JACKSON, Tenn. – July 19, 2011– The Honors Community at Union University has added an assistant director and three new discipline-specific honors programs as a continuation of a restructuring that began two years ago.
The additions are a result of a committee of Union faculty working together to bring professors from several fields of study into the Honors Community and to integrate the honors courses with the students’ general education requirements, said Scott Huelin, director of the Honors Community.
Jill Webb, professor of nursing at Union, served on the honors advisory committee before receiving the assistant director position, which she began this summer.
“I’m thrilled that Dr. Webb is going to help me in continuing to implement the vision of (the advisory committee) and to get both of these academic programs off on the right foot,” Huelin said. “She’s deeply familiar with the Honors Community.”
The new assistant director position is limited to three years, in order to include professors from many disciplines in the Honors Community, Huelin said.
“I’m overwhelmed by the opportunity to participate in an educational neighborhood where student and faculty minds are transforming one another by going to the mat over big and small questions,” Webb said. “The Honors Community, in whom much scholarly muscle is present, will by God’s providence play a part in transforming the perplexing culture they encounter.”
Last fall, 28 honors students were the first to experience other structural changes. In replacement of an honors minor, freshman and sophomore students began the general honors courses, all of which earn core and honors credit.
General honors courses are six-hour interdisciplinary, team taught, inquiry-based courses, Huelin said.
“Instead of seeking to acquire a body of knowledge, they instead focus on a question, such as ‘What is wisdom?’ and ‘What is beauty?’” Huelin said. “The search for a satisfying answer to that question is going to have to draw on more than one discipline.”
Faculty members are challenged to think, as well, Huelin said: “They’re every bit the enquirers as the students are.”
The general honors program includes courses on wisdom, beauty, justice and creation. In each course, there are multiple concurrent seminars with a faculty instructor and about 15 students. All the students and faculty come together regularly, as well.
“We take the name ‘Honors Community’ seriously,” Huelin said. “There is more to honors than just the two academic courses we offer. There are also a number of activities the students and faculty do together.”
Last fall, those activities included a weekly coffee hour, a trip to Berry College for a conference on technology and virtue, picnics and film viewings.
In the spring, two students were admitted into the mathematics honors program, which is one of the first discipline-specific honors programs approved for junior and senior students. A political science program was approved at the same time as the math program. Huelin said several more disciplines are in the process of developing programs, including the School of Education, history and speech communication.
Each student in the discipline-specific programs produces a significant body of work at the end of their studies. The work can be a scholarly thesis, a portfolio or a gallery show.
Students can apply to the Honors Community and also learn about scholarships at www.uu.edu/academics/honors.
By Samantha Adams (’13)