Some honors students upset with choices

Students in the University Honors Program are raising concerns over the requirements they must meet and the courses being offered to fulfill them.

Honors students must take two honors pro-seminars in their freshman year, and typically take at least one honors course per semester as upperclassmen. Students are also required to have a course load of 15 credits each semester and submit a senior thesis or research project.

Several program participants said there are not enough courses being offered to satisfy the requirements for their major. Many of the program’s 37 upperclassmen spring courses cannot be used to fulfill some major requirements, they noted. Honors students will sign up for classes Nov. 5.

“The Honors Program offers nothing that will satisfy the requirements,” sophomore Rachel Flipse, a psychology major, said.

“There are a million interesting literature classes and other courses, but once you’ve fulfilled your general requirements, you can’t find specific class to fulfill your major requirements,” she added.

“There are no classes for psych major … it is very politically geared,” sophomore Jackie Baker said. “I will probably use the honors courses for my general requirements, because once you’re in upper level courses you can do research and other things for your major.”

Sophomore Heather Alman, a student in the business school, is facing similar problems.

“There is only one honors business course offered. I will probably do a course conversion,” Alman said, referring to a process by which students can get program credit for taking non-honors courses.

Honors program director Grae Baxter said she is not aware of any student complaints.

“I have had no feedback that there are not enough courses being offered,” she said.

Despite some student complaints, sophomore Jon Mendelson, a biology and psychology major, said he has been able to enroll in every honors course he wanted to take so far.

“I was able to take a small (chemistry) class that would normally be a 300-person lecture. Chem is well-represented in the honors department,” he said.

Mendelson also said he found his freshman pro-seminars to be a “really positive experience.”

There are approximately 965 honors students and about 46 faculty members teaching honors courses. Baxter said there is a minimum of 50 honors courses being offered each semester.

“I have never had a case where a student could not fulfill their requirements. If there was something beyond their control, we would work something out. There are always other options,” Baxter said.

Baxter said the options include course conversions, internships, independent study, research assistantships and a senior thesis. Students with more than 60 credits can also take a one-credit Honors Symposium that fulfills the requirement that they take one program course per semester.

“We understand that students want to fulfill their major requirements at the same time as their honors requirements,” Baxter said. “But sometimes honors courses address something not offered by the regular courses.”

Students may seek admission into the honors program when initially applying to GW or after their first semester if they have a cumulative GPA of at least 3.40.

“The purpose of the honors program is not to duplicate what regular departments would do,” Baxter said. “The honors program is an enrichment program that will step beyond the normal courses and dig deeper … Students are able to explore things they might not be able to in context of their major.”

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