His desire to be pushed a little harder led him to enroll in Indiana University Kokomo's honors program, which he says will make him stand out when he looks for a job, and prepares him for whatever adversity he faces.
"It's brought a lot more challenges, but it's been worth it," Cicalo, who also in in ROTC, said. "It gave me an opportunity to go more in-depth in subjects that interest me, to branch out and learn more than I would normally. It's brought more challenges, but I overcame those challenges. It makes me feel more prepared to come up against other difficulties in life."
Cicalo, a psychology major from Galveston, will be among the dozen honors program students graduating in May. Nearly 60 students currently are enrolled in the program, which provides unique educational and cultural activities to high-achieving students, but also comes with more rigorous academic standards.
That kind of rigor is exactly what drew Danika Smith, a junior, to the program.
"I think college is about being pushed, and getting out of your comfort zone," she said. "Being in the honors program has provided me with those challenges. I wanted to take classes I could change, to better prepare me for my future. I was able to do that with my honors classes."
A hallmark of the program is the "H option," which allows participants to work with professors to make any class an honors class, by adding additional research or projects above what is required of the rest of the class.
Smith, a public policy major, completed one of her H options in a human resources management class, with a project similar to something she might do if she worked in that field. She updated the human resources handbook from her job, based on current employment law, and wrote a paper about the changes she suggested.
"That's something I could potentially be doing in the future, so it was beneficial to me," she said. "I feel like being in the honors program, I'm getting more out of my education. I'm gaining writing skills, communication skills, and research skills, and learning what a graduate class may be like, for when I continue my education."
The program is open to students with a grade point average of at least 3.3. In addition to the H option, honors students take two honors colloquium classes and present a research project at a conference.
"The honors students do individual work that really enhances the class, and makes it more challenging," said program Director Netty Provost. "It is a good way for students to work one-on-one with professors, and allows us to offer an honors program using the faculty we have."
The honors colloquiums also are an opportunity to take unique classes, such as Paul Cook's" Digital Culture and Its Discontents," talking about technology and digital culture. The class examines technology and digital culture "in a kind of foundational way," looking at how it has been a social and technological force, and its impact on the world.
Cook, assistant professor of English, jumped at the opportunity to teach the class, because of the freedom to develop a class on any topic he wanted.
"I want students to come out of this at the other end looking at the world a little differently," he said. "That is the goal of education. I try to make this class into a seminar, similar to a graduate level course. I want this to be a place where the students read beneath the surface of difficult literature, questioning ideas. Then, in our small class, with can go in-depth with the topic and share ideas, rather than just doing an overview, like in a survey class."
On this particular day, they talk about Martin Heidegger's "The Question Concerning Technology," which was written in the late 1940s to spread awareness about the steps people are taking towards modern technologies, and the dangers that come with it. Along with that text, they consider Joseph Schumpeter's concept of "creative destruction," or how one economic order rises from the destruction of another.
As part of the discussion, they talk about how the local automotive industry has been impacted by technology. Smith mentions how technology makes manufacturing easier, but fewer people are needed to do the jobs. She enjoys being able to apply what she reads during the discussions.
"He wants us to talk, rather than just being lectured at," she said. "That puts more responsibility on us. We have to learn the material to talk about it, not just come to class and take notes as he tells us about it."
Provost encourages all eligible students to take advantage of the program.
"In a world where a 4.0 G.P.A. might not get you noticed, having honors program on your resume or graduate school application gives you more credibility, and can make a difference."
The honors program is open to incoming students with a combined SAT score of 1100 or an ACT score of 24, GPA of 3.3 or higher, and ranked in the upper 20 percent of high school graduating class. Students who have completed 12 credit hours of regular course work at IU Kokomo with a GPA of 3.3 or higher also may apply.
For more information, go to iuk.edu/honors.
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.