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
- Renaissance Scholars Application Formnew window
- Participation in a community of scholars, both part-time and full-time students
- Summer Study/Travel Experience
- Faculty mentors and special advising; Cultural and social activities
- 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
- 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.
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
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.
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.
Joe Couch is a full-time professor in the Department of English at MC and a native to the Washington, DC, area. Helping his students to improve their writing skills in preparation for transfer to four-year institutions as well as for everyday applications to their professional growth is his professional passion.
A first-generation college student who has had to balance work and school from day one, he is living proof that the writing process really can make anyone into a solid writer with time, patience, and persistence. As a faculty member in Renaissance Scholars, he has taught dyads pairing World Literature II with psychology and sociology and Introduction to Literature with sociology. He also teaches the Renaissance Scholars seminar Outlaw American Dreams: The American Gangster Film. When not teaching, he often works on his own writing, and also enjoy plays, films, music, and art.
Professor Melissa Gouge teaches sociology at the Takoma Park/Silver Spring campus. She earned her BA at the University of Florida, her MA at American University in DC, and is in the process of completing her PhD at George Mason University in Fairfax, VA.
She is interested in transnational social movements, especially those led by agricultural laborers in the southeastern U.S. Ms. Gouge is also a volunteer field organizer and teaches from a grassroots social change oriented sociological perspective.
Professor Gouge is excited about the Renaissance Scholars program because dedicated young people like those in the program will be crucial to solving today’s complex social problems. Collaborative learning across disciplines and in cooperation with students makes a space where we can learn from one another to come up with solutions to these problems based in the systematic study of the world around us. She is teaching honors Social Problems and Issues as part of a Renaissance Scholars dyad.
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.
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 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 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.
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 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.
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.
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 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.
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.
M. Bess Vincent
M. Bess Vincent is an Associate Professor of Sociology, at the Takoma Park/Silver Spring campus. Dr. Vincent received her Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Arts from the Louisiana Scholars' College, nested in Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, Louisiana. She earned a Masters of Arts in Sociology and a Doctorate of Philosophy in Sociology from Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana. Her areas of specialization and research interests include crime and deviance and women and gender studies. She has published in peer-reviewed journals such as Deviant Behavior, Technology in Society, and Environmental Science and Policy. Currently, she teaches courses in Intro to Sociology, Sociology of Family, and Criminology. As a Renaissance Scholars faculty she has taught honors Sociology of the Family paired with World Literature.
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.
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 22534, Art & Reason: Pathways to Meaning
(Monday, 8/30-10/18-first seven weeks, 7-8:50 p.m.) (1 honors credit), 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 23467, Political Philosophy and Greek Tragedy
(Wednesday, 9/01-10/13--first seven weeks, 5:30 -7:20 p.m.) (1 honors credit), Professor Harding
Aristotle famously defines the human being as the rational animal, the political animal, and the animal capable of mimesis. This course will examine the way in which the tragic poets Sophocles and Aeschylus present our political and rational nature through their work. We will focus on the questions of human nature, virtue, and justice as they emerge through Sophocles' Theban plays and Aeschylus' Oresteia.
Option 3: HONR 114AG, CRN 23615, Transitional Justice
(Thursday, 9/2--10/14-first seven weeks, 4-5:50 p.m.) (1 honors credit), 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 101AC, CRN 22843, Musical Migration: From Ireland & Scotland to the
(Wednesday, 9/01—10/13--first seven weeks, 6:00-7:50 p.m.) (1 honors credit), Professor Tobler
This course explores the influences of Irish and Scottish Celtic music on the Old-Time and Bluegrass music of the Appalachian Mountains. To understand these musical migrations, we review the economics, politics, immigration, and religion of these cultures. 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. No textbook is required.
Option 5: HONR 114AK, CRN 22877, The Holocaust and Genocide
(Tuesday, 8/31-10/12--first seven weeks, 3:00-4:50 p.m.) (1 honors credit) , Professor Walsh
The Holocaust: This course examines the concept of genocide as adopted by the United Nations. It articulates genocide via a discussion of War and Genocide, Doris Bergen’s noted analysis of the Nazi Holocaust.
Option 6: HONR 101AD, CRN 23183, Culture and Identity in American Literature
(Tuesday 8/31-10/12-first seven weeks, 7-8:50 p.m. (1 honors credit) , 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.
Dyad Option 1
ANTH201HC (CRN 33035 ) & MUSC117HC (CRN 33036 ) (Monday & Wednesday 6:00-8:40 p.m.) (6 honors credits)
Sociocultural Anthropology combined with World Music—Professors Laufe and Tobler
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.
This course presents a survey of cross-cultural popular 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
POLI 211HC (CRN 31689 ) and ENGL202HC (CRN 33037 ) (Tuesday & Thursday 4:30-7:10 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.
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
BIOL105 &106 HC (CRN 34942 &34943) and COMM 108 HC (CRN 34944) (Mon. & Wed. & Fri (3:30—6:10 p.m.) (7 honors credits)
Environmental Biology combined with Human Communication—Professors Newtoff and Banks
Biology 105 &106HC
This course examines environmental problems facing society, including ecological principles, human population dynamics, energy sources, land and soil use, air pollution, water pollution, and endangered species.
This course covers communication theory and develops communication skills for personal and professional relationships in interpersonal, group, and public settings.
Dyad Option 4
ARTT102HC(CRN 30729) and PHIL101HC(CRN 31671)(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)
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 22132
(Meets alternate Wednesdays 7-9 p.m) (1 honors credit), Professor 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 global warmng.
Option 2: HONR110AB – American Foreign Policy: Global Politics and Power in the
“American Century”, CRN 24027
(Tuesdays for first half of semester, 7-9 p.m) (1 honors credit), Professor 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.
Option 3: HONR101AA – Literature, Art, and Mythology, CRN 22892
(Mondays for first half a semester, 7-9 p.m (1 honors credit), Professor 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*, CRNs 37253 & 35917
Monday & Wednesday, 3:30-6:15 p.m. (6 honors credits)
U.S. History 1865-Present combined with Women’s Studies—Professors Riedl 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**, CRNs 35612 & 35891
Tuesday &Thursday, 3:30-6:15 p.m. (6 honors credits)
Social Problems and Issues combined with Survey of American Literature II— 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.