Honors Program Student Newsletter
By Tamara Terzian '15CPS
The Honors Program holds a gathering in the beginning of the fall semester to welcome its freshman members. This year, the Honors Program held a barbecue mixer event on Saturday, September 15th, in Marillac Terrace. Honors Program Director Dr. Robert Forman chose the title of the event, “Meeting of the Twain,” to signify the convening of the Honors Program's upperclassmen with its newest members.
The freshmen who came were greeted by about 20 upperclassmen representing a variety of majors and colleges. They shared their experiences about getting involved at St. John's and specifically the Honors Program. A recent graduate of the program also was present to add his insight.
Dr. Forman addressed the group, welcoming them into the Honors Program family. He encouraged them to visit the Honors Commons and introduced them to the associate director of the program, Mr. Robert Pennacchio.
Students who attended were happy to receive an Honors Program t-shirt and enjoyed the banquet of food. They left with a greater sense of the opportunities the Honors Program could provide for them. As Diana Koltovski, a freshman, said, "I thought the barbecue was a great way to meet other honors students and get to know the variety of people there are on campus. I really liked the opportunity to talk to people in a comfortable, open setting and hope to become involved in the Honors Program."
On Saturday, September 29th, St. John's University held its 11th annual Service Day. Various fraternities, sororities, clubs, and student groups came together to volunteer their time in a variety of ways. Some examples include cleaning parks, helping at soup kitchens, and visiting local nursing homes.
This year, members of the Honors Program offered their time to mentor a group of students who are a part of the Project HYPE Program. Project HYPE’s main goal is to “combat the educational, social, and personal factors which often prevent students from attaining success.”
Dr. Forman and Mr. Pennacchio, along with Valerie Kutcher, Assistant Director of Academic Service-Learning at St. John's, arranged for a group of about twenty-five 2nd through 12th grade students from Cambria Heights to come to the Honors Commons. The students interacted with a number of Honors Program volunteers, who served as peer mentors for the day. They played a unique and highly competitive math game called Tivitz.
Chrissy Jarjies, a graduate assistant in the AS-L office, explained the rules of the game, after which groups of students began to play against each other. The honors volunteers supervised the games and checked that the students' math was correct. Each group was very engaged and focused, much to the pleasure of the volunteers and Project HYPE representatives. The afternoon concluded with lunch, and everyone involved felt it was agreat success.
By Peter Yang '17PHA
U.S. Memory Champion Joshua Foer spoke to an audience of students from the Honors Program and the general University community on October 4th, in the Little Theater. He immediately engaged their attention by asking them to picture Britney Spears dancing on their living room coffee table. This was what Foer called "building a memory palace," which is process of associating a familiar place with an event or object.
Foer then asked the audience for a series of objects totally disconnected and a series of known features in the Little Theater with which to connect them. He described this memory technique as the use of "associative hooks," whereby one tries to attach or "hook" an object with something meaningful. Surprisingly, everyone he asked in the audience remembered every object in the proper order.
Foer, a science writer for the New York Times, can memorize the order of a pack of playing cards in less than 30 seconds, though he insisted that this was no spectacular feat. Another memory expert, Kim Peak, has memorized the contents of 9,000 books. Foer explained that this skill dates back to Ancient Greece.
Foer is the author of the New York Times bestseller Moonwalking with Einstein, a book which illustrates this and other practical memory aids.
Subbhalakshmi (Subbha) Dhalladoo, an international student from the island of Mauritius, was eager to accept her admission offer from St.John’s University in 2008. Along with the admission packet, she received an invitation to the Honors Program, which she also readily accepted. Her expectations were exceeded when she realized that the Honors Program is more than just taking honors classes; it’s being part of a smallercommunity within the university. Subbha soon discovered the Honors Commons constantly buzzing with students doing homework or relaxing after class, and found it to be a good place to meet new friends, socialize, and participate in some very interesting discussions.
One aspect of the Honors Program that Subbha really appreciated was the smaller class size it offered. This was crucial in shaping her college experience because it allowed her to get to know her professors and classmates on a personal level that could not have been achieved in larger classes.
Looking back, Subbha believes her experiences at St. John’swere enhanced because of her involvement in the Honors Program. She recalls a specific experience from freshman year in one of her major classes in which she was able to get to know her professor well enough that it led to his recommending her to do research with another faculty member. He also wrote her a recommendation letter many years later for her graduate school application. She met many of her closest friends through the program, and studying and socializing with them helped her grow throughout her years in college.
After receiving a bachelor of science degree in biology from St. John’s, Subbha is now pursuing a master of science in biotechnology at Columbia University. It’s evident that Subbha’s involvement in the Honors Program and university activities has helped shape her future.
During her time at St. John’s, Subbha was inducted as Secretary of the prestigious Skull and Circle Honor Society, and was the recipient of the Silver Key Award in Biology, along with a bronze medal. She was accepted in Who’s Who Among American Universities and Colleges, and qualified for the Dean’s List in all of her four years at St. John’s. She was also a recipient of the Jack P. Franzetti Award on behalf of the Honors Program.
Along with these achievements, Subbha was very involved in St. John’s activities and was President of the Roger Bacon Scientific Honors Society, a peer mentor in the Project A.I.M Program, and Vice President of Student Anti-Genocide Coalition. She also worked as a tutor in the university Learning Commons and as an assistant in the research lab.
Subbha offers some valuable advice to current honors students and those considering accepting the honors invitation: “Make the most of this program. Don’t limit yourself by only taking the minimum number of credits that you need; instead, branch out. You should take the time to get to know Dr. Forman and Mr. Pennacchio because they are very concerned about you and your success in college. Make use of the Honors Commons, where you will meet a variety of people, who may one day become your best friends. Try to attend as many events as possible; they are opportunities you may never receive again. Being part of the Honors Program can help you make the most of your St. John’s college experience!”
Few if any professors have made a more indelible mark on a university than Dr. Arthur Gianelli has on St John’s and the Honors Program. As the second director in the Honors Program’s history, Dr. Gianelli cultivated its roots, pioneering initiatives that made it possible for the program to blossom. In 14 years at the helm, Dr. Gianelli expanded the program’s scope from 10 students exclusively from St. John’s College to the university-wide community it is today. The Honors Program, while he was director, used to share a home with the Philosophy Department. Dr. Gianelli’s determined efforts enabled the Honors Program to obtain funding for the first time. Now, honors students benefit from a cozy special key-access lounge, Uncommon Hours, guest speakers, and cultural events such as walking tours and New York Philharmonic, ballet and opera concerts.
Besides overseeing the Honors Program, Dr. Gianelli was chairperson of the Philosophy Department for 14 years, well past the typical two 4-year terms a chairperson serves. From 1991-2000, he simultaneously served as both Honors Program Director and Philosophy Chairman.
Dr. Gianelli graduated in 1971 with a Ph.D. in philosophy from St John’s University and has been a renowned professor at the university ever since; however, he did not always realize his passion lay in philosophy. He first studied physics and graduated with a B.S. from Georgetown University in 1961, after which he taught physics at Penn State University for 4 years. He began to realize, however, that his scientific inquiries were increasingly evolving into philosophical reflections and investigations. He followed his passion, thus pursuing his philosophy Ph.D. at St John’s. Physics still plays a large influence on Dr. Gianelli’s philosophical focus though; his research centers in the philosophy of physical science, reflecting his physics roots.
As a student in his honors metaphysics course, I’m fascinated as Dr. Gianelli discusses the philosophical origins of theories that I previously thought were purely scientific: theories such as that the Heliocentric Model and the Big Bang were actually born out of philosophical inquisitions, not scientific ones. His lectures often discuss metaphysics being an extension of science and strive to give honors students an understanding of what science really says. Honors students enthusiastically absorb this information, often inquiring even deeper into topics than required. Dr. Gianelli enjoys teaching honors students and copiously lauds them. He says honors students are inquisitive. Their willingness to ask questions and yearning to understand material is refreshing, and he thoroughly enjoys fielding their questions as students persistently dig for more nuggets of information. Besides metaphysics, Dr. Gianelli also teaches courses in logic and the philosophy of physical science.
Outside of school, Dr. Gianelli enjoys following politics. In fact, he was elected as delegate at the 1976 Democratic convention. Dr. Gianelli also enjoys sports. He has been a lifelong fan of St John’s basketball, and fondly recalls watching televised games on WPIX since the 1950’s. Dr. Gianelli is married with two sons; one is the CEO of Nassau University Medical Center and the other holds a Ph.D. in Physics.
By Katherine Santana '16SJC
Dr. Forman led a group of students on a walking tour of Governors Island on Saturday, September 22nd; it was the first time that he has taken a group there. I'm glad I had the opportunity to go along with the other students on this trip. The weather was beautiful, and we also took a brief tour of the Dutch settlement of present-day lower Manhattan.
The day began on campus with a short overview of the places we would be touring. We then took the subway to Manhattan to catch the ferry that would bring us to the island. Before we boarded the ferry, Dr. Forman gave us a quick tour of St. Paul's Chapel and Bowling Green Park.
The ride on the ferry offered breathtaking views of the Manhattan skyline and the Statue of Liberty. After we arrived, Dr. Forman gave us a brief talk on the history of the island. We learned that Wouter Van Twiller, a Dutch representative, purchased the island in 1637, from the Native Americans of "Manahatas" for two ax heads, a string of beads, and a handful of nails. We also learned that for almost 200 years, Governors Island served as a military base.
While touring Castle Williams, an historic building on the island which served as a fort during colonial times and later as a prison, the National Park Service rangers informed us that in 2003 the federal government sold most of Governors Island to New York State for just one dollar. It has since become a popular recreation destination for New Yorkers and tourists alike. Further renovations and development are continuing on various parts of the island for the enjoyment of future visitors.
The trip to Governors Island was very informative and enjoyable, and it left us with a desire to participate in other upcoming walking tours.