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"Point Park's Honors Program has challenged my way of thinking and has expanded my mind with new ideas. I will be able to apply what I have learned to my everyday life and future career."

Natalea Hillen '24

Point Park University Honors Program students networked with honors students from across the country and explored ways to positively impact their communities through service and scholarship as they attended the 2023 Northeast Regional Honors Conference at Sheraton Station Square, a short walk from Point Park's Downtown Pittsburgh campus.

"Attending the NRHC Conference allows our students to network with students and faculty from other honors programs across the northeast region," said Jessica McCort, Ph.D., associate professor of composition and rhetoric and director of the Honors Program. "It also affords them the opportunity to share their research beyond Point Park, explore the conference cities through the NRHC's City as Text program, and gain experience in a wide variety of areas, including event planning."

Natalea Hillen '24, Point Park's Honors Student Organization president, was selected to serve on the NRHC Executive Board, through which she helped plan the conference's student gala, open mic night, trivia night, art gallery and professional development sessions; managed the NRHC's social media and more.

Read about the students' conference takeaways and Honors Program experiences below.  

Natalea Hillen '24

Major: Broadcasting
Minor: Marketing and sales
Hometown: McMurray, Pa.
High school: Peters Township High School
Dream job: Entertainment or sports show host

What did you enjoy about the conference? 

I enjoyed being a tourist in my own city. We went to the Fort Pitt Museum and learned about the history of Pittsburgh. I also enjoyed meeting other college students and professors from other institutions!

What are three things you love most about Point Park’s Honors Program?

  • I have a passion for leading and inspiring others, so I love how the Honors Program has given me so many opportunities to positively make a difference on campus and around the city.
  • I love how I have been able to meet and work with other honors students and our directors Dr. McCort and Dorene Ciletti. I have been able to build so many great friendships and relationships throughout the years.
  • Point Park's Honors Program has challenged my way of thinking and has expanded my mind with new ideas. I will be able to apply what I have learned to my everyday life and future career.

Why would you recommend Point Park to a prospective student?

There are so many great career opportunities available to students that you can’t get at any other university. The faculty and staff truly care about seeing each student succeed in whatever they do! At Point Park, you can start building your career in your freshman year instead of after you graduate. Professors have great connections that can connect you to further opportunities. 

Julianne Bailey '25

Pictured are AJ de la Cruz and Julianne Bailey. Submitted photo.
AJ de la Cruz and Julianne Bailey

MajorLegal studies
MinorPsychology, women's and gender studies
Hometown: Brookville, Pa.
High school: Brookville Area Jr./Sr. High School
Dream job: Civil rights attorney or district attorney

Describe your involvement with the conference and what you learned. 

I presented at a roundtable session, "Intersections of Criminal Justice: Prisons, Media, and Neighborhoods." I learned that sharing research and information that you've learned and are passionate about with other people can be so much fun. Being able to hear other perspectives on my topic, the impact of the true crime genre, was really enlightening. There is always so much that you don't know and can learn from others. I also attended my classmate AJ de la Cruz's panel and learned so much about literature! 

What are three things you love most about Point Park’s Honors Program? 

  • You can really customize your honors experience at Point Park. They offer certain honors sections of courses, but you can "honorize" any course you want, which really helps you tailor your experience.
  • I love how available our honors director is. Dr. McCort has been one of the best resources I've had while I was doing my research for this conference. She is always willing to meet with students and help them reach their full potential.
  • I love how close you can become with other honors students. Some of my best friends I have at Point Park came from my honors mentor group my freshman year. The honors program can really help you build friendships that will last a lifetime.

AJ de la Cruz '25

Major: Creative writing
Minor: Women’s and gender studies
Hometown: Bushkill, Pa.
High school: East Stroudsburg Area High School North
Dream job: Published author

What did you present at the conference?

My research was on the epistolary novel, the novel written in letter form, and how authors of color utilize this format to encourage the reader to engage with the text empathetically. I discussed how the publishing industry has yet to consistently recognize and market the talent of authors belonging to marginalized groups. I urged everyone to buy books from independent sellers and support lesser-known authors. This experience was unparalleled to any others I’ve had so far. I was surrounded by like-minded students advocating for others, and I liked being able to listen to those around me in such an engaging way.

What are three things you love most about Point Park’s Honors Program?

  • I love being able to personalize my education. In this way, I really feel like I made the best choice to go to school here.
  • I love engaging with my professors in a deeper manner. They encourage me to explore the unknown in the best way. This past semester, I have produced some of my best literary work, which would not have been possible without Dr. McCort championing for me to take it further and really dig into the material.
  • Under the tutelage of Dr. McCort, I have grown as a reader and writer, as well as an academic. She pushes her students and asks us questions that are difficult to answer. With her as our program director, there is a celebration of academia. Her passion for our program fuels my joy to be in it.

Learn more about the Honors Program in the stories linked below:

More About: student trips, School of Arts and Sciences, Downtown Pittsburgh, success story, Peters Township High School, School of Education, Honors Program, Conservatory of Performing Arts, Honors Student Organization, student presentations, School of Communication, Pittsburgh, faculty, Rowland School of Business