlike most of the other students on his high school debate team, he never wanted to be a lawyer. He also had an opportunity to become a speech writer but Dr. Greg much preferred working to improve the speaking skills of others.
As a student in his honors public speaking class, I can attest to the fact that Dr. Greg has followed his calling by becoming a professor. I absolutely love his class. It has completely transformed the way I approach public speaking from something that I feared, to something I now enjoy and view as a conversation with my peers. Much of the time in Dr. Greg's class is spent practicing our public speaking skills, rather than concentrating on theory. He also includes many interesting and entertaining stories which are applicable to other courses as well as our lives as students. Most teachers struggle to find the balance between being informal and retaining the respect of the students. While Dr. Greg’s class is one of the most informal I have taken, he inspires a high level of respect from students.
Outside of class, Dr. Greg enjoys reading mystery novels by Donna Leon and articles about what he calls the Supreme Court’s “mistakes." His passion for teaching, his expert knowledge of the material, his caring nature, and his infectious sense of humor make Dr. Greg one of the best professors I have ever had.
By Noreen McNamara ’17 SJC
Last summer during orientation, incoming freshmen were given historical tours of the Queens campus. Dr. Robert Forman, Director of the Honors Program conducted them along with other professors who were part of orientation. Unlike tours that the Office of Admission provides which focus on campus resources and building locations, these tours incorporated many details about the history of the school.
Students learned that the campus is located on what was once a golf course and were shown pictures of how the campus looked before 1955. In fact, one of the pictures was of a small lake located where Bent Hall is today. It was incredible to see how the open land was transformed from a golf course into the many buildings that make up the University today. The tour participants also learned that the D'Angelo Center looks similar to the main hall on Ellis Island. This is because Ellis Island was the main point of arrival for new immigrants, and St. John's has traditionally served an immigrant population.
Dr. Forman told the incoming students about some of the emblems and inscriptions that appear on the buildings at St. John's and how they represent the mission of the University. He explained the meaning of the seal of the University on the front of St. Augustine Hall, the campus library. It has three books with the words scientia, humanitas, and religio which are the Latin words for science, culture and religion. These are three areas in which St. John's strives to educate its students. Dr. Forman also talked about the symbolism of the St. John's crest, pointing out how the shell denotes John the Baptist, for whom St. John's is named.
As an incoming student, I thought Dr. Forman's tour of the campus was very interesting and helped me understand more about the school and its history. I'm sure many other students never would have imagined what the campus was like before St. John's was here, if this historical tour had not been offered to us.