The past couple years have seen a decline in the number of Honors seminars offered, a fact that is making students in the Honors Program nervous about graduation. For this reason, Wittenberg has launched a pilot program for new honors opportunities.
The pilot program allows students to petition for a regular 200- or 300-level course to count as an honors seminar with the addition of an extra project. This project could take the form or a paper, a presentation, or a research design. Students participating in the pilot program met early in the semester with their professors and signed a contract agreeing to the work.
Dr. James Allan, interim director of the Honors Program, stated that this project is not simply extra work, “but more distinctive work, so maybe branching off of the subject matter and doing a particular project and one of the things we’re trying to figure out in the pilot is how that can be achieved.”
The review of the Honors Program was, in part, prompted by a drop in number of honors seminars that are offered to students. While two seminars were offered in the spring of 2013, only one was offered for each semester of the 2013-2014 school year. Allan insists that this program is not intended to replace Honors seminars, but to give students more options to fulfill the University Honors requirements. While he believes students should still be required to take at least one Honors seminar, the second requirement could be fulfilled by an extra project in an advanced level course, a study abroad experience, an internship, or community service.
“This isn’t intending to be a replacement for the seminars,” said Allan. “It’s about more flexibility and getting more mindful ways in which students can satisfy honor’s requirements.”
There are currently 15 or 16 students participating in the Honors Program. Junior Elizabeth Doll stated that she’s enjoyed participating in the pilot program because it’s allowed her to delve further into a class that she is already interested in.
“This definitely helps free up scheduling for Honors students,” said Doll. “I know friends who have had to drop the Honors Program because they knew they couldn’t fit the separate classes in. Now with the pilot program, it’s so much easier.”
Kailey Coulter, class of 2014, supports Allan’s involvement with students. Though technically part of the current program, she had to use a modified version of the pilot Honor’s Program in order to graduate with honors.
“I would say I support this shift in the Honors Program mainly because it allows for more flexibility,” said Coulter. “My busy schedule almost prevented me from completing the requirements, so it seems fair enough that students can take a 300 level course and do a little extra work.”
However, senior Kelsey Matson points out that her Honors seminars let her explore disciplines she probably wouldn’t have otherwise.
“Initially I was upset after hearing about the changes coming to the Honors Program on campus,” said Matson. “The most important aspect of the program is to pull students out of their comfort zone and for them to prove themselves as not only academics but as students versed in all aspects that make up the liberal arts education.”
Allan stated that there are currently two Honors seminars planned for the fall. While he hopes the new program will be ready to launch next semester, the revised program and Honors graduation requirements will require the review of faculty and committees.