How do you honor a legacy of learning and leadership? You reflect, you grow and you evolve. And that’s exactly what the College of Charleston Honors College has done with its new curriculum.
After celebrating its 50-year anniversary in 2017, the Honors College has revamped its curriculum to exemplify the heart and soul of the College of Charleston and to extend the opportunities for students and faculty to be culturally and intellectually engaged.
“We were able to update our Honors College program goals – centering them on mind, self and society – and then design a curriculum that reflects this time in history and the expectations that students and faculty have for study,” says Trisha Folds-Bennett, dean of the Honors College. “For the mind, the curriculum is designed to stimulate intellectual curiosity, develop analytical skills and expand students’ knowledge in a number of areas. It is also a set of requirements that encourages students to engage in self-reflection, deepen their self-awareness and consider how their core competencies and values are translated into goals that serve not only their own needs, but also the broader needs of society.”
The new curriculum requirements include a quantitative literacy course, at least one Honors foundations course and at least two courses from the Exploring Complexity and Diversity Colloquia. Colloquium courses are writing and reading intensive, discussion based and interdisciplinary in nature – allowing students to approach new ideas and information critically and creatively throughout their lives.
“What it is designed to do is give students more control over the trajectory of their academic studies,” says Bryan Ganaway, a faculty fellow and director of advising for the Honors College. “It is more tailored to the individual’s interests and goals.”
For example, the new curriculum requirements no longer include calculus and a 200-level math class or the Western civilization course.
“Now students have a different path to complete the mathematics requirement, so they can take a more conceptual approach,” says Brooke Falk Permenter ’06, the Honors College’s director of student engagement and an Honors faculty fellow. “Those requirements are still there, but they can choose courses that frame those requirements more in terms of topics they’re interested in.”
And it allows faculty to explore topics they’re interested in, as well.
“One really nice thing for faculty is that they have flexibility in the ways to frame their courses,” says Permenter, an art historian and graduate of the Honors College who returned to her alma mater in 2011 to join the Western Civilization Colloquium team in the Honors College. The new curriculum has allowed her to propose new classes, including special topics courses. “You can just think, ‘What do I want to learn about with my students this year?’ and then come up with a course that you’re really excited about.”
In addition to the new curriculum, the Honors College has taken a new approach to its advising model: mentoring cohorts. This academic year, for the first time ever, these thematic mentoring cohorts were offered to all incoming Honors freshmen. With a faculty member and 25–30 students, these interdisciplinary advising groups provide a structure for strong faculty-student relationships as well as opportunities for students to work on professional goals, dive deeper into the analysis of issues and be part of a smaller, supportive peer group.
“One of the core values of the Honors College is to get to know each and every student in Honors well – their interests, goals and talents,” says Folds-Bennett. “We believe that having a faculty member develop a long-term relationship with students is important to success while in college and following graduation. As the Honors College grows, mentoring cohorts allow us to continue engaging each student at an academic, professional and personal level.”
One exciting new mentoring cohort is Gateways to Leadership, which includes a variety of different tracks (e.g., Women in Leadership, Food Insecurity Taskforce, Student Involvement Team) and is a collaboration between the Honors College and the Division of Student Affairs.
“Student affairs is thrilled to have the opportunity to partner in the creation of these cohorts,” says Alicia Caudill, executive vice president of Student Affairs. “It is an amazing opportunity to engage student leaders in their first semester in important College projects. We are so excited to see how they create positive change on campus during their years here.”
And, as Honors students continue create their own legacies at the College of Charleston, their commitment to learning and leadership remains one of our greatest points of honor.