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COAS Students Benefit from Honors Program

IPFW’s Honors Program has been on the move lately. In fall 2014, Associate Professor Ann Livschiz (history) became director after serving a semester as interim director, and the program moved into new offices in Helmke Library. So we invited a group of COAS honors students to discuss how the program works and how it benefits participants: Amity Pauley (communication and women’s studies), Evan Frauhiger (history), Rachel Habegger (biology and history), Srilatha Dasari (biology), and Sadie King-Hoffman (communication sciences & disorders [CSD] and English and linguistics).

To receive an honors certificate, students are required to take 18 credit hours of “honors” classes, maintain a 3.5 GPA, and complete an honors project. Students can gain honors credits by taking honors classes, which are open to only honors students. Or they can create “H-option classes,” regular classes in which a student completes extra assignments or projects to earn the honors credit.

Several of the interviewees mentioned the academic benefits of honors classes. According to Frauhiger, honors classes are “much more personalized than other classes. When you have a smaller class, it can be tailored to everyone’s needs. You get better discussions, and you get to know the professor better.” Dasari commented on the way commonly used teaching techniques are enhanced in these smaller classes, “honors classes are focused on active learning. They incorporate things like discussion, presentation, or the real life application of the material.”

To achieve the certificate, honors students must also complete an honors project. Students develop a research proposal, find a faculty mentor to oversee their project, research and write a literature review on their topic, and present the proposal to a panel. Once proposals are approved, students complete their projects and present their findings at an honors project showcase.

The breadth and range of honors projects is expansive, to say the least. Four of the five interviewees had completed or were finishing their honors projects. Pauley’s project included research she conducted in France, where she was studying feminism in women’s food movements. Habegger tested the effectiveness of Pro Product’s turfgrass fertilizers in increasing ground growth, coverage, and root depth of Kentucky Bluegrass. Frauhiger focused on the legacy of the Nuremburg trials after World War Two. Finally, King-Hoffman researched and created a picture book on autism for her honors project.

The Honors Program also provides important connections and opportunities. According to Dasari, her fellow honors students and professors are an essential support system, “who will always have your back and help with any challenges you might have.” Habegger considers the connections with professors she developed through the Honors Program as a crucial part of her academic success: “they know you’re serious, and you’re more likely to be considered for research if that’s part of your field.” Habegger's research on turfgrass was an opportunity she was offered by a professor who met her through the Honors Program.

The Honors Program experience also helps students prepare for graduate school. Like Habegger, King-Hoffman believes that her graduate school applications were strengthened by opportunities she accessed through the Honors Program. She cited the opportunity to work as a teaching assistant while still an undergraduate as “incredibly helpful for me as I apply to graduate school and for graduate teaching assistantships.” These applications were further strengthened by her multiple national conference presentations, including Mid-East Honors Association (MEHA) and the Midwestern Modern Language Association conference.

Habegger doubts she would have been accepted into medical school if it weren’t for the program. “I didn’t have a very strong application with respect to working in the field—I’d never worked in a hospital. But I did have research. I was recommended to the professor because I was an honors student.” The four seniors who were interviewed applied to graduate school, and each of them is confident that their participation in the Honors Program strengthens their applications.

To learn more about these students and the Honors Program, check out the full interview. You can also contact the Honors Program for more information.