Honors Forum
 

Honors Forum Annual Report
AY 2000 

The Honors Forum completed its second year of implementation of the curriculum and co-curricular planning in MAY 2000, during which a number of developments in curricular, administrative and policy areas occurred. In short, the HF focused on broadening the spectrum of course offerings, sharpening its public profile, enhancing support for student experiences in curricular and co-curricular venues, and adjusting to the steady growth of the program. At the conclusion of the academic year the Honors Council (HFC) faces a number of critical issues that will require attention during AY 2001.

CURRICULUM

Course Development

The HF witnessed a surge of interest among the faculty this past year in developing courses, and so the HFC fielded 31 courses (20 fall, 11 spring) in 15 disciplines, up from 16 courses in 13 disciplines in the HF’s initial year. Enrollments were solid but in some areas less than anticipated; clearly the HFC together with the teaching faculty need to make a more concerted effort to convey to the entire student body the benefits of enrolling in an HF course. In addition, the HF curriculum has not yet achieved a balance among academic divisions, lacking particularly in courses in the sciences. In fact, the HFC concluded that on the basis of numbers of students and interest in diverse curricular opportunities, the HF needs to field on average one course per discipline annually by the end of AY 2001; to that end the HFC met with approximately 20 faculty across the campus whom the Council targetted as likely participants in the program. At these roundtable discussions members of the Council worked with the faculty to identify mechanisms for identifying and developing HF courses – e.g., BU107, BI190; in other words, courses that appeal particularly to highly motivated first-year students. It is too early to tell if this strategy was effective, but the HFC remains concerned that the curriculum develop as broadly as possible.

Reconfiguration

As the faculty moved towards reconfiguration the HFC realized that what had been the preferred avenue for HF course development – the one-hour add-on – would now emerge as the preferred avenue for departmental course revisions. Accordingly, rather than elect to develop a 3-credit course into an HF 3+1 experience, faculty have chosen to develop 4-credit courses to meet departmental needs. Reduced enrollments in HF courses (typically, no more than 15-17) have also presented obstacles for those departments whose enrollment averages are substantially higher. These two forces have contributed to the slow development of courses in some disciplines in the arts, social and natural sciences. For example, the data from the 11 academic programs that reconfigured, supplied by Ann Henderson, sheds light on the problems the HF faces in recruiting courses.

ACADEMIC PROGRAM

PROJ. HF COURSES 2000/01

PROJ. HF COURSES 2001/2

American Studies

0

1

Anthropology

1

1

Economics

2

2

English

5

4

History

0

0

Mathematics

3

3

Philosophy

0

0

Psychology

0

0

Religious Studies

0

0

Social Work

1

1

Sociology

0

2

Four of these programs have not folded the Honors Forum into their long-range planning; the HFC hopes to work with the faculty teaching in these programs during AY 2001 to develop possible HF courses.

To date, 15 academic programs have contributed to the Forum. These are outlined below:

ACADEMIC PROGRAM

HF COURSES 1998/9

HF COURSES 1999/2000

Art (History)

2

3

Art (Studio)

1

1

Chemistry

1

1

Classics

1

1

Economics

1

0

Education

0

1

English

2

8

FLL

2

1

Geology

1

1

History

0

1

Liberal Studies

3

3

Mathematics

2

4

Philosophy

1

1

Physics

1

1

Sociology

1

0

The HFC hopes to enlist HF courses from the following academic programs that have not yet participated in the program: Asian Studies, Biology, Business (will contribute 1 course 2000/01), Computer Science, Dance (1 course 2000/01), Exercise Science, Government, Music, Psychology, Theater, Women’s Studies. The HFC will explore establishing dialogues with CEPP, the Curriculum Committee and Academic Staff this coming year to address the obstacles departments face in contributing to the Honors Forum.

Study Abroad

The initial class of HF students entered their junior year, and a number of them chose avenues of study overseas. Among them, a few elected to pursue an HF project, which entailed submitting a project proposal to the HFC, identifying a Skidmore faculty member to serve as a mentor and reader, completing the course and submitting a final paper to the Skidmore faculty member and the HFC. This process worked smoothly for the most part, although there are still some kinks in the system. Students are not fully aware that they can craft an HF course while overseas; some programs are better suited to advanced, Honors work than others, and the HFC cannot always identify these programs in advance; the HFC relies considerably on the Skidmore faculty member’s appraisal of the work and is concerned that its role is to rubber stamp the final product. The Council will continue to address these issues as more HF students move into their junior year.
Assessment

The Council developed a number of assessment tools in 1998/9 to determine the strengths and weaknesses of the HF and continued to implement them this year. Students in HF courses fill out separate evaluations which are then collated and analyzed statistically (see attached graphs); the results indicate that the HF courses are largely very successful in meeting their goals of enriching the academic experience for highly motivated students. The courses also show improvement over last year’s attempts to extend the HF community beyond the classroom: students note increasingly that they engage their peers intellectually as a result of HF courses.

The Council also conducted open fora separately with HF faculty and HF students to gauge what issues need attention. Many of the curricular issues outlined above arose in the faculty forum, particularly the difficulty faculty face in pursuing HF course development in light of reconfiguration. The Council and the 30 faculty in attendance, with presentations from Mary Lynn and Linda Simon, also discussed the need to emphasize quality over quantity; that is, an HF course need not incorporate more material than a non-HF course, but a deeper and richer examination of course-related issues instead.

The discussion with the students focused on the building of community within the HF, and fashioning that community as inclusively as possible. Much of the discussion centered on the relationship between curricular and co-curricular activities; specifically, whether HF students should be required to attend certain or some number of HF events. The HFC has been reluctant to make events mandatory, although it did begin the year by outlining types of events (HF organized, HF co-sponsored, HF recommended) and urging the students to attend at least the HF organized lectures, performances, etc. Some students noted that, as Honors students, they are often over-committed to a broad spectrum of co-curricular activities in addition to their commitments to academics, and expressed concern that they might be penalized because of scheduling conflicts. Surprisingly, other students insisted that membership in the HF includes a commitment to the co-curricular program and that some minimal attendance should be mandatory. The HFC noted with some irony that the HF students, like the Council itself, could come to no resolution on this issue. Clearly, this requires further consideration.

ADMINISTRATIVE AND POLICY ISSUES

As the Forum continued to grow, approaching its maximum of 200-250 students (projected for AY 20001/2), a broad spectrum of issues arose that the HFC addressed. They included the following:

Respectfully submitted,
Michael Arnush
Director, Honors Forum
July 26, 2000

Honors Forum Council, 1999/2000

Michael Arnush, Classics; Chair
Susan Bender, Associate Dean of the Faculty
Phil Boshoff, English
Rebecca Burnham, Secretary
Katie Cella, '02, HF Representative
Ruth Copans, Acting Director, Scribner Library
Francesca Cichello, '02, HF Representative
Kim Helms, '00, Vice President, Periclean Honors Society
Tabitha Orthwein, Admissions (ex-officio)
Jon Ramsey, Dean of Studies
Amelia Rauser, Art and Art History
Anita Steigerwald, Dean of First-Year Students

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