We begin the volume with an essay entitled "Honors in Chile: New Engagements in the Higher Education System" by Juan Carlos Skewes of the Universidad Austral de Chile, Carlos Alberto Cioce Sampaio of the Universidade Regional de Blumenau, and Frederick J. Conway of San Diego State University. The authors describe a remarkable new honors program they have developed at the Universidad Austral de Chile (UACh). Funded by the Chilean Ministry of Education, the pilot program is an intriguing adaptation of the honors concept to unique challenges (rural setting, rainy weather, and poorly prepared students) and opportunities (strong infrastructure, national concern about inequities in education, and a setting that provides a living laboratory for environmental studies) within a specific geographical and cultural context. The UACh Honors Program, focused on "Environmental Studies and Sustainable Human Development," has been developed within the Center for Environmental Studies, which is "a transdisciplinary space created in 2002 to bring together faculty from the natural and social sciences to study environmental problems and contribute to policy making at the national and local levels." Originally inspired by honors education in the United States and aided by an NCHC consultant, Bernice Braid, the UACh Honors Program surely can and will serve as an excellent model not only for Chile and Latin America but also for the United States. The innovative, context-based, and focused mission of this new program might well be an inspiration for new honors programs anywhere.
The second essay also reveals the importance of context to successful program design. In "Dominican University of California's Honors Program and its Relation to University Heritage and Mission," Jayati Ghosh, M. Patricia Dougherty, and Kenneth Porada describe the restructuring of an honors program in accordance with the unique history and values of their institution. A redesign that began as a way to make the program more appealing and feasible for students became also an opportunity to make it specifically Dominican in its structure and mission. The rooting of this program in its particular context has led to new prominence and leadership as well as success within the larger university. It has also provided academic and ethical coherence for the honors experience.
Consideration of context has often been an important element of not just the design but the curriculum of honors programs and colleges. One of the "Honors Initiatives" included in this volume is described in "Community Beyond Honors: Butler University's Community Fellows Program" by Margaret Brabant and Anne M. Wilson. Butler's Center for Citizenship and Community applied for and won a grant from HUD's Office of University Partnerships for a Community Outreach Partnership Center, later obtaining a COPC New Directions grant as well and partnering with the Honors Program to provide small stipends to teaching fellows from the community. Each fellow has taught an Honors Program course designed to connect students to their communities through study, service learning, and contact with community leaders. Brabant and Wilson describe the design and success of these courses, asserting the importance of interaction between academic and civic communities.
Matthew L. Smith and Jason C. Vallee, in "Leadership in Scholarship Program," also describe a new collaborative effort between an honors program and a community-based, on-campus initiative. The Community Leadership Institute at Johnson & Wales University, like the Community Fellows Program at Butler University, fosters interaction between honors students and community leaders. Combined with other academic and organizational improvements, the Leadership in Scholarship Institute has already had significant benefits for student retention at Johnson & Wales University. This kind of collaboration with other on- and off-campus organizations in the interest of broadening and contextualizing honors education may well be an evolving trend in honors programs and colleges.
Michael K. Cundall, Jr., describes a different kind of initiative--internal rather than external--that he has undertaken at Arkansas State University. Using his own Undergraduate Scholars Day as an example and illustration, he explains "How to Develop and Promote an Undergraduate Research Day." He describes the benefits and challenges of organizing this kind of opportunity for undergraduates to give formal presentations of their research, and he gives a detailed chronology of what an organizer needs to do as well as when and how to do it. Anyone seeking to start or improve an undergraduate research day will find this essay useful.
The final essay in this volume's section on "Honors Initiatives" is "An Honors Pilot Course: Cross-Cultural Service and Inquiry-Based Learning in Merida, Mexico." Theresa A. Minick and Victoria Bocchicchio describe an ambitious cross-cultural course that has been piloted at Kent State University. The course includes a ten-day learning and service experience in Merida that is preceded by extensive preparation and succeeded by multi-faceted strategies for reflection upon, communication about, and further development of what the students have learned. The authors have presented an excellent model for making study abroad an academically and personally valuable experience for students.
The title of the first essay in this volume's section called "Honors Strategies" reveals an especially demanding strategic challenge: "They Filched Our Program! How to Turn That into a Good Thing." Anne M. Wilson and Melissa Ludwa describe the dilemma that can arise from the success of an honors program: Innovative ideas that have been developed for and in the program become attractive to the institution as a whole, which then co-opts the ideas and implements them for all students. In order to remain distinctive, the program then develops new ideas that may also be co-opted. While this kind of success is praiseworthy, it can also threaten the existence of a program, which might start to seem superfluous if all its ideas are institutionalized. So far the authors are staying ahead of the crowd by constantly conceiving and implementing new ideas, one of which was described earlier in this volume in the essay entitled "Community Beyond Honors: Butler University's Community Fellows Program."
In "Fun and Games of Teaching: Simulations in a Social Problems Course," Lisa New Freeland describes in detail a simulation-based pedagogical strategy of game playing she uses in her classes. She has found the strategy especially effective in honors classes, where students tend already to be more active participants than in other classes. New Freeland has found that her students, despite occasional resistance initially, develop greater abilities for critical thinking, synthesis of ideas, and application of knowledge outside the classroom than they do in more traditional classroom structures. She has also found that she learns more by adopting a pedagogy that requires her to close her mouth and open her ears.
In his essay "Using Peer Review in Honors Courses," Jeff Stowell describes another successful classroom strategy for engaging students. He gives a brief, lucid, and helpful account of his experience using peer mentors in his introductory honors courses in psychology. Stowell provides data to show that peer mentors have improved students' grades and that students have found the process helpful to their performance. He also gives suggestions about how to implement peer mentoring effectively based on his experience during the past several years.
In the next section of this volume we provide a report on the highly successful NCHC Faculty Institute entitled "Miami and the Everglades: Built and Endangered Environments" that took place January 11-15, 2006. Peter Machonis, the prime mover and one of the facilitators of the Faculty Institute, gives an overview of the experience, and then Joy Ochs, in an essay entitled "'You're Not Typical Professors, Are You?': Reflections on the NCHC Faculty Institute in Miami and the Everglades," gives a participant's up-close and personal narrative about its value. The NCHC sponsors Faculty Institutes on a regular basis, and we hope to have such reports in the future volumes of Honors in Practice.
Another new feature of this volume that we hope to make permanent is the final section called "Sample Honors Syllabi." We sent out a call for syllabus submissions on the NCHC listserv and then selected six that reflect a variety of disciplines, class levels, and approaches. This year we received over thirty publication-worthy submissions, from which we selected one each in the humanities, social sciences, and sciences; two interdisciplinary courses; and one introductory one-hour course for freshmen. All syllabi adhere to a standard format so that they serve as accessible snapshots of successful honors courses. Contact information about the authors is provided for readers who wish to request further information. Others of the submitted syllabi will be posted on a new section of the NCHC web site (http://nchchonors.org/).
This volume of Honors in Practice not only contains essays about innovations in honors but also implements some innovations of its own. We hope you will find the materials enjoyable and useful, and we invite your suggestions about future volumes. Letters to the Editor, whether intended to be private or public, are always welcome. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA AT BIRMINGHAM