Still, the issue of rewards for work in honors is a vexing one. Celeste Campbell has provided a provocative study of the educational value of honors in relation to its career value for teachers and administrators. Honors programs are widely acknowledged by institutional leaders, as well as the faculty and students involved in them, to be significant benefits to the prestige as well as academic excellence of colleges and universities. The importance of honors programs as criteria for admission to Phi Beta Kappa, for instance, and the obvious benefits they provide in public relations and admissions have led to consistent expansion of honors programs throughout the past four decades. Furthermore, faculty typically report high satisfaction with teaching in honors. The question is whether the importance of honors education has translated into professional as well as educational rewards for those who provide it. While the answer to this question is not altogether encouraging, Campbell provides some hope for change and also some recommendations for effecting this change. A larger study based on her methodology and findings would be an especially welcome contribution to this journal and to honors. Success stories such as those at the University of New Mexico, which now has two faculty members as well as the director tenured in honors, point the way toward a stronger correlation between the value and rewards of honors.
Anne N. Rinn offers fascinating research on the origins of honors education in the Oxford experiences transported back to America by Rhodes scholars, especially Frank Aydelotte. Many of the American honors programs thus inspired by Oxford via Rhodes scholars are completing the circuit by sending honors students to Oxford also via "the Rhodes." Current Rhodes scholars from American honors programs often find the tutorials and comprehensive examinations at Oxford reminiscent of their honors experiences. Although few American universities encourage or allow as much autonomy to undergraduates as Oxford does, many honors programs assume a similarly high level of individual initiative and independent research. Rinn has provided an important insight not only into the history of honors education but also its character.
While many readers of Rinn's essay will find the model of education she describes there consonant with their own honors programs, others might find a dramatic contrast to their own honors students and curricula, as the subsequent essays by honors teachers and administrators reveal. Daniel R. Grangaard, for instance, offers a quantitative analysis of the personalities of honors students at the Rio Grande campus of Austin Community College. Some of the characteristics that Grangaard discovered, based on tests he administered to students in his honors section of an introductory psychology course, seem consistent with an Oxford or Rhodes stereotype (e.g., "strong need to exert their autonomy"); others, however, such as a view of themselves as "average in achievement motivation," contradict any such stereotype of honors students. Grangaard's sample size is far too small to provide a convincing picture of honors students generally; however, his methodology and unpredictable results suggest a possible direction for further research.
An attempt such as Grangaard's to define a typical honors student today is unlike any similar attempt during Frank Aydelotte's day. While the United States has always had a diverse population, the same has not always been true of its colleges and universities, much less its honors programs. Peter Longo and John Falconer describe a dynamic shift in demographics at the University of Nebraska at Kearney, exploring the ways an honors program should incorporate and address such a shift. They describe the inherent obstacles that first-generation and minority students encounter in private colleges and research universities, and they describe the benefits that regional institutions can provide through "accessible campuses, familiar surroundings, and challenging honors programs." While this claim may not be persuasive to readers from non-regional institutions, Longo and Falconer's historical overview of Nebraska's response to a growing Hispanic population and their description of ways that honors programs can adapt to new citizens are useful; they reveal a range of issues and interests that are still relatively new to higher education in this country and that present an ongoing challenge to traditional honors education.
One response to the increasingly diverse demographics of honors students in almost all institutions is curricular innovation. Diverse students inspire diverse pedagogies. Judith Hiltner has provided a description of a junior-level fieldwork course at Saint Xavier in Chicago. Most honors programs today have experiential components both within and beyond the regular honors curriculum. Hiltner's essay provides a model for incorporating such experiences within a junior-year curriculum-a time when many honors programs need some sort of bridge between introductory courses and the honors thesis. Hiltner provides a study of the successes and failures at Saint Xavier, models for assessment, and ideas for curriculum development-all designed to have practical value to the students. Many faculty members in honors decry and resist the career orientation of higher education that has evolved in the past two or three decades and that seems incongruent with the kind of education that Frank Aydelotte envisioned and encouraged for honors. At the same time, most honors faculty recognize the value of hands-on pedagogies and even, perhaps grudgingly, the value of preparing honors students for the world of work.
Honors education has come a long way, for better and for worse, since the days when it harkened back primarily to an Oxford model, but a superb essay by a current honors student demonstrates that honors programs still adhere to high standards of academic research. Matthew Kruer's essay on the consequences of the 1616 epidemic among Native American tribes in New England won a Portz Prize at the 2002 NCHC conference in Salt Lake City. He is an honors student at the University of Arizona and wrote this paper for a 300-level history course taught by Professor Helen Nader.
Kruer's essay reveals the scholarly rigor, intellectual depth, and cultural insight that all honors programs-however else they might differ from each other-hope to foster. The editors of the Journal of the National Collegiate Honors Council are honored to publish it, just as all of us in programs across the country are honored to work in a thousand different ways with all types of bright and motivated students. For the sake of these students as well as ourselves, we are wise to heed the issues that Celeste Campbell has raised in her opening essay; if the best students are to benefit from the best teaching, then teachers and administrators of honors must also be the best and be rewarded as such.
UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA AT BIRMINGHAM
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|Publication:||Journal of the National Collegiate Honors Council|
|Date:||Mar 22, 2003|
|Next Article:||The perceived value of honors work as it relates to faculty promotion and tenure.|