Feature Stories 2024: Honors College Student Council builds a community

Honors College Student Council
Among many events held during the fall semester, the Honors College Student Council's DEI Committee held a Trivia Night where students won prizes like these holiday socks.
Feature Stories 2024: Honors College Student Council builds a community
Honors College Student Council builds a community

Students develop friendships across campus and gain leadership skills

With nearly 500 students representing 5 colleges and a range of majors, the UMass Dartmouth Honors College provides unique opportunities for study, research, collaboration, networking, and forming friendships across the university.

Between classes, field trips, and the many special events offered by the college, students can take a break from academics to have fun and meet peers from different colleges, dorms, and programs. Engaging this diverse group of students is an important goal of Honors College Student Council President Fiona Marques '25 and Vice President Leandro Neves '25.

"The Honors College Student Council tries to bring together students from all colleges and build community across all parts of the university," said Marques, a psychology and studio arts major from Acushnet, MA. As she nodded toward Neves, an electrical engineering major from Plymouth, MA, she said, "We never would have met without the Honors College. I would never have met people from the SENG (science and engineering) building.

"We create cross collaboration and try to bring everyone together in an Honors community," she added.

"Especially with our events, we always try to have many different people come," added Neves. "And once you form a community within students in the Honors College, you also create a community with their friends."

"The Student Council gives all Honors students a way to be involved on campus and form friendships within the Honors community. They are a very friendly and supportive group of people," said Dean Amy Shapiro. "The Council puts on events, community service projects, and more. They're planning a spring gala this year that should be fantastic."

Honors College offers many benefits for academically talented students

The UMass Dartmouth Honors College engages and challenges academically talented students across all majors in a vibrant and innovative learning environment. Students are invited to join the college based on their UMass Dartmouth application and through internal transfer in the freshman or sophomore years. They enjoy benefits such as small classes, dedicated living and learning spaces, course enrichment activities, and focused academic and individual research advising.

"Being in the Honors College helps you get the job you want, not just a job," said Neves. "It gives you a community right off the bat. You have support and a student community to lean on. The college also helps us to be more well-rounded."

"I love to see College of Visual and Performing Arts (CVPA) students working with College of Arts & Sciences (CAS) students and see CAS students working with science and engineering majors," said Marques. "This collaboration prepares you for the real world when you're working with people with different outlooks and goals."

"We can get people interested in robotics to also appreciate art and sculpture," added Neves. "We find so much interconnection between majors."

Honors College Student Council President and Vice President
Honors College President Fiona Marques '25, a psychology and studio arts major, and Vice President Leandro Neves '25, an electrical engineering major.

Honors Student Council hosts academic and social events

The Honors Student Council aims to host one social or academic event each month and holds many events in the Honors Annex located on the second level of the Claire T. Carney Library. The group of 23 members meets every Tuesday night.

Social events hosted by the group include fall apple picking and a hayride; a spooky night with a bonfire, pizza, and caramel apples; pumpkin painting; game nights; movie nights; and an upcoming first-time spring gala.

During Fall Foliage Week, Honors students enjoyed an outdoor walk at sunset. Before finals week for the fall semester, the Honors Student Council hosted a Trivia Night with games and prizes and a DEI event featuring the five major December holidays held in collaboration with the Society of Black Nurses. For Valentine’s Day, students will bring their valentine and enjoy making chocolate-dipped strawberries.

Academic events are also popular. A Study Night held before midterms is open to the entire university where students meet at the Grove to do homework and help each other study. At the APEX Advisory Night, advisors speak about their experiences mentoring Honors students for their senior projects. At another event, students work together on graduate school applications.

The Student Council partnered with Catholic Campus Ministry to sponsor a Giving Tree this Christmas. Tracy Le, community services director, is helping to organize student volunteer opportunities.

"I love being able to talk to other students. You don't have to stay in your major. You can find someone interested in the same thing you're interested in. We all collaborate. With the Student Council, we’re able to check in with each other. We get caught up. We can mold the Student Council around our academic work and classes. It's different from other organizations," said Marques, who is also involved in the Sculpture Club and the Dean’s Council for CVPA.

"We all definitely have something in common," added Neves, who serves on the Dean’s Advisory Council for the College of Engineering, is president of InSTEM, and secretary of the Robotics Club.

New networking and gala events are planned for this year

New upcoming events include an Alumni Networking Night in February, where Honors College alumni will be invited to speak with small groups of students about how the program benefitted them in pursuing graduate school and their careers and offer mentoring and career advice.

Shapiro said that this is already her favorite event. "It's such a great benefit and opportunity for our students. Projects like that demonstrate the council's support of their community members."

Instead of the traditional Six Flags trip, Honors College students voted to have a Hollywood-themed Masquerade Gala in April at the Allendale Country Club in Dartmouth.

Leadership training

Members also have an opportunity for leadership positions on the executive board or to lead committees for events, social media, and community service.

"There are a lot of opportunities to get involved. Getting involved and taking more responsibility helps in developing leadership. You also get to know other members and faculty as well," Neves said.

According to Shapiro, the college offers leadership training to Student Council members and will offer a leadership course for all Honors students beginning in Fall 2024.

Mentoring new students

The Honors Student Council is also where juniors and seniors can informally advise freshmen about college life.

"During the fall apple picking, I was able to gather around the fire and talk about the future fall semester with freshmen. That really helps to build a community," said Marques.

"It's where I got to know the e-board," said Neves. "It's one of my favorite events and it's really fun. We always have a lot of freshmen. The college gives them a soft start, a healthy community. We're not here to compete with each other. We're all here to support each other."