“I have a minor in the Honors Program,” may be one of the most unusual sentences I say. At first, I didn’t think too much about what it meant to have a minor in the Honors Program, but I began to question its effectiveness and value the longer I’ve participated in the program.
Ithaca College introduced the Honors Program in 1996, giving high-achieving students an opportunity to think critically and challenge themselves. Incoming freshmen who demonstrated academic excellence in high school are invited to apply for the program, and about 100 students are accepted each year. The program allows students to surround themselves with like-minded peers, but at what cost?
Honors students are required to complete 19 credits worth of seminars in order to graduate with the minor. I thought all college and university honors programs were like the college’s, but I was mistaken. One of my friends is in the honors program at Colorado State University, which has classes in every department with the word “honors” in the title, integrating major or minor requirements into the honors program. Rather than being an external program, the honors program at CSU allows students to graduate with honors in their major.
Though the seminars are interesting, they are time- and schedule-consuming, often costing students opportunities to minor in areas outside of honors. Because of this, some students don’t complete the minor and only stay in the program for priority registration. This leaves students with a collection of random seminars that lack a specialized focus that most minor programs have.
Fortunately, the college has recently modified its Honors Program. The program now requires students to complete a thesis and study abroad or take a global perspectives seminar in addition to the 19 credits worth of seminars. Though the workload sounds overwhelming, these seminar credits count toward the new Integrative Core Curriculum requirements, killing two birds with one stone for first-year students. For new students, seminar credits seem to have a purpose in the completion of an ICC theme rather than going toward an abstractly-named minor, unlike the upperclassmen currently in the program.
Though changes have been made to the Honors Program, it still isn’t ideal. Seminars could be turned into honors courses rather than being miscellaneous classes. It may take some time for the kinks to be worked out.