“The honors program is a great way to meet mentors who can help as you move through college and beyond. ” Sarah (Hutter) WiltersonAlumna / Psychology/Neuroscience / Princeton University
CRC’s Honors program’s alumna and Sacramento native, Sarah (Hutter) Wilterson is a graduate student at Princeton University, where she is a Ph.D. candidate in psychology and neuroscience scheduled to defend her dissertation in 2021, embodying the spirit of inquiry she acquired while at CRC.
As Wilterson explains, “For me, CRC was so many things. I started taking my first classes on campus when I was about 14—homeschooled growing up, I was able to start enriching my education through courses like math by the time I was in high school. After this initial introduction to community college, I graduated [high school] and enrolled as a fulltime student at CRC studying in equine science, believe it or not. I originally intended to spend my life working with horses.”
Wilterson marvels at her transformation from a teenager pursuing supplemental advanced general education, to pursuing an associate’s degree in equine science, to her current passionate work as a psychology doctoral candidate at Princeton. This evolution, she says, was made possible largely by the flexibility and support she enjoyed as a student at CRC. When asked why she initially elected to explore Psychology, she answers:
“No great philosophical reason— I just wanted to take one of the courses. I ended up talking to a lot of people. My time in the honors program offered a group of dedicated mentors. Finding people who will support you is important. Really important. The Honors Program is a great way to meet mentors who can help as you move through college and beyond.” Looking back on her CRC experience as a whole, Wilterson adds, “Being involved in such a diverse range of programs over the course of so many stages of my academic and professional career, I truly feel I got the ‘full experience’ at CRC.”
Reflecting on some of the differences between life at Princeton and while at CRC, Wilterson notes that the CRC Honors Program’s, “Small classes, and material that professors are genuinely excited about, are great for exploring topics in the way that the experts wish you could.” In comparing her time at Princeton and CRC, she says “The experience is a bit like the difference between swimming laps and a water park: sure you enjoy swimming, but the water park is special.”
Speaking of the connection between her academic past and present, Wilterson says:
“We’ve just started our fall semester [at Princeton] and every new group of students makes me think of [CRC Honors Program faculty member Dr. Rick Schubert] as I strive to pass on the gift that [he] gave me. I teach a Research Methods Lab, and my favorite phrase this year is, ‘But why—who cares?’ The students seem to respond well to the challenge of that question.”
Still connecting on a regular basis with the academic orientation she developed while at CRC, Wilterson reaches back to concepts from her time at CRC to connect to her students at Princeton today—carrying forward the spirit of critical inquiry she internalized as a student in CRC’s Honors Program.
Schubert explains that there is a question he asked of Wilterson and her fellow students on a weekly basis in the Honors seminar she took with him while at CRC and still asks of his Honors students today. After requesting a summary of the reading and receiving a ready answer from his seminar students, he always follows up with “But why—who cares?”
His question is an invitation to Honors Program students to go beyond a surface understanding of the reading to a critical engagement with the material that leads students to do their own original work alongside the author of the material. The Honors Program at CRC invites students to think beyond the surface what to the why, transforming students from passive consumers of academic information to actively productive scholars in their own right.
Schubert explains how excited he is to see the impact this approach has on the academic progress and growth of students like Wilterson:
“I’m deeply gratified to know that Sarah is still carrying forward, and sharing with her own
students at Princeton, the spirit of critical inquiry that she acquired as a student in CRC’s Honors Program. That spirit is central to what our Honors Program is all about.”
He emphasizes that all interested CRC students are invited to apply to the Honors Program, which offers not only enhanced IGETC-satisfying General Education courses, but an array of co-curricular opportunities and support services. Honors students have the chance to attend and even to present at academic conferences and symposia, to participate in special field trips and social events, and to receive support from the program’s counseling and academic advising services.
Explaining how CRC acted as a vehicle for change for her and what she continues to gain as a CRC Honors alum, Wilterson says:
“CRC is a continued source of support and guidance. I only ever took one actual Psych class, during my time at Cosumnes, but I got the full experience. I got to talk to a lot of people I might not have met otherwise. I asked questions. Professors took the time to explain to me what each career path could look like. That made the biggest impact–to have people sit down and actually talk with me and together we outlined what I want my career path to look like.”
Wilterson is proud to count herself a member of the CRC family who continues to actively benefit from her robust educational experience at CRC and who continues to grow professionally with the support of her mentors at CRC.