Monthly Archives: January 2014
In addition to being a nerd (see this post), I’m also a huge band geek. Did you know that taking music lessons and playing in bands can increase your IQ? A recent study showed that the longer students take lessons, the higher their IQ score becomes. Band isn’t just helpful in making smarter people, though; band has also contributed to my success outside the classroom as well. I’ve benefited from playing music since I was in elementary school until now, where I play in LMU’s Concert, Pep, and Jazz Ensembles.
I’m very fortunate to come from a musical family. My parents aren’t career musicians, but growing up they played at church and some other functions just for fun. My dad is especially talented; even though he learned trombone as his main instrument, he can pick up just about any instrument and play it; he also enjoys arranging music for a “basement band” of friends that enjoy jazz. My mom grew up playing saxophone, and while she doesn’t play often now, I’ve gotten to inherit her old tenor sax for LMU’s Jazz Ensemble. My brother takes after my dad, playing trumpet and jazz guitar. When my whole family is together, we have some pretty interesting conversations about different types of jazz and some of the theory behind what the players are doing. I love that we all have something in common that we can talk about, even though our backgrounds in music may be different. Read the rest of this entry
You know by now that I’m a HUGE nerd (and if you don’t, check out this post). Sometimes, though, it’s hard to find people that share my passion for learning. In high school, I took over ten Honors and Advanced Placement (AP) classes, which I thoroughly enjoyed because of the increased depth of learning and quicker pace. When I came to LMU, I was apprehensive about getting the same intensity of learning that I was accustomed to; fortunately, the Honors Program was established in the middle of my freshman year and I was accepted to the first class of Honors Scholars. At the start of my sophomore year, Dr. Nathan Hilberg (aka Dr. Nate) came on as the Honors Program Director, and he’s done a fantastic job creating a society of passionate, knowledge-seeking Railsplitters. The LMU Honors Program gives me an academic learning community that allows me to become more engaged in my education by serving my community and being a leader on campus.
When most people think of “Honors”, they automatically assume that Honors classes require a lot more work and are extremely difficult. Not true! Honors classes are designed to increase critical reading and writing skills and include more thoughtful discussions between peers and professors. This is why I love Honors classes; we get to explore different avenues of thought and sometimes end up on a completely different topic because of these debates.
In order to be designated a University Honors Scholar upon graduation, students must complete 26 hours of Honors classes and present a thesis project in front of an academic panel. There are three types of Honors classes: HNRS, Departmental Honors, and Honors Contract. HNRS classes are the core Honors classes that only members of the Honors program can take. These classes include Honor’s Perspective, Meaning and Service, and the Junior and Senior Thesis, which culminates in the Senior Capstone, where scholars defend their research to their peers and professors. Departmental Honors classes are specific sections of regular classes, such as General Biology and World History, that any student can take. Classes usually involve writing more papers and fewer tests, which I really like because I get the opportunity to delve deeper into the material. We also have class discussions where we can expound on and question what we have learned. Honors Contract classes are regular classes (for instance, American Literature or Biochemistry) that the professor assigns additional reading and critical writing for the Honors scholar to mimic a Departmental Honors class. Honors Contract classes are great for students who join the program after completing many of the their general education courses and need to gain more Honors hours to meet the requirement.
This past semester, I took Biochemistry One as an Honors Contract course. There were a few reasons I decided to go this route; first, I knew that Biochemistry is a notoriously challenging class and that doing a little extra work every week on topics that we were discussing in class could only help me gain insight and clarification into the subject matter. Second, because I entered the Honors Program as a sophomore, I had already taken most of my General Education classes that would be available as Departmental Honors classes, like General Chemistry, World History, and General Biology, and I needed more Honors hours to be able to graduate as an Honors Scholar. I was very fortunate to have a professor that saw this as an opportunity for me to not only gain knowledge, but also to explore some fascinating and obscure topics. For instance, one assignment had me investigate the effects of and treatments for nerve gases (like Sarin) when we were talking about inhibitors and regulators of enzymes in lecture. Around Halloween, I explored an interesting phenomenon about Haitian zombies created by Bokors, or sorcerers. It turns out that after a drug (tetrodotoxin, if you’re interested) is administered to a person, they become zombie-like and able to easily be controlled as a slave to do the Bokor’s bidding. Fascinating! (At least to me, that is.)