Tag Archives: Creativity

Honors Course Contract Spotlight: “Walk a Mile in [His/Her] Shoes”

Honors Course Contracts provide students who are pursuing an Honors  graduation distinction the opportunity to earn Honors credit for courses that are not already being offered as Honors. The Honors Course Contract experience varies depending on the discipline, course material, and instructor. No matter what the expectation, though, students can expect an Honors Course Contract to ask for higher-level thinking and reflection.

The following post from Madyson Smith ’16, a senior communication major and Honors in Communication student describes the project she undertook and what she learned from the experience.

By Madyson Smith ’16

For my Honors project for ENGL 403: Language and Gender course at Texas A&M, I wanted to write a creative work of fiction. I felt that learning through creative writing would enable me to: 1) think critically to portray another’s thoughts and feeling regarding gender and 2) broaden my own perspective on the topic.

Working on this Honors project, I met these goals. Throughout the semester, I enjoyed working slowly, taking my time with the process of familiarizing myself with gender concepts. I took inspiration from class readings, movie clips, discussions, and real-life applications of concepts. I met regularly with the professor of my class to brainstorm ideas and discuss my progress on the project. Mainly, my professor kept me on track and provided suggestions and encouragement regarding my project.

When I finished my project about a week before finals, I emailed a PDF copy to my professor and also turned in a printed out copy in a report cover. My work of fiction ended up being 26 pages in total, and my story adopted five different points of view.

The title page of Madyson Smith's short story collection, written for her Honors course contract.
The title page of Madyson Smith’s short story collection, written for her Honors course contract.

When I started my project, I knew that my literary piece would discuss gender issues and would incorporate what I learned in the class, especially the psychological implications of societal gender construction. What I didn’t know was what direction my creative story would take and how much I would enjoy the opportunity to apply what I learned in class through this Honors project.

Below is an excerpt from one of Smith’s stories, “Kevin”:

Why did we have to pack up and move here? Was there honestly anything appealing about this place? The humidity? I can’t even breathe here.

I glanced around at the lunchroom… These high-schoolers were actually dressed up like they were going to the rodeo or farm after class: light jeans and boots and shiny belt buckles and stupid pearl snapped shirts.

I lowered my eyes to my ensemble: my black jeans and tailored, striped sweater. These clothes fit me… and my spirit. Already, I missed home. Home, where it was cold and rainy. Home, where I had all my friends. I looked up. This place was not home.

“Hey!” a perky voice squeaked. The source was blonde, bouncy, beaming. Her smile was as wide as the dumb cowboy hats the guys wore outside in the parking lot. “You’re new here, aren’t you?” she asked.

She sat down next to me and pushed my tray to make room for hers.

“My name is Amanda,” she smiled.

I fidgeted with my fork, pushing my canary-yellow macaroni around on my tray. Mental note: bring lunch tomorrow. This crap is a joke.

Loud laughter erupted behind me. I whipped my head back and saw the source of all the ruckus: a group of white, well mostly white, guys. Most of them were wearing letterman jackets with jeans and their annoying cowboy boots. And they seemed to be
interested in my table… or maybe just Amanda. She looked like a Mandy to me. I’ll call her Mandy.

Click here to find the rest of “Kevin” as well the other stories in “Walk a Mile in [His/Her] Shoes.”

To learn more about contracting a course for Honors credit, please visit http://honors.tamu.edu/Honors/Earning-Honors-Credit.

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The Undergraduate Experience: Job Training or Personal Development?

Lisa (Moorman) Quattrini ’06 graduated from Texas A&M with a bachelor’s of business administration in marketing and a master’s in international affairs. She updated this reflection written several years ago for Texas A&M University Honors Program’s first contribution to the second-annual National Honors Blog Week. The theme for this synchroblog is “Things You Can’t Learn in a Classroom.” To read other contributions to this effort, visit the hub hosted at http://www.honorslounge.com/taxonomy/term/3287.

2014 National Honors Blog Week

 By Lisa Quattrini –

Administrators, donors and elected officials all seem to agree that we should be treating the university more like a business with efficiency being the end goal. As I understand it, the idea is to pare down colleges which do not “produce” enough while bolstering colleges which provide revenue through private sector investment, federal grants, and other funding streams.

In theory, the idea sounds good, at least from one perspective: cut out those arms of the institution which do not generate money, and funnel investment toward those arms which do. I think in a lot of ways, we as students and former students accept this efficiency-based methodology without really considering the role a university plays in society.

To me, though, the question is: should we be treating a university like a business? Should the university simply be a place where money goes in, graduates and revenue-generating research goes out? Or should a university be a center of innovation and creativity, and a tool to secure our society’s place among the great thinkers and inventors?

The first approach seems to be the approach that prevails among administrators and elected officials. My fear with this approach is that treating a university as a factory for producing four year degrees, while treating university research as a tool for revenue generation, is performing a serious disservice to the students and to the creative future of our society.

I have learned this lesson the hard way, having treated my own university experience as merely a necessary step between graduating high school and getting a good paying job in the workforce. Rather than challenging my intellect and following the subjects I found interesting, I followed the four-year plan that came as part of my welcome packet to my college. I knew that I was going to be bored, but I thought getting a job upon graduation was the only metric for a successful college career, and I trusted my selected degree plan to get me there.

After graduate school, I got a job in international research, and quickly found that my undergraduate degree in something “practical for getting a job” had stunted my ability to think creatively. My writing skills had suffered tremendously in undergrad. And while the technical skills I had begun to acquire in graduate school were good, they were not enough to prepare me for the rigors of my job, as the degree was not targeted towards research as a destination career.

Now I sit, eight years out of undergrad, six years out of grad school, and I am completely confused as to where I “should” fit in. I never stopped to question whether I was missing something along the way – I thought my extracurricular activities were enough, so I never sought a degree plan that thrilled me.

As a student, it’s hard to know what to plan for. What I’ve learned from my experience is that I missed out on a very vital opportunity for intellectual development at the undergraduate level. I made all of my curriculum decisions based on getting a job. In doing so, I missed a vital opportunity to get to know myself, and what I want out of life.

I think that the place of an academic institution, especially at the undergraduate level, is to give young people a platform to be creative, to think through problems in new ways, and to force students to examine the world from different perspectives. I know it seems sentimental, but when you understand how the greater picture is connected, I have to believe the end result is better, simply because you understand what you’re working with and where it should go.

Treating a university like a factory where cost-cutting rules and no value is given to creative thought is likely to churn out workers who are interested in maintaining the status quo. A public university is specifically intended to expand the public knowledge, and it does no one any good to follow the same paths which have been traveled before you.

I leave you now with two challenges: one to the students, and one to administrators and elected officials.

To the students: it is my hope that you will not fall victim to the fear that you won’t have a job when you graduate. Treat your studies with respect – this is the only four (or five, or six) years you will ever be given to make mistakes, to learn, and to plan your future as you want it. Focus your degree plan on your passion: find something you love, and see as many sides of it as you can.

To the administrators and elected officials: don’t turn our campus into a factory of workers who simply toe the line and maintain the status quo. Help Texas A&M maintain and grow its reputation as a top-tier university which graduates innovators and thinkers. Help us promote a sentiment of wonder and exploration among the student population. I promise you’ll have more successful graduates if you do.

 

 

 

Guest Blog: Writing and Copyrighting: A Student’s View on its Necessity at a College Level

The following post is contributed by freshman Honors Student Karina Rambeau ’16. Karina’s personal blog can be found at http://thelifeinprogress.wordpress.com/

Writing and Copyrighting – a Student’s View on its Necessity at a Collegiate Level

The ability to write is something that many people overlook. Writing does not apply simply to English majors, it is a skill that all members of the professional world need. Writing, blogging, and social media are a few of the ways that people communicate today. At many universities, writing is valued, but still not as much as it should be. Simple email etiquette is the perfect example: forgetting to address the recipient, failing to use proper grammar, and neglecting a closing remark are all egregious errors that should be taught to students so that when they email their professors they are paying them proper respect.  I have often thought to myself, instead of two kinesiology classes, why not require one kinesiology class, and one required “writer’s prep” class? While there are classes like that offered here, I think that their importance is undervalued. I am often frustrated when students think that they will not use writing again after high school because they undoubtedly will.Writing Textbooks

I am a science major and often times I find myself missing the allegorical and introspective English pieces that I used to write in high school. I miss that writer’s “fluff,” or pizazz when I write Chemistry papers. However, my strong foundation in writing allows me to write concise and intelligent science papers. In science the prepositional phrases go away and extraneous words become unimportant, despite their stylistic value. No matter what kind of writing is necessary for a given class, there is a basic foundation that should be emphasized to prepare college students for the professional world. Whether they are an English major preparing to write a book or a science major preparing a periodical for a medical journal, writing is a necessity for success in the real world. Literacy alone is a respectable skill for all professionals.

Creativity is an intrinsic part of the writing process. Expressing oneself creatively entails publishing one’s intellectual material. After attending a seminar given by Associate Professor Gail Clements, I learned a great deal about the importance of intellectual property.  There are many rules about plagiarism and copyright, especially in today’s world where the increase in self-publishing options has become more apparent.

I have a WordPress blog where I post much of my more creative ideas, especially when I am in need of a creative rampage after writing a perfectly stagnant and statistical science paper. Interestingly, the blog served as the perfect example for Professor Clements. Professor Clements made the point that anything that I post on my blog is mine. My blog was not created to generate profit; it was merely a fun creative exercise. Let’s pretend for a minute that I am using my writings to earn some money. Let’s say another blogger copies my piece, and posts it on their blog and starts to profit from my writings. This is not allowed. In other words, unless I permit others to share this material on their websites, I have the right to sue them for using my information inappropriately.

I went to Paris this summer and I took a lot of pictures at the Louvre museum. One of my blog entries had several pictures of my trip, but I was careful to avoid putting any works of art on there. I decided to opt out of posting anything that I had taken pictures of in the museums.  Fair Use is essentially the permission to use certain copyrighted material without obtaining that permission from the artist. Fair Use protects people heavily in regards to social media and the Internet but art is a completely different story. If I were to post a picture of a copyrighted work of art on my blog I would be violating the ordinances of Fair Use. The only way I would avoid this violation would be to get permission from the owner, or, if it is an old piece of artwork like the Mona Lisa the age of the painting supersedes the copyright. The discussion of Fair Use was probably the most complex part of our discourse.  There are a lot of details that surround Fair Use but the best advice I learned is that it is better to err on the side of caution when publishing other material that is not your own.

The conversation covered a range of topics: The time limit on copyrights, privacy as an interwoven part of copyright and basic right, and the fact that you cannot copyright or own an idea. Ideas need to be “set in stone” or written down before a person can claim it as their own. Overall, the seminar proved to be highly educational and was the perfect example of the kind of class and information that needs to be taught to college kids. I feel that this is exactly why we students need reinforcement and education about writing in today’s world. Many people think that the basic high school English class is preparation enough for the real world. This is not true and this seminar is just one example. The creative world around us has broadened with the presence of the Internet and social media. It is important that students understand the intricacies of issues like copyright and privacy in writing and beyond, in order to avoid issues in the future. Only then will students be able to access their true scholarly potential.

Creativity as a Transcendent Act

This excerpt is from Jonathan Kotinek’s reflection on teaching a University Scholar Mentor Group on “Creativity as a Transcendent Act.”

One of the most satisfying aspects of participating in a University Scholars Faculty Mentor Group is the concrete realization of what it means to be in a “community of learners.” The topics and discussions we visited in our meetings were subjects that I revisited throughout the last year: at work, with my children, and in my own scholarly and creative production.

University Scholars discuss the elements of art with artist J. Vincent Scarpace.

 

I’ve realized that education is providing access to new technologies, machines—yes—but also processes, theories, literatures, all of which have idiosyncratic languages. At our best, educators demonstrate that these technologies exist, introduce their use, and perhaps even engage discussion about whether they should be used.

When we are really successful, our students are aware that technologies might exist to solve questions they have not yet asked, how to find those technologies, and begin critically evaluating the ethics of those technologies. None of this would be possible without pushing the students to explore an uncomfortable subject or situation in the relatively safe setting of a classroom to give confidence so that they can do more of that exploration on their own.

You can read the whole post at http://jkotinek.blogspot.com/2011/08/creativity-as-transcendent-act.html.