New director of the All-College Honors Program, Janet McNally, discusses hopes for the program

New director of the All-College Honors Program, Janet McNally, hopes to get more professors across the college to teach Honors class, so they can bring their passion to a group of students with diverse majors.

Associate professor of English and creative writing, Janet McNally, is the new director of the All-College Honors Program. (Janet McNally)

Due to the recent staff changes, the All-College Honors Program has a new director, Janet McNally, whose goal is to get more professors from across the college to teach in the Honors program so that they can bring their passion to a group of students with diverse majors.

McNally is an associate professor of English and creative writing who has taught many different Honors courses. 

“For me, my Honors classes allowed me to take some subjects I love — myths and fairy tales, rock & roll, American immigrant literature — and bring that to some of the most talented students at the college. I’d love to see even more Canisius professors getting the chance to do that,” McNally said.

The previous director, Dr. Bruce Dierenfield, said that he was asked to suggest possible candidates, but was otherwise not involved in the selection process.

Dierenfield agrees that the professors and the variety of classes offered is an essential part of the Honors program. 

“We do have the good fortune of retaining excellent faculty teaching stimulating courses in Honors, and that, after all, is the primary mission of the program, i.e. a high-quality education for highly motivated students in small classes. That critical part of Honors remains,” Dierenfield said.

Dierenfield mentioned he is still assisting McNally in several ways, which includes sharing information concerning the program, updating GriffAudits and providing insight on Honor thesis processes. Currently, Dierenfield is advising an Honors thesis student this semester as well as at least one more in the spring semester, in addition to his ongoing research and writing.

“Because of my long association with the Honors Program — the academic crown jewel of the college — I am happy to do all of these things,” Dierenfield said.

The college has asked the Honors program to look at curriculum, so students can expect some changes in the future, especially in the foundational courses. McNally would also like to focus more on social justice in the program because it is such an important part of Ignatian values and teaching.

 “One thing that’s good to know is that freshmen can apply to join the Honors Program after their first semester grades are in, so I’d welcome applications from interested freshmen,” McNally said.

McNally mentioned she cannot wait to see the current Honors students and get to know them better as the pandemic eases, which she hopes is soon.

Another goal is to continue to have as close-knit a community as Dierenfield did. McNally said that this is something that the Honors Program does well and that in ‘non-COVID times’ they have many fun events including speakers, meals, and activities. 

“I want Honors to be a home for diverse and motivated students from all majors and areas of the college. I’d like Honors to continue to strengthen our students’ relationships with one another and with the college as a whole,” McNally said.

McNally stated the thesis is an amazing accomplishment for undergrads and that the program already does a good job of offering a wide variety of courses. 

McNally was featured in The Griffin’s Griffashion column last year where she spoke of her interest in ethical fashion and vintage clothes. McNally is most proud of publishing three books, a collection of poetry and two novels, because she wanted to write books since she was little and it was cool for her to achieve that goal. 

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