Honors Instructor Responds to Proposed Elimination of Philosophy Program

I’ve recently been documenting the college’s plans to eliminate the Honors Program. Honors is on a list with several other valuable programs and services at the college, including Philosophy and Religion. Philosophy classes make up the majority of our honors social sciences offerings and have been instrumental for students expanding their critical thinking skills. Read honors instructor Caroline Lundquist’s article in the Eugene Weekly: “Philosophy is Dangerous.” It is difficult for me to imagine a college removing the opportunity for students to experience an honors education. It is inconceivable to me that a college would not offer courses in philosophy and religion. The Board of Education will vote today on whether or not to accept the administration’s proposed budget, including the program cuts.

Letter to the Board of Education and President Spilde

I sent the following letter to President Spilde and the Board of Education. It is a slightly updated version of the comments I presented to the Board at an open comment session last month.

Dear President Spilde and Members of the Board of Education:

I am writing to ask that you reconsider eliminating the Lane Honors Program and instead allow us to significantly scale down the program until we have the resources available to scale it back up. I include below the comments I presented at a recent Board meeting, and I have added in the cost of maintaining a scaled down program.

When we built the Honors Program, we were tasked by the administration with modeling it after the Clark Honors College but tailoring it to Lane. We did that. We created a program based on national best practices and offering our students exceptional classes, intellectual and cultural events, articulation agreements with university honors programs, and opportunities for experiential learning and undergraduate research.

The difference between university honors programs and two-year college honors programs isn’t the quality of the education. It’s that two-year programs are also building honors students. Our students often have no prior honors experience, and they face the same challenges and obstacles as our non-honors students. Through our program, they develop their research skills, their sense of themselves as scholars, and their confidence, which allows them to transfer as Ford Scholars and McNair Scholars, to complete undergraduate degrees and graduate degrees. It changes their lives, and they credit Lane.

I appreciate the college’s budget challenges. When we created this program, we included the ability to scale down the program in leaner times and build it up again in the future. Using the existing honors classes that don’t cost anything more to run, reducing program coordination to a two-course release, and partnering with our newly rebuilt Phi Theta Kappa chapter will have a minimal impact on the budget. The total cost for this version is $17,000. The national honors organization and honors programs around the state sent you their support for this plan.

This is a matter of equity. If our students were at a university, they would have access to honors, and that speaks directly to our second core theme, Accessible and Equitable Learning Opportunities. A scaled down program requiring very few resources still supports our mission, core themes, and strategic directions; provides a valuable recruitment tool for our International Programs; and most importantly, offers our students the access to the honors education they so rightly deserve.

Thank you for considering this proposal.

Sincerely,

Ce Rosenow

Faculty Coordinator

Lane Honors Program

Whither Honors?

For seven years, I have worked on building the Lane Honors Program. In order to help build and coordinate this program, I have drawn on my experience teaching at the Clark Honors College, my participation at National Collegiate Honors Council (NCHC) conferences and on NCHC committees, and the extremely valuable input and engagement from Lane students, faculty, and management. In particular, the Honors Leadership Team has guided this work with dedication and wisdom.

The program has faced challenges from its inception. These challenges included faculty resistance to a program initiated by the administration, a misperception that honors education is elitist, a misunderstanding among some advisors and faculty that the honors classes did not count toward transfer requirements, and an ever-changing combination of managers and faculty on the program’s core team.

We overcame these challenges and provided an exceptional honors educational opportunity to Lane’s students based on best practices and the needs of our student population. Our students have presented their research at symposia and conferences, and they have published their work. We have seen students go on to become McNair Scholars, Ford Scholars, complete undergraduate degrees, graduate degrees, and law degrees. We have heard from former students that their honors experience changed their lives.

In the current climate of declining enrollment and substantial budget deficit, however, the college has recommended to the Board of Education that the Lane Honors Program be cut.

Eliminating the Honors Program is not the answer.

The second of the college’s core themes is Accessible and Equitable Learning Opportunities. Honors directly supports this core theme. If our students were beginning at their educations at four-year colleges or universities, they would have access to honors education. Experiencing honors at Lane allows them to develop their identities as scholars, honors students, and transfer students who can and should pursue higher educational goals.

From my experience in the NCHC, I know there are many formats a two-year college honors program can take. I also know that central to any of these formats is an agility that lets the program be responsive to changing budgetary and enrollment situations. Our program has that agility. We can capable of restructuring the program to have a minimal impact on the budget while continuing to offer honors education to our students. This restructuring allows us to use our existing infrastructure and to keep an honors program in place that can be scaled back up in the future.

Most importantly, restructuring rather than eliminating the Lane Honors Program allows the college to offer students the honors opportunities they so rightly deserve.

Several students and I will be speaking at an open comment session at the Board of Education meeting this evening. I will continue posting about the future of the Lane Honors Program and the efforts to save it.

Students Present at Regional Honors Conference

Last weekend, two honors students presented at the Western Regional Honors Council’s (WRHC) conference in Ashland, Oregon at Southern Oregon University (SOU). The following members of SOU’s Honors College organized the event: Ken Mulliken, Executive Director; Liesa Morrow-Bratcher, Office Specialist; Prakash Chenjeri, Faculty. SOU Honors WRHC Interns Lauren Aldana, Riley Evetts, Briana Morgan, and Micaela Saling also worked on the conference.

The WRHC is our regional chapter of the National Collegiate Honors Council, and I attend the chapters meetings each year at the national conference. I’ve been waiting for a conference to be held near enough to our college that we could afford to send students.

Tonyae Meeks presented, “Human and Environmental Health vs. The Waste Management System,” based on the research she conducted in Eileen Thompson’s honors WR 121 class.

Gus Smith’s presentation, “Production, Adaptation and Iconography of the Oresteia and Greek Theatre,” shared his research findings from Aryn Bartley’s honors Introduction to Drama class.

His historical research was also shared with the college drama department to inform this year’s production of the The Oresteia Project.

Poster for The Oresteia Project

Honors faculty member, Aryn Bartley, accompanied the students to the conference. The Honors Program provided tickets to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s (OSF) production of Julius Caesar on Friday night.

The OSF’s director, Cynthia Rider, gave the conference’s keynote speech on Saturday evening.

Gus is currently enrolled in the Honors Capstone Seminar. I’m sure his experience this weekend will inform his group research project and the symposium he will help organize later this term, and I’m also sure that Tonyae’s experience will impact her work in the seminar next year.

Honors and Phi Theta Kappa

The Sigma Zeta Chapter of Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) has been shut down this past year after some challenges with particular students. Having served briefly as the advisor for PTK, I remember that depending on the students involved, there can certainly be challenges. In fact, last fall at the National Collegiate Honors Council Conference, I asked other honors directors who were also their campus’s PTK advisor about the drama that often seemed to be part of the chapter’s history. One advisor said, “There is always drama with PTK.” The others just nodded.

One reason for the drama, I believe, is that PTK gathers together very bright, very creative students who may or may not have experience with leadership, organizing events, managing funds, and running a chapter. That’s part of the purpose of PTK – building those skills. Some students definitely do show up with one or more of those skills and can help a chapter succeed, or they may be up against a larger group that doesn’t want to follow their lead.

I respect the decision of Kristina Holton, the chapter advisor, to close down the chapter to let things settle out. I especially respect her decision not to push recruitment when there weren’t any activities or opportunities for new members to participate in.

Regardless of the challenges that can beset a chapter, the benefits in terms of scholarship, leadership, and service make PTK an excellent learning opportunity for students. PTK also provides a competitive edge for scholarships (and offers some scholarships available only to its members), college applications, and job applications.

The Lane Honors Program offers these opportunities, too, so what is the ideal relationship between an honors program and PTK?

Kristina and I have been working on the answer to this question specifically as it relates to Lane Community College. For now, we see the two honors groups supporting each other and are encouraging students to join both. In fact, we are now rebuilding the chapter with students from the Honors Program as the active members and leaders.

This week, we held an information session to learn what students wanted from the chapter. Ten students attended the meeting, asking questions and offering suggestions.

We will meet again during Final Exam Week to plan the next steps for spring. Having met with nine of these ten students when they first joined the Honors Program, I can attest to the intelligence, character, and enthusiasm of this group and I’m optimistic that Lane may soon have a vibrant Sigma Zeta Chapter that works hand-in-hand with our honors program.

Freedom and Dialogue in a Polarized World

Yesterday, the Honors Program played host to a special event: Sharon Schuman speaking about her book, Freedom and Dialogue in a Polarized World.

Sharon Schuman

Schuman’s work is interdisciplinary and drew support from across the campus. The event was co-sponsored by the Library; the departments of Communication, English, and Philosophy; and Student Life and Leadership Development.

Schuman uses Mikhail Bakhtin’s work on the dialogic nature of language and extends it to the concept of freedom. She argues that freedom is also dialogic and that the more perspectives one can see from, the freer one will be.

Mikhail Bakhtin

During the talk, Schuman used excerpts from great works of literature to illustrate her points, suggesting both that polarization is not new and that solutions are possible. Among the works she referenced was Homer’s Ancient Greek epic, Iliad.

Image from Home’s Iliad

The event was well-attended with approximately sixty people in the audience, including students, faculty, and staff as well as members of the community.

At the end of the event, we raffled off eight free copies of the book. One copy was for non-students and the remaining seven copies were for students. Everyone who received a copy stayed to have it signed and to talk with Schuman.

Sharon Schuman is updating her blog to add a post about this event. I’ll link to it once she has it up. More information about Schuman and her book can be found on her website, Dialogic Freedom.

Honors Students and the UO Special Collections Library

Every winter, the students in the Invitation to Inquiry Seminar visit the University of Oregon’s Special Collections Library. Manuscripts Librarian, Linda Long, teaches an instructive and engaging class on archival research, introducing students to the concepts of scholarly archives, special collections, finding aids, etc.

Examining Japanese lantern slides from the Gertrude Bass Warner Collection.

The Special Collections Library Reading Room

The last part of the class is open for the students to walk around the room examining the various rare books and manuscripts that Linda has brought out for them to see.

Original manuscript for Ken Kesey’s novel, Sometimes a Great Notion.

A signed first edition of Sometimes a Great Notion is currently valued at $2000.

This class session is one of my favorites each year because it is such a pivotal moment for the students. For instance, most students have not been to the University of Oregon’s campus before. Although many of them will transfer to UO, at this point the campus is a large, unfamiliar, and confusing space.

University of Oregon

After the special collections class, students have a point of reference on the campus. They also begin to realize that the library resources at UO are available to them now and they are welcome to use them at any time.

A second moment of awareness that occurs on this trip is just how extensive academic research can be, how many sources of information are out there, and that there is no end to what can be researched. Viewing 13th and 14th century manuscripts emphasizes the long research history they are now a part of while the online research opportunities including access to Archives West reveals how contemporary research benefits from an ever-expanding access to materials.

Linda Long and I plan to meet to find ways to incorporate archival research into the Honors Program.

Invitation to Inquiry Seminar 2017

This year, Stacey Kiser and I are making some changes to the Honors Invitation to Inquiry seminar to better support the course goals of engaging in undergraduate research and thinking critically about the research process.

Winter has two official holidays, and each year we miss two days of class. Since the seminar only meets twice a week, those missed days impact the students’ research projects and our focused discussions on critical thinking. This year, we are experimenting with a Wednesday/Friday seminar so that we can have the maximum amount of time working face to face with the students in class.

We’ve also asked the students to do some reading prior to the first class meeting. In addition to reading the first two chapters in the textbook, The Craft of Research by Wayne Booth, Gregory Colomb, and Joseph Williams,

we also assigned a chapter from Teaching for Critical Thinking: Tools and Techniques to Help Students Question Their Assumptions by Stephen Brookfield.

In the past, the class read an excerpt from the first chapter of this book. While this book was written for instructors, the students have done well understanding and applying the portions of the chapter they have read. It seemed reasonable to ask them to read the complete chapter and apply all of that material to their interrogation of academic research.

Finally, we have made the ePortfolio work more central to in-class activities as well as work assigned outside of class time. In addition to building and developing ePortfolios, students will be doing more processing and reflecting within their ePortfolios during class. ePortfolios can have an important impact on equity and student success, as addressed in the latest issue of the AAC&U’s publication, Peer Review.

These elements align with the college’s strategic directions and with the college’s and the Honors Program’s recognition of the importance of adopting an equity lens and always striving to support student success.

Check back for future posts about how these changes worked, student responses, and/or what additional modifications we made to the seminar once we were into the term!

Honors and OSU’s Beaver Hangouts

This afternoon, Executive Dean of Student Affairs Kerry Levett organized a conference call with Phil Rowkoski at Oregon State University (OSU) to discuss OSU’s Beaver Hangouts Program. The Honors Program, the Counseling Department, First Year Experience, the Library, the Math Resource Center, Phi Theta Kappa (PTK), and Student Life and Leadership Development all participated.

OSU logo

Beaver Hangouts were initially a K-12 program, but the university is expanding the program to two-year colleges. Student coaches from OSU would be available to Lane students to answer questions and provide information about transferring to OSU. The initial contacts would be a series of Skype sessions followed by one-on-one visits. It sounds like the coaches could come to the Lane campus to meet with students.

Honors has a wonderful working relationship with OSU already, especially through the Transfer Services Manager Kayleen Salchenberg Steeves and through Gildha Cumming at OSU’s University Honors College. Kayleen has presented in the honors seminar and sent information to our program, and we take the students each spring to the University Honors College Thesis Fair and an honors information session. The student coaches could potentially provide more contact around these presentations and campus visits.

I can see having Skype sessions and/or meetings with coaches attached to the honors seminars. Combined honors and PTK events could also involve these sessions and meetings.

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When we visit the OSU campus, the students could meet in person with their coaches as part of the trip. Alternately, if Lane decides to hold larger Skype sessions or to video a Beaver Hangout presentation and make it available via Moodle, the honors students would benefit from those resources, as well.

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OSU is still in the early stages of developing the two-year college component of their Beaver Hangouts Program, but I see a lot of potential for our honors students and would like to see us be part of the pilot.

Honors and the Writing Center

This morning, I had a great conversation with Casey Reid, the Writing Center Coordinator. We explored ways in which the Honors Program and the Writing Center could support one another. Casey had some exciting ideas that I think will be beneficial to students.

Honors students could be course-embedded tutors for other classes. This option will take some time, as embedded tutors work best when the student and faculty member have already met in a class and established a relationship. There are also scheduling issues to consider, especially given that our students often have jobs and families in addition to taking a full load of classes. Nevertheless, it would be an excellent way for students to engage in experiential learning. I look forward to talking with our coordinator for honors experiential learning and honors cooperative education, Gerry Meenaghan.

Additionally, tutors could be embedded in honors classes, offering a resource to the students in the class and also helping the tutors further develop their skills. I can see this working well in several honors classes, including the seminars.

Our initial steps will be to check in with the current honors writing instructors, Amy Beasley, Anne McGrail, and Eileen Thompson, about these possibilities and to see if there is interest in pursuing them this year. I will also talk with my co-instructor in the seminars, Stacey Kiser, about ways that an embedded tutor could work, especially as the enrollments this year are growing.