April 21, 2009 | Myrna Anderson

Calvin’s honors program has grown since '93, when there were only two honors graduates. Since that time, Bratt and others have strengthened honors requirements in all disciplines and begun recognizing and encouraging academic talent early on.

Hannah Bormann, a senior from Ionia, Mich., will be one of 55 Calvin students to have a golden medallion hung around her neck at this year’s Honors Convocation.

Extra effort

To achieve that distinction, Bormann has done all of the extra work required—including two honors theses—to honor in two subjects: English and French. The coursework wasn’t too bad, she said, allowing, “The theses really did complicate my life.” Overall, Bormann said, it was worth it. “Class-wise it was nice to go a bit deeper, and the thesis work really helped me prepare for grad school.”

Bormann will join her fellow honorees onstage at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 22 in the Fine Arts Center auditorium. Along with the bestowal of medallions, Honors Convocation will feature the awarding of certificates to 140 students (honors grads included) who have been on the dean’s list for their entire Calvin careers.

“It’s the only chance we get to give honors students a round of applause for their hard work,” said Calvin classics professor Ken Bratt, the director of the honors program. The list of honorees features several like Bormann who honored in two subjects and one, Eric Bratt, who honored in three: Asian studies, German and history.

Making honors history

A Grand Rapids native, Eric is the first student in Calvin history to honor in three different departments. He also found time to study for a semester each in China and Hungary. “Doing honors in three majors certainly required a significant amount of prolonged dedication,” he said. “Most vital was making a point to plan ahead from the beginning.” Eric recently won a Fulbright Scholarship to study the Manchu language and culture in China.

In accordance with a tradition established since Bratt took over the program in 1993, Honors Convocation will have two speakers: one from among the honors student throng and another from the faculty. “I follow student recommendations for the speakers,” he said.

Speaking for the honors students this year will be Corey Velgersdyk, an international relations major from Bloomington, Minn. Representing the faculty will be chemistry professor Crystal Bruxvoort. The event will be followed by a reception in the Calvin dining hall.

Significant growth

Calvin’s honors program has grown significantly since '93, when there were only two honors graduates. Since that time, Bratt and others have built structure into the program—strengthening honors requirements in all disciplines and recognizing and encouraging academic talent early on.

This year, there were two efforts to fortify the honors program. One was a dedicated honors community of 40 students in the newly built van Reken residence hall. The community, which hosted guest speakers and films, sought to extend the honors learning environment into residence hall living. (A one-credit course has been approved for the van Reken honors community to study next year.)

And this fall, the honors program also pioneered cluster classes—paired classes in written rhetoric and psychology, history and art history, literature and music and political science and communication arts and sciences—for incoming, first-semester honors students. The classes, whose curricula overlapped, allowed students to study two subjects in an interdisciplinary way.

“The cluster classes were a big success,” said Bratt, adding that program plans to debut the very first honors interim in 2010.

Cheering excellence

Bratt is looking forward to Wednesday night’s celebration: “We yell for our athletes and musicians, and this is a way to cheer our honors students and their long-term dedication to good work,” he said.

Eric Bratt is anticipating the event too: “I am most looking forward to thanking—and hugging—my father and mother after the ceremony. They have played such a significant role in the intellectual, emotional, social and spiritual development of my three siblings and myself.” (Eric is the son of Calvin history professor James Bratt and the nephew of Ken Bratt.)

Bormann, meanwhile, is looking beyond the event. “I’m thinking about wearing my medallion with every outfit,” she said. “Aside from that, probably I’ll hang it up somewhere in my room, where it will never be seen again.”

Honors Medallion

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