Honors’ changing face

By Cara Donfrio

Fourteen members of the NIU Honors Committee met at Douglas Hall’s Honors Lounge Friday for its 249th meeting.

The meeting was opened by Joel Stafstrom, chair of the Honors Committee and associate professor of biology.

He verbally recognized the approach of Thanksgiving and asked each of the attendees to share something that they were thankful for.

Jim Stewart, associate professor of technology, said the meeting was his first and that he was grateful to be at the university working with so many people.

Honors Program Coordinator Evelyn Zuroske began old business. Zuroske discussed what honors students wanted in the lounge. Their ideas included a pool table and dart board. She went on to say that six computers in room 80A, a small alcove within the Honors Lounge, were not properly connected and that she wasn’t sure who was going to connect them or where the money was coming from. She suggested that, since the computers were for the students, the money could come out of student fees.

Changing the subject, Zuroske said the spring semester was packed with activities that honors and all students could participate in. Some events included trips to a Kane County Cougars game, to see Blue Man Group and Second City.

Zuroske continued her report by noting that TEACH, which she described as “a residential program for students who are seeking teacher certification,” was leaving the honors wing. She then talked about the requirements for living in the Honors House – floors C1 and C2 in Douglas Hall – and the “point system” that honors students live and work by. She said three honors students who went abroad could speak at an upcoming honors “dine and discuss” session. The three travelers went to Italy, Australia and Costa Rica.

Stafstrom said employers at job fairs especially were interested in honors students because of their extra motivation and initiative. He then started new business by saying that he had gone to an Undergraduate Coordinating Council meeting on Oct. 20, and many representatives from various schools’ honors programs were in attendance. There was a discussion about priority registration for honors students. The topic was debated widely and finally passed through the Admission Policies and Academic Standards Committee.

Provost Ivan Legg was at the meeting, and he discussed how to get more students into honors programs. Stafstrom told the group what Legg’s outlook on the topic was.

“‘Double the impact of the program, not the size,’” Stafstrom quoted Legg.

After quoting Legg, Stafstrom agreed with the provost’s opinion.

“More numbers isn’t necessarily better quality, he said.

At this point, Stafstrom felt that it was important to clarify the meaning and goal of NIU’s Honors Program.

“The program strives to build the whole student,” he said. “It is for students of high caliber who are interested in participating.”

He then introduced a topic that sparked much debate among the meeting’s participants. The subject at hand was “mini-sections,”classes in which a professor has to teach both honors and non-honors students. Attendees discussed how this should be done and if there should be a formal standard.

Stewart shared his experiences in teaching mini-sections.

“The honors students have special projects,” he said.

After much discussion among both professors and students about different ways that professors could meet the needs of the honors students, Carol DeMoranville, an associate professor of marketing, said formulating a standard should be a top priority. She said students should have a formal way of letting other students know which professors met their intellectual needs and which ones didn’t. Stafstrom ended the topic by realizing that a solution couldn’t be achieved during that meeting.

Zuroske and Honors Program Secretary Joanne Ganshirt made sure everyone knew that the newest issue of PRIME, the honors newsletter, would be out very soon.