Improvements have been proposed to transform the Honors Program from a vague conglomeration of academics into a community of top Northwestern students who can work alongside one another to go beyond the expectations of NW.
The current program is loosely framed by three basic components:
•Honors seminars: team-taught courses in which topics vary according to semester
•Honors research: a substantial research project of 2−4 credits completed under the direction of a faculty advisor
•Extra-curricular activities: a banquet, a picnic and graduate school-related opportunities
Several problems, particularly with the honors seminars, exist within this program setup.
Seminar topics change each semester to create variety but fail to reach the diverse interests of those in the program.
On the other hand, because seminar class sizes are so small, underclassmen have a difficult time with enrollment. By the time members are finally able to register (typically as upperclassmen), their interests lie more in meeting their honors requirements than in the seminar topics themselves.
However, program directors Elizabeth Truesdell and John Vonder Bruegge are seeking to correct this with the new program changes.
In the new program, general education courses will have honors sections set aside for program members. A structured schedule will guide Honors Program students through the program and gradually prepare them for their honors research and final senior seminar as well as offer honors students exclusive travel opportunities throughout their college experience.
By implementing the suggested changes, Truesdell and Vonder Bruegge hope to give the program the structure and definition it has been lacking.
“(The current Honors Program) is vague just because of the poor nature of this program’s design,” Truesdell said.
According to Truesdell, the changes that will be implemented in the new program were the product of collaborated ideas and inventory of resources available and resources lacking.
One lacking resource is a large budget.
“Our budget is lousy,” said Dr. John Vonder Bruegge, Honors Program co-director. “The pay professors are given is very small. It’s not exactly a big incentive to put a seminar on top of their load. The faculty is doing it as an extra, so there’s a tendency to treat it as an extra.”
This situation presents a challenge.
“Trying to find professors to teach honors seminars is just ridiculous,” Truesdell said. “It’s like pulling teeth. And I don’t blame these people for not wanting to teach them,because they don’t get paid hardly anything. It’s like ‘Oh yeah, I’ll work extra for, uh, nothing.’”
The budget will still leave something to be desired, but the new program will eliminate some of these difficulties because honors coursework will work with — and not on top of — the professors’ normal teaching schedule.
By becoming part of the everyday curriculum, the Honors Program will be designed to express the ideals of NW’s mission statement:promoting “courageous and faithful learning.”