The Honors Program at Texas A&M University was recently overhauled to better meet the needs of its students. This year students will notice a strong sense of community in the program, more advising opportunities with peers and faculty, the chance to course contract any class for Honors credit and the opportunity to participate in campus-wide events sponsored by Honors Student Council (HSC).
“This year, [Honors] has become much more directly involved in the lives of the honors freshmen. There is still the focus on maintaining a 3.5 GPR, but now there is a significant push from [Honors] to facilitate personal growth as well as academic growth,” said Nick Hanemann, sophomore computer science major. He went on to say, “[Honors] is stepping up and making a point of challenging the freshmen, asking them what their mission statement is.”
As Honors freshmen came to college this year, they were greeted by the Honors Freshmen Learning Community (HFLC). Unlike past years, all Honors freshman now spend their first year in Aggieland in the HFLC where they live together, participate in an Honors seminar together and build a sense of community among their peers.
“The transition from high school to college has been pleasant because of all of the people I met in the program [who] help me with whatever I need. It’s a nice sense of family that we have going on here. I have a lot of friends who are having a hard time adjusting to college because they feel very alone, but I haven’t faced that problem because of the Honors functions and living with the people in my classes,” said Deanna Sessions, freshman electrical engineering major.
HFLC tries to establish not only peer relationships, but also relationships with departments across campus through the required freshman seminar course. This course brings speakers from all over campus to talk to students about the services and resources available to them, but also about how critical thinking and research happens in a variety of fields. “The Freshman Community class is a great way for students to learn more about the resources that we have at our disposal,” said Rachel Reynolds, freshmen chemistry major.
As the semester approaches the halfway mark, HUR is addressing the concerns raised by Honors freshmen and Sophomore Advisors and is working to tweak the seminar class accordingly. “This is first year that we’ve had the seminar class. We have no reference point except for last week’s class, and so we are still figuring out the most effective way of facilitating group discussion and personal reflection. Even with the hiccups involved in refining the seminar class, the potential that I see in having a seminar class dedicated to helping freshmen figure out what they can do to leave their mark on the world and how they can get started is fantastic,” said Hanemann.
While there have been many changes to the Honors program, the opportunity to grow in a community of scholars is still the main goal of the program. Through extracurricular events, students who have moved off campus are given the opportunity to stay connected with their Honors community.
“We help build the honors community by putting on fun and educational events, such as Field Day, Karaoke Night, and Honors Open House to help keep honors students connected after they leave the dorms,” said Tyler Terrill, president of Honors Student Council (HSC).
Starting in Fall 2012 the Texas A&M University Honors Program became an application-based program. The change allows for more personalized advising attention, easier access to resources such as Honors Priority Registration, and better tracking of students through the program. Students admitted to the program in Fall 2012 are pursuing a newly developed Honors distinctions and all students must now meet minimum requirements to remain in the program. These requirements include:
- Maintaining a 3.5 cumulative GPR and a 3.25 in Honors course work
- Making progress toward distinction requirements by taking at least 6 hours of Honors course work each academic year
- Participating in the HFLC (freshmen) or at least one HSC event per semester (continuing students)
- Updating an e-Portfolio and meeting with an advisor at least once per year
- Planning and executing a capstone experience in their junior or senior year that synthesizes and integrates their educational experiences in the form of a research or scholarly project
As the program moves forward Honors hopes to continue its success by providing high-impact educational experiences and challenging its students in all academic disciplines to graduate from an enriched, intellectually-stimulating curriculum.
“The Honors experience is the same in that students still have the chance to take small classes with like-minded peers and really go more in depth into the material. There is the sense of camaraderie among Honors students, and hopefully in the future these things will continue to stay strong and grow,” said Terrill.