Honors Program changes, adds depth for students

A new semester always brings change. The Honors Scholars Program is no exception. This year students can expect changes in leadership, programming and the freshman experience.

New Leadership

Honors students will now fall under the direction Trisha Posey, the new director of the Honors Scholars Program.

Also, Biblical Studies Professor Maxie Burch now takes the role of assistant director of the program. Posey said he will play an important advisory role.

Maria Lehr brings both a new face and a new position to the program. As the new honors academic adviser and co-curricular planner, Lehr’s job includes providing students information about classes, helping students determine their schedules and answering any questions they might have.

“It’s meeting a need that has been in the program for a while, especially as we’re getting larger, and because we’re an interdisciplinary program,” Lehr said. “Just being someone who can provide information to our students, be an advocate when they need it and really check on their spiritual and mental health.”

Lehr works in partnership with advisers in different majors to make sure honors students are on track both in their major and in the program. Her assistance will benefit students in more difficult majors such as engineering and the sciences who have problems fitting honors classes into their schedules.

With a love for education and a background of work in honors for her master’s program, Lehr expressed a passion for honors students and her work as an adviser.

“I just hope this position serves our students well,” she said. “I hope it develops them but is also a good resource for them.”

New Program

Along with the Venue and Sabbath Sundays, the Honors Scholars Program now provides a new outlet for students to build community within the program.

Fireside Chats allow students to meet with honors faculty outside of class. Gathered around the fireplace in the Honors Center, students can question professors about anything they want: What makes them tick? Why do they love the subject they teach? What do they do when they are not teaching?

Posey said the students she met with expressed an interest in getting to know their professors outside of the classroom and having a more personal time with them.

“[These are] conversations that can’t happen in the classroom but are important for students to be engaging with faculty on,” Posey said.

Senior Anna Lane, president of the honor’s executive council, said one of their goals was to incorporate the faculty more because they were the ones helping shape the program.

“We wanted to give more of a direct bridge from faculty to student outside of the classroom,” she said.

New Freshman Experience

Probably the most noticeable change in the program is the absence of the Honors Orientation class. In its place, freshmen can orient themselves into the honors community through the peer-mentoring program.

“There was a lot of negative feedback about the orientation class,” Lane said. “I don’t know if ‘better’ is the right choice of words. Honors Orientation is the class you really start to appreciate your junior and senior years.”

But Honors Orientation is not gone forever. Junior Tim Edgren, coordinator of the peer-mentoring program, plans on incorporating the concepts taught in the class into the mentoring meetings.

The program is optional for freshmen, but if they choose, they can team up in groups of three to five with an honors upperclassman. Instead of meeting for only a semester, the program will last all year.

Edgren said the 20 mentors have a dual purpose. First, they facilitate an academic relationship.

“They know what kinds of issues freshmen deal with, particularly honors freshmen, and… can connect the freshmen with resources which can help them plan out what they’re going to do as honors students,” he said.

Secondly, they initiate spiritual mentoring.

“I really want to see that part grow because in the past it’s been very academic,” he said. “The spiritual aspect is both living by example what it means to be a Christian college student, but also helping the freshmen to realize their potential as Christian students.”

Overall, the program provides a way for freshmen to feel involved in the program and create a sense of class community that was lost with the dismissal of the Honors Orientation class.

Posey said her desire is to help students learn and develop the gifts God has given them both in their personal and professional lives. She wants to challenge them along the way, as well as provide the resources they need as God calls them to the places they need to be.

“It’s a really exciting time in the honors program,” she said.