Melissa Bissonette

Melissa Bissonette

Faculty, Full-Time @ 6/9/2005 10:44:50 AM

Honors trip to Holiday Public Market

Sunday morning 12/8.  Get a big of holiday shopping done, support local artisans, and take a much-needed study break!  The bus will leave from Ward Haffey steps at 9am, and return by 11:30.  So far, there’s plenty of room on the bus.  If you drive, meet us around 9:30 in “shed B” near the Wegmans demonstration kitchen and Santa for cocoa!

Mount Vernon Leadership Fellows Program 2020

The Mount Vernon Leadership Fellows Program is a highly selective six-week summer institute for rising college juniors (current college sophomores) offering unparalleled learning and networking opportunities at the home of America’s first president just outside our nation’s capital. The program offers a dynamic and stimulating leadership curriculum that encourages students to examine their personal strengths, identify areas for growth, and ultimately take action as a leader. In that spirit, these leadership lessons are taught within a framework highlighting the inspirational leadership model of George Washington. Fellows will gain key experience in the areas of character-based leadership, decision making, institution building, and more.

What you’ll do:

Each week students will meet with some of the nation’s top leaders, engage with the other Fellows on leadership styles and skills, and collaborate with their assigned mentor on their individual capstone projects which conclude the program. A great deal of time will be spent at the Mount Vernon Estate. The National Library for the Study of George Washington will provide much of the classroom setting, but there will be many times when we take advantage of the Washington, DC area with special tours of American institutions, meetings with national leaders, and special group experiences.

What’s included:

An all-inclusive fellowship is provided. Your travel, food, and lodging will all be covered. There will be some organized group meals and stipends for those meals on your own. Additionally, you will receive a $3000 stipend for participating in the program.


During the first week of the program, fellows live on the Estate, mere steps from the Mount Vernon Mansion. For the remainder of the program, accommodations are provided at a hotel in charming Old Town, Alexandria near shops, restaurants, and public transportation.


Applications must be submitted by the January 31st deadline, along with two letters of recommendation.

Apply here: 

For more information, please visit or contact

Featured Class: Through a Different Lens

Recently, students in Mara Ahmed’s Honors course watched Michael Winterbottom’s In This World, a documentary-style film that follows the arduous (and ultimately tragic) journey of two young men (Jamal is only 15) who risk everything and travel from a refugee camp in Pakistan to Iran, to Turkey, to Trieste in Italy to London. Some parts of their journey are more harrowing than others, but one that’s particularly unforgettable is the long voyage on board a ship (from Turkey to Italy) during which they are locked along with others in a dark, suffocating, metallic container. Most don’t make it out alive.

Professor Ahmed shared on Facebook some of the students’ observations:

They were surprised by the corruption of the bureaucracy (officials had to be bribed at every checkpoint), the cultural and linguistic mosaic they didn’t expect (sometimes w/i the same country), and the rationing of food in refugee camps (they said they felt nauseated by comparing it to how much food is wasted here in the US). They couldn’t believe that Jamal had such a good head on his shoulders at such a young age, yet they laughed at his jokes and his desire for the largest scoop of ice-cream – reminders that he was just a child after all. they talked about how billions are spent on wars against some of the most vulnerable people and they also connected the fate of the two boys they got to know in the film to 9/11 and america’s response to it.

They made some out-of-the box connections, e.g. to the underground railroad – how people have always taken risks, journeyed, and secretly crossed borders to escape oppression and make better, safer lives for themselves and their families. They noticed how Jamal and Enayat were welcomed by Kurdish villagers who helped them get to Turkey, and thought about the generosity of a people who don’t have sovereignty themselves, but will do everything they can to get someone else ‘home.’ Finally, they shared how refugees and immigrants (‘migrants’) are mostly invisibilized and how seeing them up close through the film moved them in unexpected ways.

We also read Warsan Shire’s poem ‘Home’ and Fady Joudah’s ‘Mimesis.’ Rather than ask them to write an analytical essay on the film, which is what we usually do, I asked them to write about one leg of Jamal’s journey in the first person, to tell me his thoughts and feelings but also details related to the situation he is caught in. I just read some of their responses and I’m blown away.

I feel like we’ve hooked into something here. Something profound.

Honors Advising for Spring 2020

This year we’re holding several advising sessions.  Anyone can attend any of them.

Friday 11/1, 4pm, Basil 118 (Humanities, Social Science, and Business majors should attend this one if they can.)

Tuesday, 11/5, Free period, Pioch 121 (Sciences and Math students should attend this one if they can.)

Education attend your content area.  Nursing attend any of them, or contact Dr. Dambaugh.

At these meetings you’ll learn about courses next spring, anticipated courses for next fall, travel options, and can get clarity on your requirements if you have questions.



This semester we (senior Eric Green and junior Allie Osterhoudt) are co-chairing the TEDxSJFC planning team.  All Honors students are welcome to join the team, to chair a subcommittee, and/or to help out on the day of the event. Our first planning meeting will be on Tuesday, September 24th, Free period in Basil 118.  Everyone is welcome, however much or little you’re able to offer.  If you’re interested but unable to make that meeting, or if you have any questions, contact Eric or Allie.

There are many things to get done in preparation for the event, but they say many hands make light work, so any help is appreciated! Your non-Honors friends are also welcome to participate. The event itself will take place on Friday January 24 from 5-9pm.

We welcome people with any of these interests or skills: Social media, Theater, Design, Organization, Technology, PR, Food, Sponsorships, Community Outreach…

People who are chairing committees can do so for Honors credit, but need to contact Dr. Bissonette about it ASAP.

Honors Advisory Board Faculty

School and Divisional Advisory:

  • Nursing: Dr. Lori Dambaugh
  • Education: Dr. Lucia Guarino
  • Pharmacy: Dr. David McCaffrey
  • Natural Sciences and Math: Dr. Jonelle Mattiacio and Dr. Ryan Gantner
  • Social Sciences: Dr. Lauren Kocman
  • Humanities: Dr. Rob Ruehl
  • Business: to come

Program Advisory:

  • Dr. Kristin Picardo, Center for Student Research & Creative Work
  • Dr. Tom Kim, Core Director and Associate Dean, A&S
  • Dr. Kimberly Chichester, Director of Science Scholars
  • Dr. Michelle Erklenz-Watts, Director of Academic Student Support
  • Terri Travaglini, Assistant Dean of Students
  • Kourtney Blackburn, Alumna, Access Services Librarian
  • Stacy Lederman. Director of Freshman Admissions