Renaissance Scholars

The Renaissance Scholars is a selective honors program offered in the evenings and on the weekends at the Germantown campus and at the Takoma Park/Silver Spring campus.

About the Renaissance Scholars Program

Renaissance Scholars study with other highly motivated students who share their enthusiasm for learning and who bring a diversity of personal and professional experience to the classroom. Working with specially selected faculty in small seminar-style classes on stimulating interdisciplinary courses, students participate in an honors learning community that enriches and enlivens their academic experience. A variety of outside activities enhances the supportive environment of this learning community.

Admission to the Renaissance Scholarship Honors Program is selective.


To be eligible for Renaissance Scholars, you must: 

  • Faculty mentors and special advising
  • Internship opportunities and presentations at conferences: MCHC (March) and Beacon Conference (June)
  • Opportunity for an Honors Program (15 credits) designation & Renaissance (12-13 credits = 6 + 1 + 6) designation
  • Scholarships:
    • Fall scholarship of $191 for in-county tuition for Renaissance Scholars Honors Program Seminar (1 credit)
    • Spring scholarship of $994.80 or $1,160.60 for in-county tuition for Renaissance Scholars dyads (6 or 7 honors credits)
    • Renaissance scholars receive scholarships for the courses specified in the program. In addition, many other types of scholarships are available at MC. Honors faculty and counselors assist students in identifying and applying for appropriate scholarships and other financial assistance. 

More Benefits
Throughout students' participation in the Renaissance Scholars Honors Program, special counselors are available to help plan courses of study and help students make decisions about their educational goals. Honors faculty and counselors assist Renaissance Scholars in identifying and applying for appropriate scholarships and other financial assistance beyond that already provided for the courses specified in the program.
Most Renaissance Scholars honors courses are offered in the evening and/or on weekends. This allows working students to participate in an honors curriculum. Students may take the other courses necessary to fulfill their degree requirements at a time convenient to them either on campus or online.
This program promotes an academic experience that fosters personal growth, critical thinking, multicultural and interdisciplinary perspectives, and the development of community.  Membership in the Renaissance Scholars Honors Program includes numerous opportunities for social and intellectual experiences outside of the classroom. Students and faculty join one another for activities, such as theater events, museum visits, lectures, receptions, and dinners.  The interaction of students with faculty members is a significant component of the Renaissance Scholars Honors Program.
An exciting feature of the Renaissance Scholars Honors Program is the opportunity to receive Montgomery College credit while taking part in a study/travel program. In July 2013, Renaissance Scholars joined the Montgomery Scholars in a study/travel program at Warren Wilson College and in Asheville, North Carolina. Students studied the culture, music and history of this part of Appalachia. Note: The study/travel experience is dependent on funding availability.
Renaissance Scholars have been accepted at a variety of universities, including American University, Baylor University, Catholic University, College of William and Mary, Columbia University, and many others.
Faculty and Staff

Get to know the faculty and staff in the Renaissance Scholars Honors Program

Nancy Nyland
Nancy Nyland has been a librarian at the Germantown Campus since 2005, after coming to the Montgomery College Libraries in 1999. She earned a bachelor’s and master’s in music at Oberlin Conservatory and The Peabody Institute, respectively, and a master of library science at the University of Maryland - College Park. Her interest in the Renaissance Scholars stems from her own experiences as an honors student, and attending evening classes at Montgomery College as an adult student in math and computing. Ms. Nyland enjoys seeking out potential field trip experiences for the Scholars, and in 2010 participated in a Make It Happen Grant for the Scholars to take a field trip to Mt. Vernon and a Shakespeare play. She appreciates the educational value of travel, whether travel abroad, to Appalachia, or downtown to a museum, and enjoys sharing those experiences with the students.

Diane K. McDaniel
Associate Professor Diane K. McDaniel teaches geology and physical sciences at the Germantown Campus of Montgomery College, and has been teaching in the Renaissance Scholars Honors Program since 2006. She earned her BS in physical sciences (concentration in geology) at The University of Texas at San Antonio, and her MS and PhD in geochemistry at Stony Brook University, Long Island, New York. Although she is primarily a geoscientist, she is a natural scientist at heart, and thoroughly enjoys teaching physics, chemistry and meteorology as well as the occasional odd bit of ecology. Dr. McDaniel considers herself lucky that in her very first full-time semester at Montgomery College, she was introduced to the Renaissance Scholars (then known as the Millennium Scholars) Program. Teaching honors students can be a singularly fulfilling experience, especially when those students come from such a wealth of backgrounds as do Renaissance Scholars. There is an energy, companionship, and infectious interest that propels learning beyond the ordinary so that the classroom environment becomes rich, complex and interactive, allowing the intellects of both students and teachers to grow beyond the rote into synthesis, analysis, and true understanding.

Joan Naake
Joan Naake is a Professor of English at the Germantown campus and has been teaching in the Renaissance Scholars Honors Program since 2006. She earned an master’s of arts degree in English at Boston College in Massachusetts and has done additional graduate studies at the University of California at Davis, The George Washington University, the University of Maryland, American University, and Oxford University, England. Her background is in British and western literature; however, presently her readings and perspective have broadened to encompass our global society. In 2006, Professor Naake was recognized as the Maryland Professor of the Year. Professor Naake finds teaching in the Renaissance Scholars Honors Program to be a privilege and an honor. Teaching students who come from such diverse backgrounds and who are truly interested in investigating ideas and in sharpening their critical thinking skills is an extremely rewarding experience. Because the Renaissance Scholars courses are interdisciplinary, she has team taught literature with both sociology and psychology. Presently, she looks forward to team teaching with Professor Jennifer Haydel, where literature will be integrated with comparative politics and governments. Professor Naake loves learning from both the Renaissance Scholars students and the other faculty in the program; it is an extremely enriching environment. She finds great joy in seeing students transformed by their experience in the program, in assisting students to appreciate their great potential, and in helping students to navigate and explore their possibilities for transfer.

Mary-Paula Walsh
Mary-Paula Walsh is currently an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Criminal Justice at Rockville, and while most of her time is spent at the Rockville campus, she has been teaching in the Renaissance Scholars program since its inception at the Germantown campus.

Dr. Walsh received her graduate degrees in sociology (MA and PhD) from The Catholic University of American in Washington, DC and prior to her work in sociology, she received her MA in religious studies from CUA as well. Her major research interests focus on topics addressed in the sociological study of religion e.g., gender and religion, religion and violence, and the many functions of religion as a cultural force within societal development.

As already noted, Dr. Walsh has been teaching in the Renaissance Scholars program since its inception. Her initial work in the program focused on a dyad component (“Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion”), and following several offerings of this, she developed a series of one-credit seminars examining the social and historical aspects of both “The Sociology of Religion,” and “Religion in America.”

Presently, she teaches a one-credit seminar on “The Holocaust and Genocide,” which includes not only a survey of the Nazi Holocaust per se (together with a class trip to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC), but an introductory overview to the concept of genocide itself following Samantha Powel’s historical overview of the several genocides occurring in the 20th century.

Jennifer Haydel
Jennifer Haydel is an Associate Professor of Political Science and has served as Director of the Renaissance Scholars Honors Program. She earned her bachelor’s degree in integrated international studies at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois and earned her master’s degree in political science at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities. Although she teaches a wide variety of courses, she is particularly interested in the transnational study of conflict resolution and international law and the use of simulations and role-play in teaching political science.

Jennifer Haydel has found the experience of Renaissance Scholars to be transformative. Collaborating closely with faculty across disciplines and learning from a diverse and dedicated group of students pushes the boundaries of her teaching. As Pema Chodron has written, “My models were the people who stepped outside of the conventional mind and who could actually stop my mind and completely open it up and free it… My teachers have always pushed me over the cliff.” For Professor Haydel, the Renaissance Scholars students, faculty, and staff consistently challenge.

Michael Harding
Born in New York, but raised in Texas, Dr. Michael P. Harding holds a BA from the University of North Texas (1999), MA degrees in philosophy and politics from the University of Dallas (2004 and 2007). Writing on Nietzsche's political philosophy, he earned his PhD from the University of Dallas (2013). His research interests can broadly be described as the history of philosophy - especially Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Locke and Nietzsche, as well as the American Founders and Progressives. Lately, he has been reading contemporary European political philosophy. He has been teaching philosophy at Montgomery College since 2013. His hobbies include reading, playing music, and traveling. 

David Carter
David Carter began teaching at Montgomery College as an adjunct instructor in 1991. He became a member of the full-time art faculty in 2001. He has taught both studio and lecture courses, including a variety of topics in drawing, painting, design, color, digital art, and art history. David was an MC Smithsonian Faculty Fellow in 2012, and served as faculty in two MC Study-Abroad programs in Italy. Among other projects, in 2012 he directed selected students in the “Aesthetics of Math” – a semester-long project in which students produced a series of four large canvases depicting mathematical themes. Most of David’s time at MC has been on the Germantown campus where he served as department chair from 2009-2015 and currently functions as the art coordinator. Professor Carter joined the Renaissance Scholars program at Germantown in 2014. His own creative activities include painting, illustration, and photography.

Art Grinath
Art Grinath earned his PhD in economics at The University of Maryland, but his interest in economics really started as an undergrad at Randolph-Macon College in Virginia. Dr. Grinath's main reason for going to graduate school was to teach, but he took a detour after graduation, working for an economics consulting firm in DC (while also teaching part-time at Montgomery College). He finally achieved his goal of teaching full-time in 2007. Dr. Grinath's areas of expertise are in economic history and public finance, and his dissertation was on how the lovely C & O Canal bankrupted the State of Maryland. He has always believed that economics touches all aspects of our lives, which is why he admires the interdisciplinary approach taken by The Renaissance Scholars Program. In the spirit of the Renaissance, he is also learning to juggle.

Cheryl Tobler
Professor Cheryl Tobler teaches world music at all three Montgomery College campuses. She earned BMEd, BA and MA degrees in music and English at James Madison University. She completed her PhD in ethnomusicology from the University of Maryland, where she was a University Fellow. 

Her research areas include music tourism, identity, Korean and Celtic traditional music, and gypsy studies. She has presented her research at conferences throughout the United States and in England, Scotland, South Korea, and South Africa. In addition to performing Celtic and Appalachian music, she enjoys travelling and experiencing other cultures and their music first hand.

Professor Tobler finds teaching in the MC honors programs (both Montgomery Scholars and Renaissance Scholars) to be awarding and challenging. She particularly enjoys mentoring students and co-teaching with various colleagues.

Germantown: Fall 2017 Seminars


Option 1: HONR 110AE, CRN 24377, Art & Reason: Pathways to Meaning (Arts Distribution)
Every other Tuesday 7-8:50 p.m. (1 honors credit)
HS165 Professor Carter

Pathways to Meaning—Art and Reason: Is there meaning and value in human existence? This course will explore answers to this question through art and reason. Through reading, reflection, and discussion, this course will analyze and compare these two fundamental ways—aesthetic appreciation and rational understanding—of finding meaning and value in human existence. The textbook is the innovative narrative—Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

Option 2: HONR 110, CRN 26262, Plato’s Gorgias (Arts Distribution)
Wednesday, first seven weeks, 5:30 -7:20 p.m. (1 honors credit)
HS218 Professor Harding

Plato’s Gorgias is a dialogue between the philosopher Socrates, the rhetorician Gorgias, and his supporters Polus and Callicles. Justice, tyranny, rhetoric, demagoguery, politics, and the soul—these are the major topics, which prove to be strikingly relevant in a world where so much of our political activity is characterized as “spin” or mere rhetoric.

Option 3: HONR 114AC, CRN 24897, Transitional Justice (Behavioral & Social Sciences Distribution)
Thursday, first seven weeks,  5-6:50 p.m. (1 honors credit)
HS165 Professor Haydel

The Global Politics of Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation: This course will analyze the politics of overcoming legacies of genocide, war crimes, and violations of human rights in post-conflict societies. Case studies include South Africa, Cambodia, Iraq, Mozambique, Rwanda, Chile, the former Yugoslavia, and the United States.

Option 4: HONR 110, CRN 26765,  From Glen to Hollow: Musical Migration from Ireland and Scotland to the Appalachian Mountains (Arts Distribution) 
Thursday, first seven weeks, 6:00-7:50 p.m. (1 honors credit)
PK 153 Professor Tobler

This course will explore the movement, connection, cultures, and cross influences of Celtic traditional music of Ireland and Scotland with Old-Time and Bluegrass music from the Appalachian Mountains of the United States. Through listening examples, videos, lectures, and live performance, we will examine how the music of immigrants from Ireland and Scotland affected the development of Appalachian music.

Option 5: HONR 114AK, CRN 24008, The Holocaust (Behavioral & Social Sciences Distribution)
Tuesday, first seven weeks, 7-8:50 p.m. (1 honors credit)           
HS177 Professor Walsh

The Holocaust: This course examines the concept of genocide as adopted by the United Nations. It articulates it through a discussion of War and Genocide, Doris Bergen’s noted analysis of the Nazi Holocaust. Visit to USHMM is also included.

Germantown: Spring 2018 Courses


Dyad Option 1: POLI  211HC (CRN 32643) and ENGL 190HC (CRN 34464)
Tuesday & Thursday 5:00-7:40 p.m. (6 honors credits)

Comparative Politics combined with Introduction to Literature—Professors Haydel and Naake

Political Science 211HC: The course compares historical processes and current issues facing countries domestically and internationally. Selected countries from both the developed and developing worlds illustrate broader concepts and provide practice in comparative political analysis. (Behavioral & Social Sciences Distribution)

English 190HC: An introduction to the study of literary forms, including fiction, essays, poetry, and drama with an emphasis on understanding literature as an integral part of intellectual development. (Humanities Distribution)

Dyad Option 2: ECON 202HC (33544) and GEOL 101HC (33545 & 33546)
Monday & Wednesday 3:00-5:40 p.m. & Friday 3:00-5:40 p.m. (7 honors credits)

Principle of Economics combined with Physical Geology—Professors Grinath and McDaniel

Economics 202HC: The course covers microeconomic theory including supply and demand; demand and utility; analysis of costs and long-run supply; problems of agriculture; profit maximization; imperfect competition; theory of production; pricing of factor inputs; interest; international trade; and current economic problems, such as poverty, affluence, race, cities, and polluted environment. (Behavioral & Social Sciences Distribution)

Geology 101HC: A study of the physical aspects of Earth and how they relate to human society. Topics explored include earth materials and resources (minerals, mining), natural hazards (earthquakes, floods) and environmental geology (water, soils, energy, climate change). (Natural Science Distribution)

Dyad Option 3: ARTT 102HC (31133) and PHIL 101HC (32614)
Monday & Wednesday 5:00-7:40 p.m. (6 honors credits)

Two-Dimensional Design combined with Introduction to Philosophy—Professors Carter and Harding

Art 102HC: An introduction to the elements and principles of visual expression with an emphasis on two-dimensional form. Students will explore a wide range of conceptual approaches and media to develop critical visual thinking and the capacity to engage in creative problem solving. (Art Studio MW 3:30-5:00) (Arts Distribution)

Philosophy 101HC: Introduction to the philosophical analysis of the problem of knowledge, reality, and the good. Major philosophical attitudes of Western civilization are introduced. The basic themes and questions of the course are concerned with the nature and meaning of human existence. (Humanities Distribution)      

Takoma Park/Silver Spring: Fall 2017 Seminars


Interdisciplinary 1-credit seminars offered as follows:

Option 1: HONR 105AA, CRN 23494 – Scientific Inquiry
Meets alternate Wednesdays 7-9 p.m. (1 honors credit)
Professor Carole Wolin 

This seminar class explores how knowledge is acquired in science, the nature of “proof” and science, and concepts of experimental design(Science Distribution)

Option 2: HONR 110AB, CRN24828 – American Foreign Policy: Global Politics and Power in the “American Century”
Meets weekly on Tuesdays for half of semester, 7-9 p.m. (1 honors credit)
Professor Karl Smith

An examination of U.S. foreign policy in the 20th century to the present will be used to help students develop a better understanding of the concepts, terminology and methodology of the study of history and international relations. (Humanities Distribution)

Option 3: HONR 110AG, CRN 24428 – Outlaw American Dreams: The Hollywood Gangster Film
Meets weekly on Mondays for half of semester, 7-9 p.m. (1 honors credit)
Professor Joe Couch

This seminar traces the development of the gangster genre in Hollywood cinema, and, specifically the gangster film’s emphasis on the individual’s rise and fall in pursuit of a distorted view of the American dream whose path makes the gangster an outlaw in society. (Arts Distribution)

Takoma Park/Silver Spring: Spring 2018 Courses


A Core feature of the Renaissance Scholars Honors Program is the dyad concept. Dyads are paired courses that students take concurrently. Course combinations are selected to reflect the interdisciplinary nature of knowledge. Each dyad is taught by two faculty members who are present in the classroom for both courses. These dyads fulfill General Education Distribution Requirements. Renaissance Scholars take one dyad during the spring semester:

Dyad Option 1: SOCY 214HC and ENGL 202HC
Monday & Wednesday, 3:30-6:10  p.m. (6 honors credits)

Sociology of the Family combined with World Literature—Professors Vincent and Couch

Sociology 214HC: This course examines patterns and trends in family structures and family dynamics from a global perspective. Social and cultural variables that diversity families, as well as societal and global forces that impact families will be analyzed. (Behavioral & Social Sciences Distribution)

English 202HC: An introduction to world literature from the mid-17th century to the present, including oral traditions, poetry, fiction, the essay, and drama. (Humanities Distribution)

Dyad Option 2: ANTH 201HC and ENGL 190HC (CRNs: 36128 & 36129)
Tuesday & Thursday, 3:30-6:10 p.m. (6 honors credits)

Introduction to Sociocultural Anthropology combined with Introduction to Literature—Professors Prosser and Barnes

Anthropology 201HC: An exploration of fundamental anthropological concepts, methods, and theories used to investigate traditional and modern cultures. Emphasis is placed on the components of cultural systems and the investigation of the impact of globalization on changing cultures worldwide. (Behavioral & Social Sciences Distribution)

English 190HC: An introduction to the study of literary forms, including fiction, essays, poetry, and drama with an emphasis on understanding literature as an integral part of intellectual development. (Humanities Distribution)  

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What People are Saying
Attending the Renaissance Scholars Program at MC has provided me with advanced written, communication, and evidence-based skills that I need as a solid platform to commit myself to a future carrier in public health.
Fatemeh Tavakkoli
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