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Monday September 16th 2019

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A New Honors Program is on the Horizon

by Maggie Ganley– As the current interdepartmental honors program fades away, plans for a future honors program are on the horizon.

The interdepartmental honors program currently offered is being phased out and all of the current students in the program will be taught out.

Recognizing the value in having an honors program available on campus, an ad hoc committee was formed last year to create ideas for a new honors program. The option that has generated the most interest is departmental honors that offers credit. As the tentative proposal is now, each department would be presented with the option to offer honors.

To join, students would need to meet at least three criteria. These are: a certain cumulative GPA, a certain GPA within the major, and the completion of a long-term project.  Individual departments could add additional requirements at their discretion.

This form of honors would allow people to go beyond what is currently required from their classes and complete a longer term project. Examples of this include a chemistry research project, a literary analysis, and so on, but the decision will ultimately depend on what departments decide to do.

Structuring a new honors program that incorporates the core ideas the committee has come up with puts Morningside more in line with what peer institutions offer as honors courses, and provides students the opportunity to further explore their major and/or get more involved.

“What we’re really looking for here is for students to get a really substantial experience from being in honors,” said Prof. Brian McFarland, one of the members of the ad hoc committee. “Not only getting course credit on a transcript, but getting a good idea of shouldering additional responsibility, exploring creative avenues that you might not get to explore otherwise, really getting different perspectives on things from incoming speakers and other people to guide activities and, as far as departmental honors, really gaining that next level of expertise and experience within your chosen field.”

Randy Campbell, another member on the committee, agreed. He said, “I’m glad that we’re going to have some kind of honors that students can take. I think honors in the discipline is an especially good idea because that allows students to really excel in an area they’re interested in.”

Departmental honors also has the possibility of including a seminar course that allows for group discussions or a split level class.

Although the current focus is departmental honors, faculty will consider a restructured interdepartmental honors program once the departmental honors program is in place. This could come as split level general education courses or projects that are not specific to a certain major or course.

The committee hopes to get faculty approval for a new honors program soon and implement it after students in the current honors program have graduated.

 

Current students respond
Students enrolled in the current honors program have heard little about the restructuring of the program, as much of it is still tentative.

Junior Rachel DeJong said, “I’ve heard a little about the restructuring, but no details.  I know they were considering whether to keep the interdepartmental structure or to shift to a more department-focused approach.  I personally support the interdepartmental approach because it brings more varied viewpoints into the discussion.  I, being a business major, see the world a little differently than an education major or a biology major.”

Rachel Arnts, an honors student graduating this spring, said, “I’ve heard stuff about it from fellow classmates. I recall Geoff Harkness mentioning it in my Honors class a year ago. I honestly don’t know how they’re changing anything. I’ve heard too many rumors so I don’t know what’s true and is actually going to happen. At one point I heard that the program was being completely cut off. Since I was told the changes would never affect me since I’m an upperclassmen, I haven’t been paying much attention to the issue lately.”

Hopefully once the faculty and committee have come to a full decision, the situation will be fully explained to students and they can see the benefits of what the new program has to offer.