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To become an honors student (that is, to be accepted into an honors college or program) requires satisfying specific entrance requirements, most or all of which are directly related to a student’s grade point average and potential for success in a rigorous academic environment. To gain entrance into and be present in an organization or community are not sufficient, however, to characterize a person as a complete member of it. There is more to community membership than simple presence. To be a member of a community is also to perform actions and develop or possess traits of character consistent with those actions. In a community of honors students, membership requires that one be or become a person worthy of honor.
“Honor” is an active moral notion, understood not only as that which someone receives (i.e., to be honored) but also that which a person warrants (i.e., to be worthy of honor). To be honored is one thing; to be worthy of honor is another. To examine and explain the concept of honor in its virtue-theoretic sense in the context of an honors college requires understanding the unique position of the honors student, her responsibilities as a member of an honors organization, and the implications of her position and responsibilities in the creation and sustenance of an honors community.
What I wish to discuss in this paper are the importance and implication of the notion of “community” as it affects, is affected, and is effected by a student’s membership in an honors college/community. To this end, I will concentrate on the meaning of honor, the distinction between gaining acceptance into a community and becoming (and being) a member of it, and the way in which a student’s conception of her place in an honors community entails benefits and obligations that are central to the creation and sustenance of the community. I explain this using the honor code from the University of Central Florida Burnett Honors College to distinguish between individualism and communitarianism, which are in turn related to individual and community ascendancy models of social relations. I will show the ways in which honors colleges and their students are central players in the creation of academic communities of personal and intellectual excellence. That is, I will show that honors students are academic and moral exemplars.