Honors program ‘cultivates Christian scholars’

On Saturday, March 14, the John Brown University Honors Scholars Program (HSP) hosted a party called the Venue. This year, the theme was “Night at the Museum.”

As both honors and non-honors students enjoy this night of learning and fun, some may wonder what the University’s honors program is and if undergraduate honors programs are as wonderful as they claim.

According to the program brochure, the mission of the JBU Honors Scholars Program is threefold: cultivating Christian scholars, serving God’s kingdom and enriching JBU.

Sophomore history major Elissa Branum is secretary of the HSP council. She described a variety of ways that HSP fulfills its mission. These include discussion-based classes, opportunities to present at undergraduate research conferences and team-taught integrated courses in theology and the humanities. She also described events like Trivia Night, Celebration of Passionate Curiosity and the Venue, all of which create unique learning opportunities.

Glenda Manos, administrative assistant for the program, sees first-hand how HSP helps students develop, and she enjoys seeing freshmen growing and gaining self-confidence through HSP programs.

In a study by Thomas P. Hébert and Matthew T. McBee entitled, “The Impact of an Undergraduate Honors Program on Gifted University Students,” the experiences of seven gifted university students were studied. For these students, the impacts of the program were positive.

Hébert and McBee found that gifted students “experienced a sense of isolation resulting from the differences between their abilities, interests, life goals, religious value systems, and the communities in which they lived.”

The scholars went on to explain that the students had a strong desire to fulfill their potentials. Through the honors program, students found a community of people like them, mentorship from the program director and a place for intellectual stimulation and psychosocial growth.

JBU honors scholar Lana Bromling echoed the benefits described in the study.

Bromling, a sophomore English major and honors council member, said that before joining the honors program, she felt out of place in class because she was often the only one answering the professor’s questions, asking her own questions and actively participating in group discussions. After joining the program, she found that she enjoys the “communal learning” aspect of her honors classes.

Bromling said the class discussion encouraged in honors classes helps students to “take what you’re learning in the classroom and apply it to the world and to your own life.” Bromling said that, sometimes with lecture-based classes, the learning “just sort of stops there.”

“I mean, you memorize the fact, regurgitate it back during the exam and maybe you win a couple of games of heads-up with your friends, but you don’t really apply those things to your life,” Bromling said. “I think that’s one of the real benefits of Honors.”

Grey Terry, a sophomore business administration major, is also an honors council member. When asked if being an Honors Scholar will pay off after graduation, Terry said he believes it will look good for graduate school applicants, but, other than that, its significance on a resume is likely not huge.

“But the experience that you get from being in honors is very valuable, versus that little line on your resume,” Terry said.

However, Terry and Bromling agreed that HSP provides a specific style of learning which is not necessarily the best learning-style for everyone. They pushed back on the idea that honors students are better than other students. But they said HSP is a good fit for them and has transformed their undergraduate experience.

Branum agreed, “I really feel like I wouldn’t have found my home at JBU without honors.”