October 24, 2018 | Connor Bechler

Two students and a professor talking while exiting a hallway are silhouetted against a large window.
Photo Credit: Stephen Norregaard

This year, a new path is being charted for Honors at Calvin. The reimagined path aims to expand the program’s interdisciplinary focus and sense of community. The program, which will be implemented incrementally over the course of the next two years, is split into two distinct tracks—the Honors Scholars program and the Collegiate Scholars program—to best fit the goals of Calvin’s diverse scholars.

Discovery through community in conversation

The Honors Scholars branch will offer students interested in studying a wide range of disciplines a tightly knit group of similarly-minded peers and a modified core curriculum designed to maximize opportunities for interdisciplinary learning.

Rather than having regular core requirements, Honors Scholars students will take a single four-or-five-credit core course together each semester for their first two years. These courses will fulfill student learning outcomes equivalent to 29 credit hours of core requirements.

These Honors core courses will be interdisciplinary and team taught by two professors. “Having two faculty members in the room representing different disciplines and perspectives engage with one another will provide students a model of effective communication across differing vocabularies and methodologies,” said Amy Wilstermann, director of the Honors and Collegiate Scholars program and associate professor of biology.

“That’s going to be valuable, especially for these students that have multiple interests and that are going to work in areas where they will do interdisciplinary work themselves,” she added.

“The current honors program is flexible, large, and accommodates a lot of students, but there’s a disconnect between the number of students in the program and the number of students who finish the program,” said Craig Hanson, associate director of the Honors and Collegiate Scholars program and associate professor and department chair of art and art history.

The new system—designed along a cohort model—aims to remedy this through “building a critical mass of community,” noted Hanson. “We’ll have between 40 to 44 students each year, and after four years, we hope to have 140 to 160 students in the program,” Hanson added. “Those students will absolutely know each other.”

Excellence through individual engagement

While the Honors Scholars program is organized around a multidisciplinary cohort-based experience, the Collegiate Scholars program is aimed towards students who are more specialized in their interests, but still want to pursue advanced coursework, research, campus leadership, and studying abroad.

Due to its cohort structure and fixed curricular requirements, the Honors Scholars program has an intensive application process and student cap. By contrast, the Collegiate Scholars program has a rolling admission process, requiring a brief online application to join. Additionally, the program has six requirements for graduation—Collegiate Scholars must take at least one Honors colloquium, maintain a GPA of at least 3.65, and pursue four advanced academic or community engagement activities.

“A lot of it is recognizing what these kinds of students are already doing,” said Hanson. “A second major or minor, a semester abroad, a varsity sport, Calvin Theatre Company, musical ensembles, and leadership of a student organization will all go towards fulfilling Collegiate Scholars activity requirements.”

While only Honors Scholars will graduate with honors on their diploma, both Honors and Collegiate Scholars will gain access to a number of benefits, such as a free 18th credit hour, access to advanced colloquium and interdisciplinary courses, Honors advising, and priority for Calvin Research Fellowships.

“The multiple track Honors program serves the diversity of students we get at Calvin,” said Wilstermann. “By providing students with choice, students can find the program in which they’ll most thrive and be able to best pursue all of the opportunities Calvin has to offer.”

Recent stories