It’s An Honor

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.

Engaged Learning

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.

A Bokor with his “zombies.”

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.)

Service and Leadership

We take Ninja very seriously in the Honors Program.
We take Ninja very seriously in the Honors Program.

Dr. Nate doesn’t want Honors Scholars to simply be brainiacs; he wants us to also be well-rounded people by allowing us the opportunities to serve and lead on our campus. At the beginning of the semester, we have a “Welcome to Honors!” celebration to get to know the incoming freshmen and to hopefully allow them to feel more at ease with the transition to college. After devouring a few pizzas while introducing ourselves and our majors, we move outside to play some team-builders like Ninja. Every semester we (the students) come up with a unique project to take place on campus. We plan extracurricular activities and events through the Honors Student Association (HSA), which is a forum for all the members to come together since many of us don’t have common classes. This past fall, HSA hosted the “Color Wars”, which involved squirting each other with dyed water in order to tie-dye white t-shirts. HSA also put on the First Annual Halloween Thriller, where we played games and ate tons of home-made goodies in celebration of All Hallow’s Eve. We have a lot of fun just interacting with each other and talking about our other interests, like Star Trek, Harry Potter, and The Hunger Games, to name few.

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I love photography, and Honors gives me a chance to capture my friends in some great poses.

Because of the path my college career has taken, I’m not going to have the requisite 26 hours to finish the Honors Program and graduate as a “University Honors Scholar.” After this semester, I’ll have 20 hours of Honors courses, which allows me to graduate with Departmental Honors upon receiving my Bachelors. The thing is, being in the Honors Program and taking Honors classes has helped me be a better student and a more effective leader to my peers. For me, the significance of Honors doesn’t lay in the scholarships, or the housing, or the “Honors Scholar” title; because of Dr. Nate’s direction, the Honors program has given me the chance to grow intellectually as a scientist and to expand my mind by reconsidering theories and questioning “the truth” set forth by my professors, and that’s something for which I will forever be grateful.

If you have any questions about the Honors Program, check out the Honors Program page, leave me a comment, or email me! I would be glad to talk to you more about Honors and why you should apply to be an Honors Scholar. You can also check out the other Honors bloggers, Mallory, Alex, and Chelsea!

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Posted on January 14, 2014, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Always love Julie’s posts!

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