The Westminster College Honors program is rich with tradition, a function of Honors students having a shared experience in a collaborative and supportive learning environment. Some traditions are serious and some are fun; but all of them connect Honors students to each other and the Honors legacy established by previous students and faculty.
Each student begins his or her Honors experience in the same way: in a day-long series of events run by upper class Honors students designed to ease the transition to college, establish bonds with each other, and have a lot of fun along the way. Before the regular college orientation begins, Honors students meet each other and learn about the program, engage in a common read discussion, sit in on a sample Honors class, do a self-portrait, participate in some group work, and watch a film. Along the way, we have lots of time to eat, get to know each other, and, like these students, run around campus like maniacs.
Pizza with Profs
Faculty and student collaboration is at the heart of the Honors program. While there are many opportunities for Honors students to interact with faculty outside the classroom, possibly the most popular is the "Pizza with Profs" program in which faculty talk informally with Honors students about one of their areas of research or outside interests. Other chances to work with faculty outside the classroom include the "Profs Pick the Flick" film series, the Honors independent summer research grant program, and Honors-sponsored trips to regional and national academic conferences. Here, Honors prof Jeff McCarthy, who also chairs Environmental Studies, grabs a piece of pizza before speaking with Honors students about the changing perceptions of Nature through the years.
Dead Paper Society
Honors students blow off steam at the end of each fall semester by gathering around the fire on Nunemaker's back porch and burning copies of research papers they'd rather not see again. Amidst the roasting papers and marshmallows, students swap academic horror stories and then retire inside Nunemaker to watch Dead Poets Society. (Faculty are definitely not invited to this event!) This year's event was a bit chilly as a cold front moved in preparation for dumping a foot of fresh powder on the slopes of the Wasatch Range.
Every incoming Honors student is mentored by an upper class Honors student who is available to provide guidance from Day One of college. This program also offers upper class Honors students a way to stay connected to Honors and develop important leadership skills. One of the hallmarks of the Honors program is the mentoring students receive not only from faculty but from seasoned Honors students who feel connected to a learning community based around shared academic experiences.
Honors Faculty vs. Student Softball Game
On "Dead Day" every spring semester, the Honors faculty squares off against Honors students in a softball showdown at high noon. Usually the best attended event of the year, the game gives the students a chance to try to beat their Honors elders in an athletic contest that would make the Greeks proud. Because they typically lose this annual competition, Honors students have been known to pelt the Honors faculty with water balloons at the post-game lunch. Click here for scores of recent games.
Just as we begin the semester together at Honors orientation, the entire Honors program comes together each year on the last evening of the spring semester for a banquet celebrating the year's Honors achievements. Various awards are given out, many of them serious and many not so serious. The highlight of the evening is when each of the graduating seniors tells a story about his or her Honors experience, what we call "Senior Moments." Here, the Honors director poses with some of the graduating seniors at last year's party.