While some SNC students are here to snowboard or play on sports teams, others are seriously committed to academics. These hard workers find their niche in the SNC Honors Program, where they can dig deeper in their studies, challenge themselves and show off their work.
“The program gives students who really want to focus on academics and research a chance to get together and share their research with their peers,” Honors program director Samantha Bankston said. “It’s for students who really take college seriously, and it provides them with the opportunity to work closely with faculty.”
Three SNC Honors Program participants presented their culminating work at the Honors Symposium March 23 in front of an audience of faculty and peers. The students were Jason Jencka, a finance and economics major; Jamie Wanzek, a new media journalism major; and Estefania Rivera Gonzalez, a double major in international studies and finance and economics. All three students are seniors.
Jencka spoke about his research on the flattening of the yield curve of U.S. Treasury securities. He presented information dating back to the post-Depression era that focused on issues surrounding each recessionary period.
“Considering that we are long into an economic recovery, have a fully valued stock market and jitters abound, it seemed like the proper time and place to look further into this issue,” Jencka said.
Bankston said that Jencka is a theoretical thinker when it comes to economics and business. “He likes to challenge dogma and raise questions that are often invisible, which is really welcoming to see in a student,” she said.
Estefania Rivera Gonzalez read an excerpt from her essay about immigration entitled Ni de Aquí, Ni de Allá, which translates as “not from here and not from there.”
“The title symbolizes how I belong in two cultures, my Mexican culture, my American culture, and neither of them at all,” Gonzalez said.
Her deeply emotional essay left many people in the audience with tear-stained faces. Gonzalez accompanied her personal narrative with research on current immigration statistics. She said that although she is typically business-oriented, she was inspired to write about her experience in coming to the United States after listening to Luis Alberto Urrea, a Mexican-American author, speak at a Writers in the Woods event at SNC.
Bankston characterized Gonzalez as a “very serious, diligent, brilliant student” who has “incredible emotional depth.”
Jamie Wanzek’s honors project was titled “Eagle’s Eye: A Journey with the First Amendment.” Wanzek spoke about why SNC’s campus newspaper is an important asset to the college community.
“The First Amendment, the most important part of our democracy, is under attack right now, whether it be fake news or our new administration turning its citizens against the press. But there is independent, real journalism happening on our campus,” she said.
Wanzek became the newspaper’s managing editor last fall after several semesters of writing and reporting stories. “Working at the paper has not only transformed my writing skills, editing skills and design skills, but it also transformed me into a different person,” she said, “a person who values the truth and values what is happening in her community.”
The next step for the students is a trip to the Western Regional Honors Conference, held this year at Southern Oregon University. The conference hosts all honors students west of the Rockies and “allows them to present together so they can see what other students and programs are doing, as well as giving them a place to talk to people with similar interests beyond our small community of scholars,” Bankston said.
SNC’s Honors Symposium happens every spring, typically at the end of March, and is open to students and the public. Eligibility requirements for the Honors Program include maintaining a 3.5 GPA and being willing to take on an increased workload.
“For anyone who is interested in being an academic, this is the way to do it—by joining the Honors Program and being able to develop these skills in a way that’s going to be greatly awarded,” Bankston said.