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Back to basics: Honors revamps system

University Honors Program simplifies, cuts requirements

By Jeffrey Sadownick, For The Miami Student

The new school year has brought with it a new, revamped University Honors Program. This new program will focus its curriculum on the Global Miami Plan, which consists of a minimum of 36 semester hours as well as a thematic sequence and a capstone course.

The new program director, Linda Marchant, shifted emphasis toward interdisciplinary learning and the community aspect of the honors program.

"They give us lots of opportunities to bring people together," first-year honors student Shane Mart said.

The program was changed because the previous program, called the Honors Plan for Liberal Education, was too confusing for students and faculty. Students were unsure of what classes were required for the program. Additionally, the program was not sustainable because the thousands of honors portfolios, one of the Honors Plan requirements, overwhelmed the honors advisers.

The new Honors Program kept elements that worked well from the Honors Plan, such as First-Year Cluster courses, and scrapped those that did not, like the portfolios. The new plan allows all incoming first-years to be advised based on the same requirements.

"We want to enhance the liberal education goals of the Global Miami Plan, rather than standing as an alternative to it," Associate Director of University Honors Program Zeb Baker said. "I think people got a misunderstanding of what the Honors Program is trying to accomplish. The Honors Program is deeply committed to liberal education."

The new plan has fewer requirements than the Honors Plan. Students must complete a minimum of four honors experiences, consisting of two First-Year Cluster courses and two other honors experiences. Under the Honors Plan, students had to complete nine honors experiences as well as portfolio entries.

The class of 2018 will be the first class under the new honors program. Sophomores, juniors and seniors currently in the honors program will continue under the original Honors Plan and will have the same advising and benefits as before.

Another big change is the Honors Program has been split in two, consisting of University Honors and Advanced University Honors.

A student can complete University Honors after his or her sophomore year and can then choose to continue with the Honors Program with Advanced University Honors, which requires two additional honors experiences and two interdisciplinary workshop courses. An honors thesis may become a requirement of Advanced University Honors in the future.

The advantage of this split program is students who do not wish to move on to Advanced University Honors can focus their junior and senior years on completing requirements for their majors.

As a part of the interdisciplinary focus of the program, the new Honors Program will encourage students to take advantage of leadership and service project opportunities as well as other opportunities outside the classroom.

"They have any number of opportunities to complete the other Honors requirements through internships, study abroad, campus and community engagement, teaching opportunities and undergraduate research," said Baker.

Students reacted positively toward the emphasis on interdisciplinary learning.

"In today's modern world, students more than ever need to be well-rounded and understand more than just their major," first-year honors student Jacob Groth said.