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Honors Community Represents Cutting Edge of Experiential Learning

December 19, 2022
Honors Community Story

York College of Pennsylvania is home to a thriving Honors Community composed of scholars with an array of interests. One factor brings them together: a drive to design extraordinary lives.

When Dr. Dominic DelliCarpini, Dean of the Center for Community Engagement and Executive Director of the Graham Center for Collaborative Innovation, was given the opportunity to build a new type of student experience, he started with a different formula for selecting students.

“Rather than just look at GPA and more traditional factors, I looked for students who were highly motivated to succeed in careers and had a clear sense of what they wanted to achieve in life,” he says. “I wanted what I called ‘makers and doers.’”


The first honors group to evolve out of this mindset was the Graham Collaborative Innovation Fellows.

“That is how what would be the Honors program began, in collaboration with Mr. Don Graham,” Dr. DelliCarpini says. “We both wanted to provide students with hands-on learning to supplement their classes.”

Matthew Sharrar ’23 (Newark, DE) is a Supply Chain Management Operations major with a minor in French. During his senior year in high school, he learned of the Graham Collaborative Innovation Fellows program at York College and was drawn to its entrepreneurial focus and opportunities to study abroad.

“I love traveling and wanted to see the world,” he says.

While the program afforded him the chance to study in France for a semester, he has gained so much more from being a Graham Fellow. Matthew helps lead the Student Academic Innovation Lab (SAIL), which brings together faculty members and students to innovate the ways faculty teach and students learn, using Human-Centered Design (a.k.a., Design Thinking) to facilitate collaboration.

Unbound, a student-led Design Thinking consultancy agency, grew out of SAIL. Matthew and other Honors Community members bring Design Thinking into the classroom and into the community, teaching the principles at nonprofits and schools.

In the summer of 2022, Matthew traveled to Greece with other Honors Community students. While there, they connected with a local university and taught Design Thinking to the students. The students developed a bond that Matthew hopes will remain strong as they explore new ways to collaborate.

“My favorite part of the whole program is the community that makes up the program,” he says.

At the heart of being a Graham Fellow is an entrepreneurial spirit.

“He [Dr. DelliCarpini] really brought that idea to a whole new meaning,” says Matthew. “You can start a business, or you can take those ideas and apply them to some of your projects, taking ownership, figuring out and problem solving in methodical and appropriate ways.”

Matthew hopes to use what he’s learned as a Graham Fellow in a career in green supply chain management.


A year after Dr. DelliCarpini founded the Graham Fellows program, York College initiated the Eisenhart Community Scholars. This was the first of a group of programs that would make up the Honors Community, including the Presidential Research Fellows, Gordon Leadership Scholars, DelliCarpini Community Arts Scholars, Hope Scholars, and STEM Scholars.

Eisenhart Scholars are students with a passion for serving their community. They receive an annual scholarship and commit to creating or joining in community service initiatives while forming partnerships throughout the local community.

Nursing major and Gerontology minor Khushi Iyer ’24 (Downingtown, PA) knew she wanted more out of her college experience than just earning a nursing degree. The Eisenhart focus on helping individuals and creating projects drew her in.

During her first year at York College, Khushi connected with Marketview Arts, a downtown gallery and studio space for students and local artists.

“Our mission was to bring the community together through the arts and collaboration by creating programs that have the ability to engage diverse backgrounds and perspectives,” she says.

Khushi worked on creating virtual events and exploring ways to draw visitors into the building to interact with the art. She helped organize visiting speaker events and dialogue-focused programming aimed at sparking conversations around various viewpoints. She also continues to serve on the executive board of Unbound.

Each year, Eisenhart Scholars can choose a community endeavor to start or be involved with. As Khushi has developed along her career path, she’s started to shift her focus to tying together her interests in nursing and working with the elder population to create opportunities for intergenerational relationships. She hopes to someday build an intergenerational bridge between the College community and local elders.

“If you need help,” she says, “the community is there for you.”


Presidential Research Fellows receive a four-year scholarship of full tuition and fees. As part of the scholarship, they design a research project that they develop throughout their undergraduate program.

Environmental Horticulture major Hannah Zinn ’25 (White Hall, MD) came to the Presidential Research Fellows program with a deep interest in research. Throughout high school, she worked on several projects exploring mental health and education issues.

“I love learning new things, just for the sake of it, whether I get graded on it or not,” she says.

While still early in her Presidential Research Fellows project, Hannah hopes to focus on the impact of plants on mental health and education in the classroom.

“I’m passionate about helping people find themselves through agriculture,” she says. “I found a sense of peace with myself through agriculture.”

For Hannah, the most rewarding aspect of being a Presidential Research Fellow has been the connections she’s made through the Honors Community. They have helped her overcome the pressure to perform at a certain level and be accepted as well as the intimidation one can feel when speaking with professors and community members.

“I really hope that other students can see that I’ve been very lucky to have this opportunity,” she says, “but I wouldn’t have been able [to have this opportunity] if I didn’t try and put myself out on a limb. You have to be kick-starting your future and yourself.”


The Gordon Leadership Scholars program is available to four students each year who are interested in learning about leadership through the lens of the Jewish culture.

Nursing major Talon Basiewicz ’24 (Cleveland, OH) strived to be a leader in his Jewish community throughout high school. He was involved at his synagogue.

As a Gordon Scholar, Talon became involved in Hillel, a Jewish campus organization open to all students that celebrates Jewish culture and traditions. He also performs community service, volunteering several hours each month. Talon hopes that while at York College he can bring new awareness to Hillel and encourage more students to come to its weekly meetings and special events.

“I love doing things instead of sitting and talking about doing things,” he says.

Being part of the Honors Community has been a highlight of Talon’s time at York College. The connections he’s made in the community, coupled with opportunities to have a voice on campus and express creative freedom in his leadership opportunities, continually inspire him to take the next step.

For Talon, travel opportunities also have been an important part of being in the Honors Community. In the summer of 2022, he traveled to Greece, and he plans to go to Poland in December.

Being a Gordon Scholar has helped him realize how impactful one person can be for the better.

“My voice matters,” he says. “I can make things happen. That’s a unique position to be in as a junior in college.”


While the Honors Community continues to evolve, the core elements remain in place. Community engagement begins on day one of a student’s first year. Every Honors Community member is focused on project-based learning and utilizing empathetic Design Thinking strategies to make a lasting impact on the community.

“We believe in experiential learning,” says Karin Swartz, Assistant Dean of the Center for Community Engagement. “We see the Honors Community as leaders in that effort.”

She encourages high school students looking to design an extraordinary future to consider applying for one of the many programs that are part of the York College Honors Community.

“The key,” she says, “is to take the opportunities that are available to you.”

“I hope everyone considers joining any of the Fellows or Scholars programs,” Matthew says. “It gives you a great foundation and network of support.” 

For more information and to apply, visit: https://admissions.ycp.edu/register/HonorsCommunity2023
Application deadline is February 01, 2023.