My favorite show in the entire world returned last night–The Big Bang Theory! I missed the first few minutes because it started just as BCM Connect was finishing up, but I rushed back to my apartment and was able to catch the rest of the one-hour premiere. It was amazing, as always, but now I have to wait a whole week to see Sheldon and the gang again. *sigh*
Joining me in celebration of the nerds’ return were some of my friends from the University Honors Scholars Program. This is something that was introduced to the University during the spring of my freshman year, and in just two years it’s grown to include over thirty bright and eager young students. I found out about the Honors Program through an announcement on Pathway, the online portal where students can access their email and view class updates. The Honors Program was aimed at high school students that would be entering at the start of the fall semester, but current students who could complete the requirements in time were also encouraged to join. So I decided to give it a try. I had to fill out the program application, update my resume, and get a letter of recommendation from my favorite teacher in high school. Once my materials had been received, I was invited to an interview to officially compete for a spot in the program.
I arrived at the Business and Education Building on the Saturday of my interview and went through a whole day of tests and challenges to prove that I deserved this opportunity. After some opening remarks from Dr. Amiel Jarstfer, Dean of the School of Math and Sciences and Interim Director of the Honors Program at the time, we gathered in the computer lab for an hour-long writing sample session. We had each been assigned an interview time and location at the beginning of the day, and after lunch we were escorted to our proper places. My interview took place in the Tagge tutoring center, but others were held in the World of Wings Cafe and the Lincoln dining room next to the cafeteria. When my name was called, I entered the Tagge center and sat at a table across from three LMU faculty members, who asked me about everything from why I chose my major to what I thought had been the most significant moment of the past year. The day was over after the interview was complete, and they told me I would hear soon whether I had been accepted.
Just a few weeks later, I received an email from the Honors Council, a panel of faculty members that organizes the program, saying I had been chosen to become a University Honors Scholar! Even though I wouldn’t be starting any of the new coursework until the fall, I was invited, along with the other current students who had been chosen, to help tie up some loose ends before the start of the semester. Dr. Jarstfer opened up his home to us for a home-cooked meal and a brainstorming session about what we wanted to see happen in the program. A full-time director of the program was also a huge necessity, and we ate lunch with some of the potential candidates for the position. Over the summer it was announced that our leader would be Dr. Nathan Hilberg, who we’ve come to affectionately call “Dr. Nate.” He came to us from the highly renowned University of Pittsburgh Honors College, and he has brought some wonderful ideas to LMU’s new Honors Program. He teaches two of our required courses for the program as well as some courses in philosophy and religion.
So now that we have a few members and an awesome director, what is it exactly that we do in the program? Well, most importantly, we take part in an enhanced academic plan. We’re required to take a minimum of 26 credits of Honors Program-specific courses. Most of these are departmental classes that anyone can take, such as Honors Biology and Honors History, but we also have to take five courses specific to the program. HNRS 100, Honors Perspective & Skills, introduces us to college life and the basics of the Honors Program. HNRS 200 is called Meaning and Service in a Diverse World, and we read famous essays by popular critical thinking writers in order to discover our own personal thinking styles. HNRS 303 and 403 are devoted to our junior and senior thesis projects, and finally HNRS 497 is our capstone project, our final presentations before graduation that tell the student body what we’ve done in the Honors Program. We also have the option for contract courses, in which faculty members offer Honors students in non-Honors classes additional materials and challenges in exchange for Honors credit.
Of course, it’s not ALL about the work. College in general is about so much more than just going to class, and the Honors Program is no exception. We all spend time together outside of class and some of us even live together on campus. Like any other campus organization, we’re very devoted to giving back to the community. During our first semester together, we held a Halloween fundraiser with face-painting and a hayride, with the proceeds going to the CEASE shelter for domestic violence and assault. Pretty soon we will be putting on our first event for the entire campus–Color Wars, an action-packed tie-dye water gun competition!
I can say that becoming a University Honors Scholar is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I’m learning valuable life lessons and taking part in some tough classroom challenges, which will help me in the long run as I prepare for further studies in professional school. The people in the program have all been so wonderful. I’ve grown even closer to the friends I made freshman year who all joined the program, too, and the new crop of students that arrive each semester add even more fun and excitement to the group. I especially love that there is a wide range of diversity in our majors. People typically associate Honors students with math and science nerds, but we also have nursing majors like LMU Erica, as well as people who love broadcast communications, English, history, and elementary education.
If you are involved in your school’s honor society or take advanced classes, I encourage you to look into LMU’s Honors Scholars Program! You can read more about it on the LMU website, or email Dr. Nate at firstname.lastname@example.org.