By Sean Callahan
Freshman students William Mallah, a physics major, and Nicholas Abegg, a cybersecurity major, are two of more than twenty first year students who applied to one of the five honors programs offered at Saint Vincent College. They are also two of thousands of first-year students who decided to attend college in person, despite the uncertainties that come with an on-campus education during the COVID-19 pandemic.
But after more than a month of residing at Saint Vincent College, Mallah and Abegg feel their worries have subsided. They attribute this decreasing worry to a strong sense of community among honors students and the new addition of the freshman honors pods.
At first Mallah was skeptical that the honors staff could help students get settled in.
“But now that we’re into it, they would love to do anything we suggest. So I think it’ll be even more than I thought it was,” he said.
Mallah said he treats going to college like a job. Similarly, Abegg finds purpose in the extra coursework and academics, which challenge him and keep him busy. And like Abegg, Mallah believes that the honors community is important to Saint Vincent.
“I didn’t expect it to be as community based,” Mallah said. “I thought it was going to be strictly the honors program does their stuff and the other programs do their own thing. But I’m surprised how kept together everyone is and how we’re doing all these big events together.”
According to the brochure of the Saint Vincent Honors Program, accessible on the Saint Vincent website, participating students in past years have been given opportunities to meet with several celebrities, including Joanne Rogers, wife of the late early learning pioneer Fred Rogers, as well as critically acclaimed science advocate Bill Nye (The Science Guy). Both Abegg and Mallah look forward to similar visits to come.
Fr. Brian Boosel, O.S.B., assistant professor of history, is the current monk-in-residence at Saint Benedict Hall. He has lived in the residence hall for three years, but this is his first year living in the new freshmen men’s honors pod. Boosel also serves as the director of the Honors Program.
“I told the students I am like the shepherd. I am not in charge of honors housing, but I am there to facilitate and to help whoever I can,” Boosel said.
Furthermore, Boosel explained that he wanted to carry out the vision of Saint Vincent’s president, Fr. Paul Taylor, O.S.B., in which all five honors programs are brought together in one community. For the freshmen participating in honors programs, that vision is accomplished through honors housing at Saint Benedict Hall, consisting of one pod for men and one for women.
“It’s breaking down unintentionally built walls. For example, only honors students did these activities and only Wimmer Scholars did this. Now those who’ve chosen to live together have found that they have so much in common,” Boosel said.
Mallah and Abegg have no doubt that the other honors freshmen agree.
“Everyone’s really surprised by all of Father Brian’s plans for the program and how we’re going to make [the honors community] a new thing at the college. I think everyone’s excited about the future of the program,” Abegg said.