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An Honors College Worth Its Name


They [my students] can get all the factual information they need on Google. They can get more from Google than anything I will ever remember and it will be right[…] That means if I am still teaching them facts I am obsolete, and the education I am giving them is obsolete because they can get facts. What they need is frameworks, they need to understand patterns, they need to know what kinds of questions to ask, they need to understand the world that they live in, which is a world of interconnectivity and patterns. It is not a world of facts anymore[...]

-Brad Allenby, Templeton Research Fellow. “From Human to Transhuman: Technology and the Reconstruction of the World” Lecture given October 22nd, 2007.


An Honors College Worth Its Name The following students contributed to this proposal under the guidance of Dr. Manfred Laubichler: Paul Billing-Ross, Joseph Canarie, Katherine Dreeland, Ellen Dupont, Lauren Imbornori, Brian Johnson, Meghan McCabe, Elizabeth Min, Anjali Moorthy, Philip Oro, Catherine Pisani, Chelsea Russ, Mihai Vintilescu, Amanda Waddell

I. Introduction Barrett, The Honors College is an outstanding niche in the ASU community that serves intellectually engaged and curious undergraduates from across the country. It has been named the Best Honors College in the nation by Reader's Digest, and continuing on a track of excellence, Barrett is recruiting and developing some of the brightest minds in the nation. However, many students view the Honors College as nothing more than a set of additional requirements that are generally disconnected from the rest of their education. This proposal presents an opportunity to change this attitude; fostering in students the understanding that membership in the Honors College is a privilege and a unique opportunity for academic excellence. Because the overarching intent of these reforms is to reconnect students with the College, they encompass all four years of the undergraduate education. Through the introduction of a specialized introductory curriculum, freshmen will be provided with a broad spectrum of knowledge that includes interdisciplinary thinking and critical reasoning. Sophomores will apply this new knowledge to the discussion of real world problems in a year long set of seminars similar to the Human Event. The junior/senior year thesis preparation course track will provide juniors with the skills they need to creatively and competently develop an honors thesis, and will bring them together with seniors who have already completed their theses in order to encourage peer mentoring. Finally, the requirements for attaining Honors credit hours will be reformulated to shift the focus from individual projects to group discussion and faculty-student interaction. The Honors College is an ideal environment to encourage the principels of President Crow’s New American University, and these changes would bring about the intellectual fusion, global engagement, and social embeddedness to which he aspires. It is our hope the changes we have outlined will help Barrett to continue its tradition of producing students who are intellectually curious, globally aware, and prepared to make an impact on the community.

II. Freshman Year Arizona State University's general education requirements are designed to prepare students to successfully handle the world beyond their major. The system intends to give students "an understanding and appreciation of the breadth of human knowledge through exposure to the arts, humanities, social sciences, mathematics, and natural science." All graduates of ASU should have critical thinking skills, effective writing skills, literacy competency, and the ability to understand quantitative information. In the current system, these goals are pursued through the 2


three overarching themes of Arts and Humanities, Social Sciences, and Natural Sciences. In addition, students must explore cultural diversity in the United States and become historically and globally aware. Although this idea is laudable in theory, the implementation of these requirements actually hinders many honors students' pursuit of a comprehensive education. The requirements are too disjointed to give students the base of knowledge that is the primary motivation of the general education studies. In addition, many of Barrett's students are already exposed to much of what is taught in these classes during high school. We believe that the general education requirements should be more than a repetition of secondary school education; instead, they should be an expansion of the existing knowledge of incoming Barrett Honors freshmen. We propose that general education requirements be condensed into eight courses that will be completed in the freshman year. These classes will provide a broad spectrum of information to help freshmen investigate many areas of knowledge and explore their individual interests and talents. Each semester will include the Human Event, three classes that cover several areas of knowledge, and a one credit hour seminar that elucidates the interactions between these subjects. The six broad areas are: mathematics, business, natural sciences, social sciences, government systems, and art. Each course will include an introduction to the history, philosophy, and present day applications of the subject. The latter is especially important as it fosters social embeddedness and global awareness; the integration seminar, which teaches students how to think critically and integrate information from different areas of learning, will provide intellectual fusion. This new system will set Barrett apart from other honors colleges and provide more of an incentive for high school seniors to apply. Note: Because the institution of an all-honors freshman year curriculum would mean that students satisfy almost all of the honors credit hour requirements, those requirements will need to be reevaluated and expanded to ensure that students continue to pursue opportunities for honors course credit throughout their undergraduate careers. In addition, we understand that several majors, including music, dance, and the pre-medical track, include requirements that begin in a student's first semester. For this reason, we have ensured that the freshman year curriculum allows room for one more course, be it a studio or lab, although it will still be a full-time schedule for those students whose majors do not require further enrollment. An example of the curriculum can be found in the appendices, starting on page 9.

III. Sophomore Year In order to maintain the inertia of the Barrett undergraduate experience begun during freshman year, we recommend adding a required one credit hour seminar to the sophomore year curriculum. Each semester will be split into two seminar modules, each focusing on a different problem. These "problem seminars" will emulate the interactive discussion setting of the Human Event, encouraging students to study current issues from multiple perspectives. The seminars will not only help fulfill the mandatory number of honors credits, but also provide an opportunity to integrate different subject areas by looking at a specific issue through multiple lenses. There will be a variety of different topics from which the students can choose according to their 3


interest. These seminars will enhance students’ global awareness and challenge them intellectually. The goal of this class is to develop students’ abilities to consider real world problems through multiple disciplines. Ideally these seminars will expose students to many different fields. Problems will be contemporary, relevant, and broad enough to be discussed through multiple disciplinary lenses. Some questions that we feel fit these criteria include “How does one design a sustainable city?” “How does globalization affect our generation?” “What is art? What is good art?” Problems will be relevant to all colleges, avoiding overly technical or specific questions. Possible lenses that these problems could be viewed through include (but are certainly not limited to) politics, economics, ethics, history, law, psychology, health, religion, science/technology, and culture. These lenses coincide with the themes learned in the introductory classes freshman year. An example seminar could look at the problem of designing Phoenix to use water in a more sustainable way. Topics of this class could be a historical look at what shaped the city's current practices, ecological analysis of how current water practices affect the environment, and possible engineering solutions such as building a pipeline to bring desalinized water from the Gulf of Mexico. Students could also study how people use water - where did the image of the kids playing in the well-trimmed green lawn come from? All this would be done with the intention of fostering an understanding of the complexity of such problems and an appreciation for the processes that must be used if effective solutions are to be developed. A week-by-week breakdown of this curriculum can be found in the appendices, starting on page 11. Despite focusing on a specific topic, the instructor leading the discussion will have considerable flexibility in structuring the course and in designing a curriculum to match his or her particular interests. This will make the class more enjoyable to teach, and ideally the faculty member's passion will ignite a similar enthusiasm in his or her students. These seminars will promote intellectual fusion and social embeddedness, encouraging interdisciplinary problem solving and fostering a desire for personal impact. This broader thinking will be continued during thesis exploration junior year. Several faculty members have already expressed interest in participating in seminars of this type, and harnessing this enthusiasm should expedite the process of planning and implementing this aspect of the proposal.

IV. Junior/Senior Year Thesis The honors thesis is a chance for students to make a substantive contribution to their chosen field, but some students are not equipped with the skills necessary to fully realize this opportunity. In order to foster a positive view of the thesis and encourage academic rigor, additional support should be provided to students during the junior year. Barrett currently provides resources for students - Dr. Facinelli's workshops, for example, come highly recommended. Unfortunately, many students fail to avail themselves of these options, remain confused about the process, and as a result do not or cannot take full advantage of the opportunity.

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We believe that the capstone project required for Biology and Society majors is a perfect example of how the honors college could nurture thesis projects. All Biology and Society majors must take a two-course track that brings together juniors with seniors who have already completed or are nearing the final stages of the project. Seniors enrolled in 414 serve as mentors, describing every relevant aspect of their own experience and providing guidance and support for the next batch of honors students as they begin the same process. HON 314/414 would be taken the spring semesters of the junior and senior years. Juniors and seniors would meet together for the first hour, and juniors would remain for a second hour of instruction and discussion. Modeled on the Research Colloquium series required by the Biology and Society department, this course track views older students as human resources, whose practical knowledge of the thesis construction process is invaluable for students who are just beginning that process. It also fosters a relationship between older and younger students that is difficult to reproduce outside the classroom. The 314/414 track will be college-specific; each college will have at least one track and some colleges (those that are larger or have higher concentrations of Barrett students) will have several tracks. Students will enroll in the track that most closely matches the subject area of their proposed thesis topic or their broad area of interest. Though this may coincide with the student’s declared major, that is not a requirement. Goals of thesis preparation track (based largely upon the Spring 2008 BIO314/BIO414 Syllabus and Course Materials composed by Ann Kinzig and Jane Maienschein): HON 314: •

To acquaint students with research techniques and approaches appropriate to their field of study (the subject area relevant to the area of interest for the honors thesis, whether it be the student’s academic major or not). To get students started on their honors theses. This course provides the background and jump starts the process by: o Exposing students to real projects already underway by seniors o Providing the skills and support for writing a research prospectus o Helping identify appropriate faculty mentors. This is an important aspect of the process and should be an opportunity for older students to speak freely and honestly about past experiences without repercussions. o Writing grant proposals, with some funding available if needed and instruction on where and how to apply for such funding. o Providing opportunities for honing skills in the written communication of ideas. These skills will make students more marketable in whatever post-baccalaureate path they choose, whether it be continued education, entering the work force, engaging in public service, or otherwise.

HON 414: • •

To allow seniors to help acquaint juniors with research techniques and approaches appropriate to their field of study. To finalize and communicate research results from the thesis projects. This course emphasizes the communication of research results through: 5


o o o

Sharing the projects with lower division students Serving as peer mentors for and inspiring lower division students Honing skills through oral presentation, a poster, and writing up the project and results for a general audience. Practice in presenting the final product of a thesis project will also serve the purpose of preparing honors students for a successful thesis defense.

We believe that our effort to reinforce the system of resources available to students preparing to write their honors theses closely reflects Barrett's own attitude toward the thesis production process. Barrett's website calls the undergraduate honors thesis "an opportunity to contribute and advance scholarship in your discipline," one that "allows you to integrate your entire honors experience and develop confidence in demonstrating meaningful expertise in your field." The Honors Thesis will be the manifestation of an idea that has developed over four years of integrated, interdisciplinary study--a capstone of the student's undergraduate education. Rather than making a random selection, Barrett students will have the opportunity to design and develop a project that is truly the culmination of their exposure to a myriad of information. The new course track will enable students to develop their interests and work toward thesis projects that incorporate the student's and professor's talents in solving problems at the community and global level, enhancing the social embeddedness of not only the Honors College, but also the university as a whole.

V. Honors Credits Currently, the honors credit requirements are primarily fulfilled through Footnote 18 contracts. Barrett, The Honors College presents these contracts as a means to “give students and faculty the opportunity to engage in innovative and interesting course assignments for honors credit.” This is convenient for the student and allows for individually tailored projects within the specified realm of the course. However, we feel that this method lacks the fundamental component of open dialogue among peers and a professor. Often, the Footnote 18 Contract becomes an easy way to obtain honors credit because many professors simply require an additional essay on a topic of the student’s choice. In order to revive the ideals of the honors education, we propose the incorporation of discussion seminars as the primary fulfillment of honors credit. These seminars would have the following criteria:

Instructors will be required to set up a discussion seminar for honors students if: o the course has an enrollment of 100 students or more o there are 7 or more students seeking honors credit for the course o there is a combined total of at least 7 honors students and interested non-honors majors

• • •

Seminars will have an enrollment of no more than 19 students Seminars will meet once a week for 50 minutes Seminars will not add additional credit hours to the original course (i.e. students will get 3, not 4, hours of honors credit for enrolling in a discussion seminar for a 3 credit course 6


At the discretion of the professor, a presentation or paper would be the summation of the knowledge acquired in this intellectually challenging and enriching class

Excellence in education comes from a stimulating environment that requires students to engage, express, and defend ideas. Small class sizes encourage student participation. This seminar would take the place of a Footnote 18; rather than fill out a contract, students would register for the specific discussion seminar that corresponds with each of their lectures. As with Footnote 18 contracts, the seminar will not be required but recommended. In some instances there will be scheduling conflicts, and for this reason the standard Footnote 18 contract will remain an option; however, the discussion is preferred and should be encouraged. Though negotiations for the specifics of a Footnote 18 contract will remain between a student and his or her professor, options besides a research paper should be encouraged. For example, in order to elaborate on the general course requirements through an honors contract, students could:

• • • • • •

Conduct an individual research project or assist with faculty research Create, test, and evaluate a software program Prepare and present a class lecture Facilitate weekly meetings with faculty outside of class Complete a small group project with other honors students Attend breakout sessions with faculty and other honors students

In order to ensure that students have the opportunity to take part in student-faculty dialogue, an amendment must be made so that students are required to schedule, at minimum, two meetings per semester with the professor to discuss the progress of their project. These could easily be conducted within office hours, but if a professor has a large number of honors contract students he or she may schedule group meetings to facilitate discussion and economize time. This will help eliminate the surplus of research projects that are completed with minimal effort and turned in at the end of the semester without substantial interaction among peers or the professor. An example of this type of seminar is evident in the success of HPS 340/BIO 311 lecture being paired with BIO 498 seminar. Dr. Manfred Laubichler has led fourteen students on a quest to reinvent and revitalize the Barrett curriculum that required us to think critically and creatively when addressing a perceived problem. The seminar was structured with supplemental readings and primarily conducted by the students when we engaged in open debate. The final assessment for the seminar was to produce a project, and our class opted to work cooperatively on an issue close to our academic interests. This proposal and a presentation are the direct result of our collaborative efforts over the past year. This seminar structure could easily be applied to large upper division lecture courses, thereby providing students with a small group of peers with whom to discuss information and would impose no limit on what they can produce. Ultimately, the discussion seminar would give students access to engrossing debates and fresh information in small classroom sizes, which translates to the production of academically 7


advanced projects and fosters an ability to synthesize information into broader frameworks. Large lectures often become a blur of faces, with limited personal interaction and a loss of connection to the material being presented. By meeting in 19-person discussion groups, students will be able to grapple with difficult concepts and express viewpoints that would have otherwise remained unexplored. Additionally, requiring those students who opt for the current Footnote 18 contract to meet with their professor a minimum of two times will encourage students to seek out their professors, who have a wealth of knowledge on incredibly diverse topics. Professors will in turn feel more utilized, and most would enjoy the opportunity to share information relevant to their area of interest. By instituting a new definition of the Footnote 18 contract, Barrett, The Honors College will provide students with a further opportunity for intellectual engagement.

VI. Conclusion It is our hope that the changes we propose will give rise to an undergraduate experience in which students are engaged immediately upon arrival at ASU and continually challenged throughout their college education. Freshmen will be provided with a broad spectrum of knowledge and taught key learning and integration skills. Sophomores will apply these new skills to real life problems. Finally, this progressive development of knowledge and perspective will culminate in the creative and competent production of an honors thesis. The goal of this new curriculum is to encourage connections. The Honors College should expose students to new ideas and act as a bridge connecting students with their peers, ASU faculty, and the community. Barrett students are highly motivated, inquisitive, and desiring of a challenging curriculum. Barrett, The Honors College has the opportunity to provide us with an exceptionally vigorous and rewarding experience by revitalizing its core requirements. The reforms we propose would reshape the honors undergraduate experience into an integrative and challenging education that is a natural extension of our goals and mission and the next step toward maintaining our status as the Best Honors College in the nation.

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Freshman Year Honors College Curriculum Semester A Applied Mathematics • Applies mathematics to real world problems • Gives meaning to mathematical concepts • Prepares students for the math incorporated in college level courses • Looks at many different subjects through the lens of mathematics • Incorporates: o Statistics o Engineering o Calculus o Algebra o Geometry Global Markets • Introduces students to various areas of business • Explains world economic systems (capitalism, socialism, communism) • Describes macro- and micro- scale business practices (management, marketing, accounting, finance) • Presents business in the real world: marketing through media and personal finance • Incorporates: o Economics o Management o Marketing o Communications o Media o Finance o Accounting o Supply Chain Management Scientific Development • Examines scientific discoveries throughout history • Bridges sciences through the scientific method • Relates societal and historical context to scientific revolutions • Introduces core sciences • Includes a weekly lab that exposes students to the experimental methodology of each subject area • Ends with pressing scientific issues of today • Incorporates: o Chemistry o Physics o Biology (Evolution, Genetics) o Medicine/Technology o Environmental Studies Integrated Seminar A • Connects mathematics, global business, and scientific development through the following topics: o Sustainability o Technology o Media Impact o Global Health o Agriculture/Land Development o Globalization The Human Event Freshman Year Honors College Curriculum

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Semester B Human Thought • Presents philosophical theories of the meaning of existence • Describes the origins of social structure • Investigates social behaviors in different cultures • Introduces the study of the mind and its subsequent actions • Examines ethics, morals, and values • Incorporates: o Philosophy o Anthropology o Psychology/Sociology o Linguistics o Gender Studies o Racial Studies World Powers • Investigates empires, expansion and conflict • Introduces the history of religion and religious conflict • Examines politics throughout history • Analyzes current political systems and political behavior • Explores issues in law and justice • Incorporates: o World History o U.S. History o Political Science /Government o Religious Studies o Law Artistic Expression • Examines artistic development throughout history • Presents key elements of major art movements • Describes the progression of architecture • Analyzes art through historical and societal contexts • Includes a weekly lab that allows students to explore different methods of artistic expression • Incorporates: o Art History o Literature o Architecture/Design o Music o Film o Theater o Dance Integrated Seminar B • Connects human thought, political structure, and artistic expression through the following topics: o Ethics o Comparative Politics and Justice o Reasons for the Creation of Art o Sources of Conflict o Art as Communication The Human Event

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Problem Seminar Example Topic: Sustainability Five Week Seminar Overview Week One: Introduction to Sustainability • Introduce the definition of sustainability • Give meaning to important concepts needed to understand the topic • Introduce the various complex issues surrounding sustainability: o Economics o Politics o Science o Ethics o Others Week Two: Economic Aspects of Sustainability • Introduce economic issues and policies relating to sustainability • Discuss environmental resources in terms of economics o Value of ecosystems o Value of specific species (e.g. medicinal plants, etc.) o Value of services provided by environment (e.g. carbon dioxide uptake, water transport) • Discuss environmental damage and how it impacts economies • Discuss how sustainable technologies interact with the economy • Discuss current policies of note around the world that are sustainable Week Three: Scientific Aspects of Sustainability • Introduce scientific aspects of sustainability o Climate change o Nutrient cycling o Ecosystem interactions o Greenhouse gases o Other related topics • Discuss the effects of non-sustainable farming and manufacturing on the environment • Discuss technologies such as GM foods, organic farms, water filtration, etc. that affect how sustainable practices are implemented Week Four: Political Aspects of Sustainability • Introduce political aspects of sustainability o Laws o Policies o Treaties o Social attitudes o Other related topics • Discuss how sustainability laws and policies are implemented • Discuss political processes required to implement national and global sustainability practices • Discuss examples of political initiatives for sustainability (e.g. ecotourism efforts in Brazil) Week Five: Conclusion and Solution Discussions • Connect the economic, scientific and political aspects of sustainability into a cohesive framework • Discuss how to use an understanding of these aspects to solve the problems associated with implementing sustainable practices o Discuss ASU’s involvement in sustainability o Discuss sustainable practices the students can implement in their lives o Discuss global solutions that work toward a sustainable environment by incorporating economic, scientific and political aspects

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An Honors College Worth the Name  

This proposal for a novel interdisciplinary honors curriculum was developed by a group of students of the Barrett Honors College at Arizona...

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