Skip to Main Content
Skidmore College
Honors Forum


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.


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:

  • received approval from the CC for a 200-level independent study sequence in Honors (HF271/2)

  • developed a protocol for overseas study in Honors

  • worked with the Skidmore Paris, Madrid, India, Italy (SACI) and London (Shakespeare) programs to develop Honors academic experiences

  • has drafted a proposal for a 300-level independent study in Honors to be submitted to CC during F99.


  • Members of the Skidmore community attended a wide variety of HF-sponsored events throughout the year. Some highlights:

  • Induction dinner (September, speaker David Porter; February, speakers Amelia Rauser [Art History] & Mary Crone [Physics])

  • Pre-lecture discussion with Iris Chang, "The Rape of Nanking"

  • Gallery talk and roundtable discussion, Felice Frankel (Distinguished Visting Faculty in Arts & Sciences) and Mary Crone (Lubin Family Professor for Women in Science)

  • Pre-Steloff reading discussion with Robert Boyers (Tisch Professor of Arts & Letters)

  • "Oceans of Ashes, Islands of Order" roundtable discussion of Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia with Lary Opitz (Theater), Dan Hurwitz (Mathematics), Jay Rogoff (Liberal Studies), Felice Frankel

  • AH101 student project exhibition, "Architectural Reflections: Five ‘Authentic’ Monuments" (Amelia Rauser)

  • Collaborative Research presentation, Joanna Zangrando (Douglas Family Professor of American Culture) and Krista Senator ’99, on "The Search for Helen Campbell"

  • Dinner and Presentation by Tom Lewis (Quadracci Professor of Social Responsibility) and Larry Hott on "Divided Highways: The Interstates and the Transformation of American Life"

  • Dinner and Lecture by Charles Segal (Walter Klein Professor of Classics, Harvard), on "Journey, Death, and Knowledge in the Classical Epic Tradition: From Gilgamesh to Ovid"

  • Biology Greenhouse

  • Dinner, Lecture and Dedication, Mark Miller (SUNY-Albany), "Mysteries of Amazonian Herbal Medicine" Dinner, lecture by Carolyn Anderson (Theater) and attendance at "Skin of Our Teeth" for Accepted Honors Candidates, in conjunction with Admissions

  • Art History Honors Symposium, "The Object in Context" (Amelia Rauser)

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

  • Presentations by Kerim Odekon, ’01 and Andrew Cencini, ’01, on their respective independent work in American Studies and Computer Science

  • Overseas Study for Honors Students, Jon Ramsey (Dean of Studies)

  • NATO Intervention in Kosovo, Mary Ellen Fischer (Palamountain Chair in Government) and Matthew Hockenos (History)

  • Skidmore Curricular Reform and Reconfiguration, Mary Lynn (American Studies)

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.


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:

  • All students interested in Honors work overseas will submit proposals in advance to the HFC, prepare portfolios during the course of the semester and present the results after returning to campus ( The Skidmore programs are developing specific courses, or independent study opportunities, for students in Madrid, Paris, London and India.

  • EN105-Honors will replace the former EN107 during the 1999/2000 academic year; the HFC will field three sections of EN105H in the fall and monitor the enrollments to arrive at the optimal number of sections needed

  • HF admission was offered to 15 ED applicants and to 274 regular applicants to the College in spring 1999, yielding 34 members of the class of 2003. This will complement the class of 2001 (28 enrolled, 1 transfer, 2 voluntarily withdrew from the HF) and the class of 2003 (68 enrolled, 3 transfers), bringing the total number of HF students in September 1999 to 130, approximately half the target of 250. The HFC hosted one sample HF course for prospective candidates, and a dinner/lecture for accepted candidates; next year, the HFC will offer two sample HF courses for prospective candidates in October and November, and host a luncheon for accepted candidates in April.

  • In conjunction with Residential Life, the HFC is planning to kick-off a residence hall lecture series in S00.

  • The HFC is currently reviewing the disqualification policy (an HF member is disqualified if he or she has not made Dean’s List – GPA 3.40 – any two semesters), since the inaugural class of 2001 will be the first to come under consideration.

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.


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:

  • HF courses are more challenging, faster paced, more conducive to community-building, more intensive and intellectually exciting than non-HF courses

  • HF courses are sufficiently challenging, particularly in in-class discussions, the amount of material covered, the level and pace of the courses and the quality of written assignments

  • Enrollments in HF courses vary considerably, from five to 28 students, with an overall average of 15 (1-cr. add-ons averaged 8 students); HF students represented 60% of the total enrolled in HF courses.

  • Retention rate among HF students stands at 96% (98/102)

  • Yield on regular applicants for the class of 2003 with Academic Quotient Ratings (AQR’s) of "10’s" stands at 6.6%, as opposed to 5.6-6.0% over the last three years prior to the creation of the HF.


Reconfiguration has two potential impacts on the HF:

  • as faculty shift courses from 3- to 4-credits, will they supplement or supplant current and potential 3+1 HF courses?

  • as departments reduce the overall number of course offerings, will they provide a sufficient number of HF courses?

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