In small Honors seminars and through Honors projects students get to work closely with faculty to deepen and enhance their knowledge, and form learning partnerships with faculty that will last through the college years and beyond.
The Honors Program was created in 2004 with several goals in mind: To give ambitious and successful students more opportunities for challenge and leadership in the classroom; to assure they get to know other equally academically ambitious and curious students, so they can be a resource for each other; and to provide mentorship opportunities for students and faculty. This Fall 2012 semester serves as a good example of how the program structures these goals.
The focus of this past fall’s Honors curriculum was the environment. Thirty-three incoming first-year students took Bryan Brophy-Baermann’s Introduction to Political Science course linked with Rob Wauhkonen’s English Composition course. The theme for Professor Wauhkonen’s course was the environment, so the content linked around policy and policy-setting for environmental issues.
This served several important functions, including the creation of a community by putting students into two classes together, where they got to know classmates who are similarly academically ambitious and could model the transfer of knowledge between one subject matter and another, which amplifies the learning.“The Honors students were bright, deeply conscientious, and eager to learn," reflected Wauhkonen. "The work was high caliber, absences were rare, late assignments infrequent. Bryan and I had done considerable planning to link our courses. We used a number of common readings and shared a focus on public policy and the environment. While the primary concern of my course was to make students better writers and critical thinkers, the secondary focus was to ‘broaden students’ understanding of the importance of nature in our lives through a variety of readings in the sciences, humanities, and social sciences. "Throughout the semester, students cross-referenced readings, themes, and ideas," he continued. "As Bryan and I had hoped, the linked nature of the courses promoted cross-fertilization, something students acknowledged and appreciated. One student noted in the course evaluations for my class that it had 'expanded [her] knowledge of the environment and writing.'” Her comment captures the broader intentions that Bryan and I had for our collaborative enterprise.”
Diving into EcopsychologyYet another successful Honors course the Lesley Honors program offered in Fall 2012 was Jeff Perrin’s Ecopsychology class.“We engaged in meaningful discussions about human interaction with nature," explained Professor Perrin. "We dissected psychological ideas of despair, alienation, loneliness within a broader ecospsychological framework. In addition, we grappled with assumptions regarding what constitutes a 'healthy' life.”Many students characterized the curriculum as “fascinating,” the reading as “dense, but enriching,” and praised the field experience “that brought the theory alive.”Creating Honors coursesOf the 33 first-year Honors students, 21 elected to take the Honors section of Writing and the Literary Arts that Christine Evans is teaching this semester, Spring 2013. In addition, six Honors students are enrolled in Brophy-Baermann's Honors-focused course on Terrorism.
About 40 Honors students every semester turn regular courses into Honors courses on the basis of a contract agreed upon by both the student and the faculty member. This option gives students the opportunity to find mentors who will guide them in even deeper study in areas of interest to them.
For example, a student in an education class is creating two lesson plans for students with autism on the basis of research on literacy differentiated instruction. Another student is preparing a study for a sociology class on how the Silver Line in Boston has affected the neighborhoods it runs through, particularly Roxbury; and a third is drawing up annotated bibliographies for three pieces of literature being read in an English class.
"Clearly students love the chance to work more closely with and get to know faculty better," said Christine Evans, "and the success of the program lies on the shoulders of our dedicated faculty."
The Program has sponsored discussion groups around “Occupy Boston,” facilitated by faculty members Neal Klein and Jan Wall sent students on outings every semester hosted by a faculty member (Oceanography Professor Cristin Ashmankas took an Honors group to see War Horse last semester); and held an Honors student/faculty dinner.
The Honors program admitted 21 new students at the beginning of the spring semester, one of whom framed the Lesley career in these terms:“My start at Lesley University has begun in such a way that I feel empowered and encouraged to apply myself 100 percent to my academics. I believe that this school has brought out the best in me. … I love to learn in many different forms. I push myself to gain knowledge and experience."Receiving the Honors Program invitation has been the encouragement I need to push myself in the right direction and produce the highest grades I am capable of achieving.”Another student wrote the following: “I became attracted to the fact that I could delve more deeply into subjects that interest and fascinate me with the guidance and supervision of the professor one-on-one. This allows me not only to increase the depth of my knowledge of the subject, but also to form a deeper relationship, and even possibly mentorship, with the faculty and learn from them.”We will make sure that what we offer meets their aspirations.
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