Honors Forum
 

HONORS FORUM ANNUAL REPORT  1998-1999

The Honors Forum completed its first year of operation this past academic year, offering courses, running a co-curricular program and taking steps to integrate the program into the College’s larger academic profile. In short, the Honors Forum had a successful first-year: the numbers of course offerings, and enrollments in courses from HF and non-HF students have met or exceeded expectations; the co-curricular program included broad segments of the Skidmore community; the Council shaped policies in coordination with various offices and departments in anticipation of the continuing growth of the program. Concurrently, the Honors Forum Council addressed wider curricular matters now facing Skidmore, specifically assessment and reconfiguration, and has sought to implement the former and prepare for the latter.

CURRICULUM

The HFC offered nine courses in F98, and over the academic year sent 24 courses to the Curriculum Committee for consideration, resulting in seven HF courses in S99, and 19 courses for Fall 1999. Academic departments represented over these three semesters include American Studies, Anthropology, Art, Art History, Chemistry, Classics, Economics, Education, English (including the development of Expository Writing-Honors), Foreign Languages, Geology, History, Liberal Studies, Mathematics, Philosophy, Physics and Sociology. Two workshops (May 1998 and May 1999) included over 40 faculty total working on curricular development, and the HFC hopes to offer new courses in Art History, Dance, International Affairs, Liberal Studies, Music and Religion by 2000/2001. Two courses endorsed by the HFC did not receive CC approval: FS203 and BI190. Both are currently 4-credit courses and were proposed as 5-credit courses (4+1 Honors cr.). The CC and the Dean’s office have counselled that the faculty proposers reconsider these courses in light of reconfiguration and opt instead for offering one section as Honors; the HFC supports this approach and is working with the departments in question to restructure the proposals.

In anticipation of the academic interests and needs of members of the HF class of 2001, the HFC:

CO-CURRICULAR PROGRAM

The HF students also instituted an informal biweekly discussion series for members of the Forum:

Through a series of HF committees with faculty/administrative guidance, HF members also published the first issue of the Honors Forum Newsletter, instituted plans for an HF webpage, worked with Alumni Affairs to develop alumni events for AY 1999/2000, planned and organized the spring induction dinner and lectures, staffed tables at prospective and accepted candidates days, participated in the Adams and Hathorn Honors House co-curricular events, and held a variety of HF social events that helped build a sense of community within the Forum.

The HFC and numerous HF students contributed to the planning, management and implementation of the College’s first Academic Festival, in conjunction with the Periclean Honor Society.

POLICY

Throughout the course of the year the HFC consulted with the following committees and administrative departments: Academic Staff, Admissions, Alumni Affairs, Budget, CEPP Subcommittee on Standards and Expectations, College Relations, Dean of the Faculty, Dean of First-Year Students, Dean of Studies, Expository Writing Board, Registrar, Residential Life, Special Programs. Policies resulted on overseas study, curricular and co-curricular programming and planning, the Honors Forum lounge, and admissions (attraction and retention). Some specifics:

As the class of 2001 moves into the junior year, the HFC will need to consider the Honors experience in the major (hence the proposal for an HF371/2) and the creation of portfolios by HF members. The HFC will also consider increasing opportunities for HF members to present the results of their research, not only in the Academic Festival but in HF venues as well.

ASSESSMENT

The HFC has begun to collect data on attraction, retention and enrollment of students in the program, and quantitative and qualitative data on the specific HF courses. With the assistance of Fran Hoffmann, the HFC developed student evaluation mechanisms of the courses, self-reporting activity records and self-assessment forms. Some preliminary results:

RECONFIGURATION

Reconfiguration has two potential impacts on the HF:

The HFC needs to work with the faculty, vis à vis Academic Staff, HF workshops, perhaps a pedagogy session, to distinguish between four credit courses and Honors courses (regardless of the number of credits). Single sections of 3-4 credits, 1-cr. add-ons and 1-cr. stand-alones, and sections of multiple-section courses will all remain available to faculty to develop as Honors. For the faculty and the HFC, the primary issue of concern will be to articulate what precisely constitutes an Honors course – work, and engagement, at a more sophisticated level, rather than more work in or outside of the classroom. With this guideline in mind, the HFC will seek to coordinate with the faculty HF course development and conversion during the coming academic year.

The more complicated issue logistically will be to arrive at the appropriate number of courses needed to field a robust and successful program. The initial target was approximately six courses/semester; we have clearly expanded well beyond that target, largely due to the enthusiasm of the faculty and students. Have we diluted the program by offering 19 courses for 130 students? If all were to enroll in an HF course this fall, then HF students would comprise approximately 40% of the enrollment per course, which would more than meet our goal of a "critical mass." Selecting the right mix of courses at the introductory and intermediate levels, across the spectrum of disciplines, as the program continues to expand from the current 130 to the anticipated 250 students by the spring of 2001, has proven to be a challenge for the HFC, and we will monitor closely enrollment trends and student needs and interests during the coming academic year. Roughly speaking, with the exception of some cross-disciplinary (Expository Writing) or interdisciplinary (Liberal Studies) program HF courses, each academic department or program should anticipate offering at least one 100- or 200-level HF course annually. Liberal Studies and those programs with large numbers of majors should probably expect to offer two courses/year; we will need between four and six EN105H courses annually. The HFC and the Dean of the Faculty will need to provide the necessary leadership and guidance to ensure the continuing success of the Honors Forum along these lines. 

Respectfully submitted,
Michael Arnush
Director, Honors Forum
June 30, 1999

Members of the Honors Forum Council, 1998/9:
Michael Arnush, Classics (chair)
Susan Bender, Associate Dean of the Faculty (fall)/Fran Hoffmann (spring)
Phil Boshoff, English
Steve Hofmann, Government (fall)/Rory McVeigh, Sociology (spring)
Allison Kupfer, ’00 (fall)/Catherine Cella, ’01 (spring)
Emily Levy, ’99
Chris McGrath, ’99, Vice-President, Periclean Honor Society
Jon Ramsey, Dean of Studies
Amelia Rauser, Art History
Anita Steigerwald, Dean of First-Year Students
Amelia Clarke, Secretary

Members of the Honors Forum Council, 1999/2000:
Michael Arnush, Classics (chair)
Alta Boover, ’00, President, Periclean Honor Society
Susan Bender, Associate Dean of the Faculty
Phil Boshoff, English
Catherine Cella, ’01
Ruth Copans, Acting Director, Scribner Library
Susan Kur, ’01
Jon Ramsey, Dean of Studies
Amelia Rauser, Art History
Anita Steigerwald, Dean of First-Year Students
Rebecca Burnham, Secretary

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