A window inside life at Augustana College

The Honors Program in a Nutshell

It’s a bit early to be talking about what happens once you get your acceptance letter, as I realize that you might still be working on your application, but this post is going to be about the Honors program. When I got the Honors brochure from Admissions, I was a little confused as to precisely what being in the Honors program entailed. I knew I didn’t want to be in Logos, because I don’t exactly love Science, but other than that, I didn’t know what I would be doing, and how the Honors program was different. Well, your freshman year, instead of taking three LSFY courses, you will take three Honors classes – either Foundations or Logos, whichever you choose. Then, winter term of your sophomore year (if you choose to), you will take a combined Foundations/Logos class. And junior year (again, if you choose to), you will do the equivalent of a senior inquiry project that you will do for your major.

Now that you have your Honors life planned out, here are some reasons springing from one term’s experience of the program to take, (or not take, depending on your point of view) Foundations:

1) If reading makes you happy, you will be overjoyed.

In ten weeks, I have read six books. I read eight over the course of the entire year in my high school AP Lit class. It was a little odd to spend just one week on an entire book after spending a long, long time on each book we read in AP Lit last year, but I got used to it after a while. Obviously, the amount of reading each day is a lot bigger than in high school – I think I read anywhere from 25 to 60 pages a day, depending on the difficulty of the book, but this is college, and if you manage your time, it’s easy to get your reading done. If you’re interested in the titles/authors, I’ve read Democracy and Education by John Dewey, Therapy by David Lodge, Fear and Trembling by Soren Kierkegaard, The Stranger by Albert Camus, Night by Elie Wiesel and The Professor’s House by Willa Cather. This list might, and probably will, change next year, but hopefully this will give you an idea of the kind of stuff we read. Also, just as a comparison, the LSFY classes don’t read any books at all during fall term, since they’re more focused on developing writing skills.

2) You get a Christian Traditions perspective from the spring term component of Foundations

In case you didn’t know, you have to fulfill a bunch of different requirements in order to graduate. Since Augustana is a liberal arts college, you get a well-rounded education, and in order to do that, you have to take a lot of “perspectives” and “suffixes.” I’m not going to explain the entire system here because your advisor will probably do a better job that I could. It’s enough to tell you that you have to take a Religion course to fulfill the Christian Traditions suffix, and if you’re in Foundations, you don’t, because that component is built into your spring term Foundations class.

3) You make really awesome friends

During orientation week, you go to events with your advising group. Advising groups are normally based on what your major is going to be, so you might see some of the people you meet in classes during the term. However, since it’s only the first term of your college education, you will probably be doing perspectives, not taking many classes that directly relate to your major. But with the entire Honors program, your advising group will (in most cases) be your Honors class. Sometimes, there are a couple of students whose advising groups aren’t the same as their classes, but in most cases you can be sure of seeing your advising group every day for the rest of the term. This gives you a lot more time to bond, since you already know the people in your Honors class before class even begins. My best friends so far are both in my Foundations class.

Plus, you hang out outside of class too. The Honors program has a small budget, so the entire Foundations group has been to a Quad City Bandits baseball game, and my advising group went to brunch at our advisor’s house one Saturday.

The people in Honors tend to be quirky and funny, and capable of having intense discussions about existentialism too, so you’ll fit in somewhere in the crowd. Case in point: pictured above are Melissa and Brittney from my advising group. On our way back from brunch at our advisor’s house, they decided to pause to roll down the grassy hill. I spent half an hour watching them try to roll, run and slide down it without getting injured.

4) You get to have regular crises of faith

And not just religious faith, but faith in your beliefs about pretty much everything. Maybe the title of this section is a little exaggerated, but we discuss our authors’ philosophies in great detail, and talking about the claim that nothing we do really matters because we’re all going to die anyway is slightly depressing. But it really strengthens your beliefs in your faith and values to come up with an argument that refutes that claim.

I’m not Christian, and that’s made this class easier and harder for me. My Christian friends are dealing with some views of Christianity that are very different from their own, and that’s really making them think long and hard about their faith. My crises of faith are coming from examining value systems that are completely different from mine, and they seem to be easier on me. But what’s harder is that I don’t get a lot of the Biblical allusions in the works we’ve read. Kierkegaard, especially, is a very Christian writer, and during the one week we spent on him, I was pretty much silent in class since I was learning as much about Christianity as about Kierkegaard’s system of belief.

But that’s what college is for, I guess, to examine and strengthen your beliefs.

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