Faculty pass honors program for fall 2018


by Zoe Seiler, News Editor

INDIANOLA, Iowa — Simpson faculty voted on Nov. 8 to pass an honors program, which will begin in fall 2018.

The Student Government Association (SGA) called for a resolution for the implementation of an interdisciplinary honors program, so students can have the “opportunity to engage in more challenging and enriching studies not allowed by the current curriculum,” the resolution said.

“I cannot be more excited about the passage of the SC Honors Program,” said Allison Wolf, director of honors education. “I am really excited that we can finally bring this opportunity to the students of Simpson College.”

The changes come in a period of declining enrollment, which are in part due to changes in higher education and workplace environments that emphasize well developed, knowledgeable, dedicated and competitive applicants, according the SGA resolution.

Incoming freshmen in the program would take an honors SC 101 class, four honors-designated sections of the Engaged Citizen Curriculum and complete an interdisciplinary honors capstone, according to the proposal.

“There will also be numerous co-curricular opportunities for the students,” Wolf said. “Over time, we will create leadership opportunities for students, housing opportunities for students, service learning opportunities for students, programming for honors students, et cetera.”

Current first and second year students interested in the program would take five interdisciplinary honors courses in addition to their other requirements. Current juniors and seniors are unable to participate in the program, but opportunities will still be made available to them as the program develops.

“I would say to have students who are interested in their third and fourth year to let us know they are interested in that, because even if you can’t get the honors program, maybe we can develop some opportunities for people in their third and fourth year, especially as we’re implementing,” Wolf said.

The honors program will not include tougher departmental courses but will offer interdisciplinary courses and co-curricular activities, Wolf said.

“It is more rigorous than some classes, but it is also about courses that are very active for the students—offer students different kinds of learning opportunities, different types of projects, different kinds of reading and different kinds of extracurricular expectations depending on how the professor would like to run that,” Wolf said.

Departments already choose to offer honors options or not, and five departments currently do so. The interdisciplinary honors program will not impact that, and students will not have to choose between departmental honors or interdisciplinary honors, the Honors Advisory Council said in an email sent to students on Nov. 4.

Wolf said an unspecified number of potential students have been calling the admissions office to ask if Simpson has an honors program, then not applying because there wasn’t one. The new honors program will help solve this problem by getting these potential students to campus and strengthening Simpson’s reputation academically.

The hope of the program is that it will offer academic enrichment opportunities to help keep students at the college. The program will also be used as a recruitment tool for students seeking an honors program, Wolf said.

Professors may be teaching more classes but most already teach overloads. The honors program will not require professors to teach honors courses. The program is voluntary, so professors who decide to teach honors course know they will have the time and energy to dedicate to it.

“What students should be assured about is that we are completely confident that teaching in the honors program will not, in any way, detract from the quality of existing courses,” Wolf said. “Part of how we know that is because right now, most students can’t tell which of their professors is teaching an overload and which one isn’t.”

The Honors Advisory Council is currently spreading the word about the new program to prospective and current students through working with admissions and the public relations office. The council is also working to make sure all professors are up-to-date on honors pedagogy. The next step will be course proposals.

The Honors Advisory Council, with the help of Student Development and other resources, is building the program from scratch to allow the council to have student input.

“We really want to bring honors to the campus,” Wolf said. “Some departments have honors, which is still there, and this program was designed to be for the whole campus community.”