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New honors curriculum implemented for fall 2019

Belmont’s honors program will be operating with a new curriculum starting in the fall.

Faculty Senate voted to approve the revised curriculum on Jan. 14. Dr. Bonnie Smith Whitehouse is the new director of the honors program, with former director Dr. Jonathan Thorndike moving to the role of senior fellow of honors.

In the current honors program, students are given a choice between three specialized tracks, with emphases on the arts, scholarship and leadership. The new curriculum will do away with this choice, favoring a single, four-year “Honors Core” common to all students in the program.

This change was made to align the honors curriculum more closely with the BELL Core, and to ensure that students are not forced to choose between different important elements of their learning experience, said Dr. Mimi Barnard, the associate provost of interdisciplinary studies and global education, which includes the honors program.

“The committee that was pulled together to come up with this new curriculum decided that it would be wonderful if everybody was exposed to leadership, and if everybody was exposed to the importance of aesthetic,” Barnard said. “And of course, if you’re in honors, scholarship is something you’re accustomed to doing by the time you graduate.”

Another notable addition to the honors curriculum is what Barnard called an “embedded study abroad,” which requires all students to study abroad the spring semester of their second year.

There will be an appeal process available to students who are unable to study abroad, but it is mandatory for all students with the ability to do it.

These changes are being made at the request of university Provost Dr. Thomas Burns, who wanted an updated honors curriculum to match the changes made to the BELL Core in 2018.

“You should always be reviewing curriculum,” Barnard said. “You should always be thinking, ‘What’s relevant? What are we missing?’”

Though student feedback was “an important part of the conversation,” it was not the lone priority of faculty senate when they approved the revisions, Barnard said.

“I would not say student feedback was the priority,” Barnard said. “If that were the priority, why do we even have faculty?”

The Honors Student Council was involved in the process of creating the new curriculum, though, said HSC President and Belmont senior Steven Metrejean.

“We had a couple of meetings with Dr. Barnard,” Metrejean said. “She heard ideas, we pitched ideas back and forth. She wanted to see what we wanted to see.”

Metrejean is confident the new honors curriculum will have a positive impact on future Belmont students, he said.

“For a long time, the honors curriculum and the BELL Core have not matched up at all,” Metrejean said. “I like this one a lot more. I think it gives a lot more flexibility to honors students.”

Current students will be unaffected by changes to the honors curriculum, with the freshman class of fall 2019 being the first to participate in the revised curriculum.

Barnard and Smith Whitehouse expect students will be excited about the curriculum, but they also want to make sure the program maintains the sense of mutual support among students and faculty, they said.

“What we heard from them over and over — in their oral feedback to us, in one-on-one conversations and in written feedback — was that they valued the community that the honors program provided more than anything else,” Smith Whitehouse said.

“We are absolutely working to preserve and grow the sense of community that they feel from the honors program. We understand how important that is, and we value that too.”

Details regarding the new honors curriculum can be found here.

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This article written by Justin Wagner. 

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