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Renaissance Scholars

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.

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.


Apply to Renaissance Scholarship Honors Program


To be eligible for Renaissance Scholars, you must: 

  • have a minimum  of 3.4 GPA
  • 12 college-level credits
  • an A or B in ENGL101, ENGL101A ,ENGL 102 or ENGL103
Online application

IMPORTANT: Please email Carole Wolin (Takoma Park/Silver Spring) or Joan Naake (Germantown) after you have submitted your application to confirm that the application has been received. Thank you!

  • Participation in stimulating interdisciplinary courses & in a community of scholars, both part-time and full-time students.
  • Summer Study/Travel; Internships: Library of Congress, Johns Hopkins Collaboratory, Critical Language Scholarship, etc.
  • Faculty mentors, special advising, and transfer workshops; Cultural and social activities.
  • Opportunities for transfer scholarships: Jack Kent Cooke, Frederick Douglass, and other scholarship opportunities.
  • Presentations at Conferences: MCHC (March) and Beacon Conference (June).
  • Opportunity for an Honors Program (15 credits) designation; Phi Theta Kappa International Honors Society.
  • Fall scholarship of $201 for in-county tuition for Renaissance Scholars Honors Program Seminar (1 honors credit).
  • Spring scholarship of $1,064.40 or $1,241.80 for in-county tuition for Renaissance Scholars dyads (6 or 7 honors credits).



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.

Flexible Scheduling

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.

Learning Community

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.

Transfer Opportunities

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

Cinder Cooper Barnes
Professor Cinder Cooper Barnes teaches credit level English at the Takoma Park/Silver Spring Campus. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree in English at the University of South Carolina and Master’s Degree at Northern Illinois University, and has extensive experience in higher education. Her interest areas include African American and women’s literature. As a faculty in the Renaissance Scholars she teaches honors Introduction to Literature paired with anthropology as well as with Social Problems and Issues. Professor Barnes also has experience working with international student populations and traveling abroad personally and as a representative of MC. In addition, Professor Cooper Barnes is an active participant in various MC initiatives, work groups, and committees; and has been awarded with a National Institute of Staff and Organizational Development (NISOD) Excellence Award and MC’s Outstanding Faculty Service Award. In her spare time, Professor Cooper Barnes enjoys reading science fiction, traveling, and spending time with her family.

Andree Betancourt

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.

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.  

Jennifer Haydel
Jennifer Haydel is the Acting Department Chair of Humanities at Germantown Campus. Professor Haydel 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 LeBlanc
Michael LeBlanc is a Professor of English at the Takoma Park/Silver Spring campus of Montgomery College where he teaches fiction, literature, and composition. He is Editor-In-Chief for The Sligo Journal of Arts and Letters, English 101 Coordinator for the Takoma Park campus, and Associate Editor for The Potomac Review. He has a Ph.D. in Modern American Literature from University of California, Riverside, a Master of Arts in Fiction Writing from Florida State University, and two Bachelor’s Degrees cum laude in English and Psychology from University of Florida. He has taught in the Renaissance Scholars Program since 2012. The courses he has taught in the program include English 211HC, Survey of American Literature II, and English 235HC, Film and Literature. He has also taught one of the Renaissance Scholars seminars focused on the urban streets.

Kelly Livernoche

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.

Karl T. Smith
Professor Karl Smith completed his undergraduate studies at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. He has a MA in political science with a specialization in international relations from Northeastern University and an MA in ESL from Simmons College in Boston. He has taught ESL and EFL courses in Mexico, Switzerland, Macau, and Boston and has also taught developmental writing, sociology, and a variety of history and political science courses at community colleges since 1996.

Professor Smith became a member of the Montgomery College faculty in 2004 where he teaches political science and history. He has taught honors American history as well as political ideology as part of Renaissance Scholars dyads along with an honors seminar on American foreign policy for the Renaissance Scholars Program. He also attended the Cambridge Summer Seminar with Renaissance Scholars at the University of Cambridge in 2007. He has participated in study abroad activities in Peru, Cuba, and Ethiopia. Furthermore, he was a member of the Montgomery County delegation that traveled to Morazan, El Salvador for the Sister City Project in 2011, and traveled to China in 2013 as a part of the MC delegation to China for the Sister City Project in Xian. He was a Smithsonian Faculty Fellow in 2010, and was awarded a Globalizing the Humanities Fellowship in 2015.  In 2015 he received an award for Outstanding Faculty.

From 2007-2014 he was the co-chair of the Social Sciences Department at the Takoma Park/Silver Spring campus. He is currently the coordinator for Jefferson Cafes at the TP/SS Campus.

Deborah Taylor
Deborah Taylor has been a Professor of English, Women’s Studies, and Global Humanities at the Takoma Park/Silver Spring campus since 2003. 

She earned a Bachelor’s degree in Women’s Studies and History at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine. After many years of teaching at University of Maryland, she earned her PhD in English in 2007. Montgomery College was and still is her “dream” job.  She tries to weave topics associated with her dissertation – Women Writing Dystopias – into her composition and literature class.   

She is excited to be working with the Renaissance Scholars program; she’s happy to report that working across disciplines makes her entirely (too) happy. She teaches honors Women’s Studies paired with International Relations as part of the Renaissance Scholars Program.

She loves to travel, to see and do new things, to walk her dog, and to bike; she hopes that some of these interests will intersect with her work with Renaissance Scholars.

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.

Carole Wolin
Carole Wolin is the Director of the Renaissance Scholars at the TP/SS campus as well as a Professor of Biology. She has a B.A. from Reed College in biology, an M.S. from the University of Texas at Austin and a Ph.D. from the University of California at Davis in Zoology with an emphasis in ecology. She has a passion for helping students develop their potential. As Director of the Renaissance Scholars she guides students through their path at Montgomery College and in the transfer process. She teaches a Renaissance Scholars seminar on Scientific Inquiry as well as the Renaissance Scholar’s summer study/travel course. She is very excited about learning that involves interdisciplinary connections. She loves working with the Renaissance Scholars because of their enthusiasm for learning, and their diverse perspectives and backgrounds. As a Professor of Biology she teaches and coordinates Human Anatomy and Physiology. Dr. Wolin has participated as a Smithsonian Faculty Fellow while at Montgomery College and she has been recognized with the Outstanding Faculty Award in 2006 and 2016 and the National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development Excellence Award in 2007 and 2017.

Seminars and Courses

Option 1: HONR 110AE, CRN 21937, Art & Reason: Pathways to Meaning
Monday, August 29-October 17 (first seven weeks), 7:00-8:50 pm, 1 honors credit
HS167, Professor Carter

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. Readings distributed: selected passages from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and other sources.

Option 2: HONR 110AL, CRN 22577, Political Philosophy and Greek Tragedy
Wednesday, August 31-October 12 (first seven weeks), 5:00-6:50 pm, 1 honors credit
HS167, Professor Harding

This course will focus on six Greek plays: the Oresteia by Aeschylus, and the Theban trilogy by Sophocles. These plays are part of the classical heritage of the world and are gripping and occasionally horrifying stories of murder, revenge, and divine retribution (one of them is also, arguably, the first detective story). The plays bring up some of the permanent questions of human life: What is justice? Do we possess free will? What is fate? Who are we obligated to – Family? City? The gods? What makes someone guilty?  …innocent? …  “heroic”? 

Option 3: HONR 114AG, CRN 23631, Counting Votes and Making Votes Count
Thursday, September 1, September 15, September 29, October 13, October 27, November 10, December 1, 4:00-5:50 pm, 1 honors credit
HS167, Professor Haydel

In this course, we will analyze and evaluate voting methods, voter turnout, and fundamental election structures (congressional apportionment, congressional redistricting, presidential primaries, and the Electoral College).

Option 4: HONR 101AD, CRN 22370, Culture and Identity in American Literature
Tuesday, August 30-October 11 (five seven weeks), 7:00-8:50 pm, 1 honors credit
HS167, Professor Prendergast

This course explores representations of culture and its connection to identity within literature.  Through reading literary works from diverse voices—Arthur Miller, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Emily Dickinson, etc.—we will analyze the ways in which writers can both influence and be influenced by how identity is depicted within their communities.

Option 5: HONR 101AE, CRN 24879, The Art of Mathematical Proof 
Thursday 9/1---12/15—2:00 -3:00 p.m.  (1 honors credit)
HT401, Professor Dong

We will explore the idea of mathematical proof.  What is a mathematical proof and why are proofs necessary? Can a mathematical proof be beautiful? Beginning with Aristotle’s ideas of logical deduction, we will study proofs by Euclid, Euler, Cantor, and others. We will also discuss what cannot be proven mathematically as proved by Godel.  Math pre-requisite: eligibility for college-level math, such MATH 120, 117, or 165.  

Option 6: HONR 105AG, CRN 24880, Wielding the Power of Dual Identity in Latinx Literature 
Thursday 9/1-10/13-first seven weeks, 3:00-4:50 p.m. (1 honors credit)
PK153,  Professor Leopardi

Latinx authors deal with not only an ever-evolving cultural landscape shifting between acceptance and rejection, but also an internal struggle with identity. That battle—being Latina/o/e/x—breeds emotionally fueled, culturally complex works of fiction. This course explores the impact dual identity has on storytelling through analyses of works by authors, such as Sandra Cisneros, Julia Alvarez, Junot Diaz, Patricia Engel, and Elizabeth Acevedo.

Dyad Option 1:  This dyad is offered in the structured remote format.       
ANTH201HC & MUSC117HC (Monday & Wednesday 6:00-8:40 p.m.) (6 honors credits)
Sociocultural Anthropology combined with World Music, Professors Laufe and Tobler

Anthropology 201HC: An exploration of fundamental anthropological concepts, methods, and theories, used to interpret 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.

Music 117HC: World Music presents a survey of cross-cultural popular world music and the traditional music that influenced it. The class will address social and cultural roles of the music and the factors influencing its development and dissemination.

Dyad Option 2:  This dyad is on campus.                        
POLI 211HC and ENGL202HC (Tuesday & Thursday 3:30-6:10 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.

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

Dyad Option 3: This dyad is on campus.
BIOL105/106 HC & COMM 108 HC ( Mon. & Wed. 3:30—6:10 p.m. BIOL106 Wed. 12:30-3:10 p.m.) –time tentative (7 honors credits)  
Environmental Biology combined with Human Communication, Professors Betancourt and Livernoche

Biology 105 &106HC: This course examines environmental problems confronting society, including ecological principles, human population dynamics, energy sources, land and soil use, air pollution, water pollution, and endangered species.

Communications 108HC: This course covers communication theory and develops communication skills for personal and professional relationships in interpersonal, group, and public settings.

Dyad Option 4: This dyad is on campus.                        
ARTT102HC  and PHIL101HC (Monday and Wednesday 3:00-7:10 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 5:45-7:10)

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.

Option 1: HONR 105AA - Scientific Inquiry (CRN 21626)
Meets alternate Wednesdays, 7:00-9:00 pm, CM214 (1 honors credit)    
Professor Carole Wolin

Explore how knowledge is acquired in science, the nature of “proof” in science, and concepts of experimental design.  These concepts will be applied to pressing issues such as the covid pandemic and sustainability.

Option 2: HONR114AA – Globalization Issues (CRN 23574)
Meets weekly on Tuesdays for first half of the semester, 7:00-9:00 pm, CM214 (1 honors credit) 
Professor Deborah Taylor

Explore globalization issues from the perspective of women.

Option 3: HONR101AA – Literature, Art, and Mythology (CRN 22173)
Meets weekly on Mondays for first half of the semester, 7:00-9:00 pm, CM214 (1 honors credit) 
Professor Esther Schwartz-McKinzie  

Heroes, tricksters and monsters! Join us as we take an intimate look, through literature and art, at mortals, monsters, and the gods who love them--and love to destroy them. 

Dyad Option 1: HIST201HC* and WMST101HC*
U.S. History 1865-Present combined with Women’s Studies
Monday & Wednesday, 3:30-6:15 pm, 6 honors credits
Professors Smith and Taylor

History 201HC: U.S. History 1865-Present. A study of American History from the end of the Civil War to the 21st century, including an examination of the roles of gender, race, ethnicity, class, and religion in American social, cultural, and political development. Students will consider contemporary political and social debates in the context of their historical antecedents. 

Women’s Studies 101HC: Women’s Studies. Interdisciplinary approach to the field of women’s studies which examines status, roles, contributions, and experiences of women in society.  Topics including social justice, women’s role in development, and roles of women in politics will be explored.  

Dyad Option 2: SOCY105HC* and ENGL212HC**
Social Problems and Issues combined with Survey of American Literature II
Tuesday &Thursday, 3:30-6:15 pm, 6 honors credits
Professors Kaya and Barnes

Sociology 105HC: Social Problems and Issues. An analysis of social problems such as social inequality with respect to race, class, gender, and economic status, urbanization, crime, demographic change, terrorism, and environmental issues.

English 212HC: Survey of American Literature II. A survey of American literature from the mid-19th century to the present, including fiction, essays, poetry, drama, and oral traditions with an emphasis on understanding literature as an integral part of intellectual development and understanding of social issues.


Joan Naake

Professor Joan Naake
20200 Observation Drive, Germantown, MD 20876

carole wolin

Professor Carole Wolin
7600 Takoma Avenue, Takoma Park, MD 20912

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What People are Saying
Renaissance Scholars strengthens your mind and character to rise in an unpredictable, boundless world.
Nirav Mehta