Honors Program

The Marist Honors Program is a vibrant academic community that attracts talented students from all majors. The Program’s mission is to foster the development of scholars, leaders, and global citizens. We strive to keep students academically challenged while building character, cultivating leadership skills, and emphasizing the importance of civic learning and global citizenship.

Honors Program students take seminar-style classes on important intellectual and social topics with Marist’s top faculty. A few of the many seminars offered include Moral Cognition, Hamilton the Musical, Technology and Ethics, Biological Warfare, Race in America, Biodiversity, and Why Nations Fail.

Undergraduate research is at the core of Marist’s Honors Program. All Honors students partner with faculty mentors to work on credit-bearing research projects in their major, or in an interdisciplinary field of interest. Students present their research to the campus community at our Senior Thesis Project Exhibit and Honors Research Forum, and many present their work at national and international conferences.

Honors students may choose to live together in Honors Housing over their four years at Marist, and participate each semester in a diverse range of academic, cultural, and social enrichment opportunities. The Honors experience at Marist transcends the traditional classroom and strives to challenge and engage students in deep and meaningful ways during their time at Marist College.

Ellie Petraccione ’20 knows that scientific research can be intimidating to non-scientists, and it can be hard for them to connect it to their own lives. Fortunately, Marist’s Honors Program has given her a platform help them make the connection, and she has devoted her Honors Thesis to translating her scientific research on the Hudson River into a digital format that can be readily understood by all. Petraccione hopes the result of her work will be more people taking action to protect the quality of life in the beautiful Hudson River Valley.

Petraccione applied to Marist’s Honor’s Program her sophomore year because she had heard good things. For example, the program is not just for liberal arts majors, and the senior thesis doesn’t have to be tied to one’s major. Says Petraccione, I loved the idea that the Honors Program focused on seminars and special projects. It’s more work, but there are so many opportunities for really high-level intellectual exploration.

As one of a relatively small number of science majors in the Honors Program, Petraccione is able to exchange perspectives with students from other academic disciplines and finds it a “really cool challenge” to communicate scientific research in a way that’s understandable to them. She adds, The interdisciplinary aspect of the Honors Program is so nice; I’ve met so many people I wouldn’t have met otherwise.

The Schenectady, New York native originally became familiar with Marist through lacrosse (she plays on the College’s Division I women’s team) and decided to attend because of her interest in the Physician Assistant program. However, her academic explorations soon led her to change her major from biology to environmental science. Former Honors Program Director James Snyder noticed Petraccione’s great interest in the environment, and he encouraged her to develop that interest further by pursuing an environmental science pathway.

Observes Snyder, “Ellie is not a straightforward science student, even though she excels in the classroom and the lab. She has consistently expressed an interest in deeply humanistic questions that resonate with some of the most pressing social and political challenges we face today.”

Petraccione’s research focuses on the Hudson River, in particular the harmful algal blooms and cyanobacteria that have been appearing there due to climate change. The Hudson contains a great deal of agricultural runoff, and bacteria thrives in this nutrient-rich environment, hurting water quality. Petraccione’s Honors Thesis, The Causes and Impacts of Harmful Algal Blooms in Our Local Waters, seeks to bring her research to life by transforming it into digital art.

Through photos, infographics, and bullet points, the project helps laypeople easily understand the problem of algal blooms on the Hudson River watershed and how it can affect their everyday lives. Among Petraccione’s findings: Research and education on the Hudson River could become more difficult. Children may not be able to fish or kayak in affected areas. Algal mats could interfere with reservoir operations, resulting in economic losses and increased taxes.