Date of this Version
Honors in Practice, Volume 9 (2013)
In Larry Clark’s monograph chapter on the education of academically talented college students, he challenged honors educators to consider our role in helping students find their path, particularly through the addition of self-reflection and exploratory projects in honors courses. He noted, “Our first effort should be directed toward helping students learn what paths will be most satisfying in their lives in relationship to their other desires, involvements, and commitments” (84). Despite little available research available on what defines an honors student, we know from experience that honors students tend to be eager and exploratory (Achterberg) as well as willing to take intellectual risks (Slavin). From an academic advising perspective, honors students tend to have complex academic needs, high expectations and goals, and a strong interest in postgraduate educational opportunities (Schuman). In an honors first-year experience (FYE) course for science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) majors at the University of Florida, one assignment was designed in particular to meet the special needs of honors students and to achieve Clark’s goals. My perspective as instructor, along with the comments of two first-year students—Stephanie Podjed and Sean Taasan—who took the class in the fall 2012 semester, might serve as an illustration and model of “helping students find their path.”
The honors FYE course for STEM majors is taught by an honors advisor with the assistance of two honors student leaders who are also STEM majors. This elective course introduces students to opportunities in the STEM fields that include research with faculty, internships, and global engagement while at the same time building skills in areas such as networking, interviewing, and résumé development. This one-credit course meets once a week for an hour but also includes a hybrid component where students complete online modules to prepare them for each week’s class. The online modules provide a series of guides where students reflect on the previous week’s topic, review background material for the next week’s topic, and search for and discuss opportunities relevant to their interests. The course, limited to twenty-five students, enrolled twentyfour in the fall 2012 semester.