The Honors Program provides opportunities for interaction among Honors students of different class ranks, thereby contributing to the formation of an intellectual community among students in the Program. It meets regularly during the academic year for social interaction, discussion, and occasional special speakers and field trips.
The weekend before school began this past year, we went on a three-day retreat to a nearby campground. We not only got to know one another well and had a great deal of fun, but also we explored the rich and interdisciplinary thought of Michael Polanyi, the Hungarian-born chemist, economist, and philosopher. After hearing informative lectures on Polanyi from members of the history, politics, and English departments, students continued on their own to discuss and to debate the multifaceted implications of Polanyi’s ideas. It was a wonderful way to begin the year.
We’ve taken trips to used bookstores in Ann Arbor, the art and science museums in Chicago, the planetarium in Toledo, and the Michigan Renaissance Festival in Flint. Here in Hillsdale, bonfires, bowling, basketball, Trivial Pursuit challenges, college plays, and Halloween costume parties are some other examples of the variety of social activities the Honors students plan.
We also host several events on campus throughout the year. Honors students gather once each week to hear a faculty member speak on a topic of interest to members of the Program. Students are then encouraged to ask questions and to discuss the ideas raised by the speaker. We repeatedly wrestle with the central questions of Western Civilization—what does it mean to be human? What is man’s obligation to God? How do we reconcile the competing demands of community and individualism? These discussions include participation by faculty from various departments across the curriculum, and offer students a chance to explore ideas in greater depth and in different ways from what the classroom affords. One freshman described it as “one of the most fun and intellectually stimulating things I’ve experienced since my arrival.”
Once each month we host a dinner with one or more faculty members or community leaders. These dinners allow Honors students to interact on a personal level with scholars or thoughtful people from the business world while discussing topics of special interest. The college president and provost are frequent guests, and others have included a college dean who presented a slide show of his tour of Nazi Concentration Camps, an English professor who explored incarnational literature, and a candidate for the United States Congress who critiqued judicial activism. These dinners have proven to be excellent opportunities for students to become familiar with and learn from people with experience in fields in which many students will one day be active.
The Program also affords some extraordinary opportunities for travel. Each spring break brings a chance to spend a week in a city of historical significance. This spring we traveled to Boston, Massachusetts, visiting museums, monuments, historic homes, and a variety of other cultural attractions--amazing sites that might otherwise be mere names in a textbook. In addition, a major capstone experience of the Program has been a trip abroad for the students who have just completed their junior year. For the last several years, the Program has sponsored a tour through Anatolia (modern Turkey) lasting three to four weeks, visiting a stunning array of ancient sites and traveling in the footsteps of the Apostle Paul.
All of the aforementioned activities provide Honors students with opportunities to deepen their friendships. More importantly, they encourage students to strengthen their love of learning across disciplines and departmental boundaries.