Monthly Archives: February 2015

Honors Seminars Revisited

Recently, I was a guest speaker in Joe Fracchia’s HC 431H: Bodies and Artifacts seminar at the Clark Honors College. The focus for the afternoon was, “What’s in a Word”: The Interior Structure of Semiotic Artifacts: Those “agitated layers of air” (Marx) fashioned into the “mouthy little things we call words” (Suzanne Langer).

Joe Fracchia

Joe Fracchia

I was there with Lauren Deegan to read our poetry and talk about our writing processes as well as answer questions from the students.

It was an interesting experience to be back in a CHC classroom having just the day before taught in Lane’s honors seminar, Invitation to Inquiry. I couldn’t help comparing and contrasting the two classes and the general honors experiences at the CHC and at Lane.

I admired the rigor of Joe’s course. Here is the day’s reading from the syllabus:

February 19

“What’s in a Word”: The Interior Structure of Semiotic Artifacts: Those “agitated layers of air” (Marx) fashioned into the “mouthy little things we call words” (Suzanne Langer)

Read:    Marshall Sahlins, Excerpt on the Arbitrariness of Linguistic Signs

Geoffrey Pullman, “The Great Eskimo Snow Hoax”, 159-167

Mary LeCron Foster, “Body Process in the Evolution of Language”, pp. 208-229

Lev Vygotsky, “Thought and Word” in Thought and Language, pp. 210-256

Ferruccio Rossi-Landi, “Language” in Contact, pp. 22-38

Ferruccio Rossi-Landi, “Language as Work and Trade” in Language as Work and Trade, pp. 35-        64

HC 431H is an upper division class, so I did not expect Lane’s lower division seminar to do the same type of work. What struck me was simply the thoughtfulness and intelligence that students exhibit when they have an environment in which to push their thinking and their creativity. We see this in Lane’s honors seminars, as well, but I would like to see a wider range of seminar experiences available to Lane’s students.

Mara Fields, the Grants Coordinator at Lane, occasionally sends me information about grants for “great ideas” courses, and I’ve always hoped to be able to build such a course for the Honors Program. I think the students would gain as much from that type of seminar as they do from our two interdisciplinary research seminars.

The challenge is that a “great ideas” course, like our seminars, would count as an elective and the students have limited space for electives given the constraints of financial aid and the need to complete the courses required for their majors. Still, after participating in Joe’s HC 431H history class, I plan to think more about ways to create a similar experience for the honors students at Lane.

Tricia Rose on Educational Equality in an Unequal World

I had the wonderful opportunity to hear a presentation by Tricia Rose. Professor of Africana Studies and Director of the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America at Brown University, Rose gave an exceptional talk entitled “Educational Equality in an Unequal World: Creative Strategies for Making All Students Successful.”

tricia-rose

Rose spoke at the Lane Longhouse. Her subject matter resonated for me in many ways, and I continue to think about her statement that the goals of education are to create “fully developed human beings and healing.” This statement articulates the essential work that honors programs do at two-year colleges. As I watch more students move through our program, I see the choices students make because of their honors experience. They challenge themselves in their classes and they ask more of their instructors. They engage in co-curricular activities. They apply for and receive scholarships. They transfer to, and graduate from, four-year institutions.

The above accomplishments are impressive, especially as students have commented in person, in their ePortfolios, and in other reflective writing about the challenges of attending college many years after high school; returning to college after unsuccessful first attempts; attending college while raising children sometimes with a partner and sometimes on their own; and trying to balance multiple jobs while succeeding in their coursework.

They have acknowledged the ways in which they were discouraged by high school teachers to even consider college, the comments by otherwise supportive instructors that misread language barriers as intellectual deficiencies, and the sometimes resentful and disparaging attitudes of family members and friends when they chose to go to school.

I repeatedly see the value of a cohort of peers who can relate to these many obstacles, peers who support each other in facing them, and who recognize to the sense of achievement in overcoming them. I see the value in having a faculty willing to design classes that provide even more challenging and creative opportunities for this cohort. I see the value in having an instructor tell a student to disregard the ways that they have been underestimated in the past or in having one student tell another that they, too, should consider the Honors Program. I see the value in extending what our college does every day – showing students that they matter and that their success matters – to make sure that there are opportunities here for every student.

“…fully developed human beings and healing.” Those of us involved with the Lane Honors Program agree and we’re working on it. Every student. Every day.

See Rose’s TED Talk at Brown University: “Creating Conversations on Justice.”