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Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Western honors program is making changes

Honors students have the option of living in the Honors Cluster, including Edens Hall. // Photo by Bryn Yasui
Honors students have the option of living in the Honors Cluster, including Edens Hall. // Photo by Bryn Yasui

Western is making additions to its Honors Program to make it more accessible to incoming freshman and to address the concerns of students experiencing overloaded course schedules and inapplicable course material within the program.

To graduate with honors, students are currently required to maintain a 3.5 GPA for their last 90 credits of university courses, as well as complete 34 credits of honors program classes. These are additional classes completed on top of a student’s major and minor requirements.

Sophomore Hannah Heyrich is currently enrolled in the honors program and plans on leaving the program in the upcoming quarter. Heyrich said if she was not required to take the additional honors courses, she would have more time to complete classes within her major.

“I have no room in my schedule for these honors classes, which is why I’m dropping,” Heyrich said.

The GPA requirements for graduation are a reason why she intends on leaving the program, Heyrich said.

“If you don’t end with at least a 3.5 GPA, even if you’ve taken all the classes, you don’t get honors,” Heyrich said. “I think that’s insane because you invest all that time, and then if you have a 3.4, no dice.”

Heyrich finds the English focus within an honors student’s first year to be unnecessary because it is against the wishes of students and it doesn’t tie in with their majors.

“I’ve really had to soul search on how to create an honors curriculum that meets their needs,”

Honors instructor Tristan Goldman

During their first year at Western, honors students are expected to complete three courses titled Major Cultural Traditions, which focus on the analysis and discussion of literature from specific time periods or regions.

“One of the worst problems is that freshman classes are set up to have people want to drop,” Heyrich said. “Most of the professors in honors teach them as literature classes, which most honors students have already done in AP English.”

Sophomore Alexander Saltzman joined the program with the assumption that it could put his foot in the door for graduate school. However, he doesn’t believe the benefit of the honors program outweighs his discontent.

During the past two quarters in the program, Saltzman has heard a variety of perspectives from his classmates who had different instructors. Saltzman noted that some of his classmates enjoyed their Honors 103 course while others, such as himself, did not because of the range of professors teaching the course.

“The program has to change or it’s going to die out,” Saltzman said. “People aren’t going to go into a class where they feel blind.”

Although students such as Heyrich and Saltzman believe they did not benefit from English focused courses for freshmen, Professor Scott Linneman said there are advantages to the honors classes.

Ultimately, students will need to write well in their desired major regardless and the small class sizes creates intimacy between the teacher and students, Linneman said.

Honors instructors such as Professors Linneman and Tristan Goldman are taking gradual steps to creating central and clear objectives for everyone in the program.

“If you don’t end with at least a 3.5 GPA, even if you’ve taken all the classes, you don’t get honors. I think that’s insane because you invest all that time, and then if you have a 3.4, no dice.”

Sophomore Hannah Heyrich

The honors faculty is on their way to redesigning the curriculum’s mission into something more transparent to them as well as to their students, Goldman said.

In fall of 2016, a new course called Honors 101 will be available to incoming freshman admitted into the program. Linneman said the class will cover the history of the Earth starting with the Big Bang to present day. Linneman hopes the new addition will create a greater sense of community for the students and excitement to embark into the program.

“[Linneman is] trying to make sure that all of the honors instructors are on the same page concerning what type of curriculum they’re creating,” Goldman said.

Goldman has been in the program since 2014 and teaches Honors 103, one of the required first year courses. Goldman noticed the majority of students in his last class were STEM majors.

“I’ve really had to soul search on how to create an honors curriculum that meets their needs,” Goldman said.

Goldman enjoys the latitude given to him for designing his curriculum to deliver the right skills to his students, such as writing and being able to make connections from texts.

“I think people should choose whether they want to be part of [the honors program] or not,” Linneman said. “The changes I have described that we’re implementing for next year are going to reduce that attrition.”

1 COMMENT

  1. I’d like to hear their suggestions on where the program should go and what else it should include. I’m in the honors program and don’t believe it as bad as it is made to seem in this article. Before getting into the program, it is pretty plain to see what it is going to be like. I’m not saying there shouldn’t be any change, but not much is suggested here. Also, I believe the freshmen sequence is essential. It creates bonding between students and faculty. Just because someone is doing STEM does not mean that they should be able to skip over studying literature and culture and discussing it. Also just because people were in AP English does not mean there isn’t great value in these classes.

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