July 19, 2007

Changes planned in University Honors Program

by Andrea Hahn

CARBONDALE, Ill. — For honors students and potential honors students at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, this is the year for decisions.

James Allen, interim program director, said that in the past, the University Honors Program was a "program of options." Beginning with the fall 2008 semester, he said, it will be a "program of engagement."

He wants to get the word out now so eligible current students and those coming in this fall will have the opportunity to sign up for the program under the 2007-08 rules if they prefer. When the fall 2008 semester begins, new rules will be in place.

The new rules are more challenging, but there are greater benefits as well. When the new rules kick in, honors students will have to maintain a 3.5 grade point average, rather than a 3.25. They will be required to take honors courses, preferably in lieu of lower-level Core Curriculum classes, as well as in their majors. An honors thesis or project, already a requirement, remains very much part of the program.

And what do the students get? Allen said there are perks that come with being part of University Honors – first choice of housing, advance class registration, extended check-out and other privileges at Morris Library, and special recognition at commencement and on the diploma.

Besides all that, though, there is the enhanced opportunity to do what top students come here to do – learn. Honors students will have honors courses to choose from that do two basic things – one, offer smaller class size than equivalent core classes and two, tackle issues and topics rather than broad overviews. Allen said the smaller class size facilitates discussion. Also, he noted, top achieving students who are in a class exclusively with other top achievers will be stimulated intellectually in a way not possible in a large lecture-hall setting. The honors courses put the honors students into advanced types of work earlier in their college careers, helping them to get the very most of their SIUC education.

Allen said professors are developing courses that should provide more opportunities for students to take more honors courses in their majors as well. Honors students also have more and better options for taking graduate courses as undergraduates and for taking independent studies with professors in their chosen fields. Building a mentoring relationship with a professor can help introduce a student to the academic, research or workforce community they hope to join.

This fall, honors students have eight honors courses to choose from, including five brand-new offerings. The courses include an overview of "sung theater," an examination of everyday life in the Third Reich, including readings from first-hand experiences, a study of the influences of "cabaret culture," and a focused study of Barack Obama's presidential run. Spring courses will include a look at the legend of King Arthur's Camelot, human interaction and communication, the "triumvirate of American Drama" – Miller, O'Neill and Williams, perceptions of Christian salvation and a philosophical look at "Confederate symbols and black reparations." These courses are only for University honors students and are not available in the general course list.

Students interested in enhancing their educational opportunities through the program should contact the University Honors Program office, located in Faner Hall, room 3341, or call 618/453-2824.