Yesterday, at approximately 9:16 am, I handed in the grand finale of a rather intriguing semester-long experiment involving Fontbonne’s Honors program. See, to be in the Honors program, you have to take 13 credit hours of honors-level classes by the end of your sophomore year, and because I wanted to complete this requirement ASAP, I took 2 honors classes this semester to finish up my credit requirements. One of the honors classes I took (well, am taking, but this semester’s so close to being over, I’m already referring to it in the past tense. I know you’re supposed to live in the present, but…I’m not going to.) is Intro to Religious Studies, an official Honors class. The other class is American History I, a regular class. I worked with my professor and the Honors people to take the class for Honors credit by reading 4 humongous biographies about people who characterized chunks of American history, on top of the regular coursework. I then incorporated all that reading into the final paper that everyone in the class had to write about the development of democracy in America from colonial times to the Civil War.
I really liked being able to take a regular class with honors work. I love history to begin with, so getting Honors credit to read about all the big people in American history was pretty sweet. My favorite book was Team of Rivals, a biography of Lincoln and some of his statesman peers by Doris Kearns Goodwin. It was a hefty one because she profiles Lincoln as well as people like William Seward and Edward Bates (from Missouri) to show that Lincoln was really part of a bigger movement of laborers-turned-lawyers-turned-statesmen that left an impact on the country. I liked the other books I read – ones on John Adams, Alexander Hamilton, and Andrew Jackson – but just not as much as this one.
Anyway, about bumping up a regular class to an Honors-level one. It felt cool to kind of design my own coursework for the class. Although my instructor suggested some of the books she thought I should read, I got to choose them on my own. A simple exercise of academic freedom, maybe, but it was pretty empowering. Plus, there’s just something about carrying around a 600-page tome that makes me feel scholarly. The feeling got even better when I was typing my paper and I had all four 600-page books and my notes on them spread out before me around my laptop. I was blending quotes and paraphrasing the authors left and right, and you know what? I found myself thinking, “I feel like I’m in college!”
So, I’m feeling rather accomplished these days, thanks to my experience with taking a regular class for honors credit. I was fortunate that my instructor was as enthusiastic about this project as I was, making it easy to set up and worthwhile to complete. If you’re in the Honors program, you should try it sometime!