Faculty expertise and mentoring are crucial to students' development and success. Thank you for working with our Honors students!
An honors option is a faculty-mentored project that extends the content of a course (whether in depth or in breadth). It typically spans the semester, and it concludes with a presentation in some public setting. In the best cases, these projects lead to positive and productive professional relationships.
Though not required, faculty are strongly encouraged to include a written artifact among the deliverables, both because of the learning outcomes that writing promotes and also as part of a larger effort to help students develop a robust portfolio of work.
Overview of Process
- A student who is interested in completing an Option in your course will approach you to discuss ideas. Feel free to take the initiative if there's an idea that excites you.
- The student will start the application form and produce a written proposal (they have access to exemplars, but your help is always beneficial at this stage).
- The student will ask you to complete the instructor-related part of the application form. (This is fast and easy.) In your role as the content expert and pedagogical specialist, you will check some boxes that tell the Honors Office about the educational aspects of the student's proposal.
- The student will submit the form to the Honors Program office.
- During the semester you will serve as a mentor, coaching the student toward a successful outcome.
- At the end of the semester you will tell the Honors Program whether the deliverables were delivered, and whether the student's work is of the substance and quality that you expect.
We find that students do better (i.e., have a better experience, and learn more) when they have fun spreading their wings.
With a small class of bright and diligent students who take pride in their work, who exhibit curiosity, who value wonder and have a creative flare, teaching an honors class is a joy. Our goal is to meet these high-performing students with a plan for enriched learning. The practical meaning of the word "enriched" varies from one discipline to the next, and from one course level to the next, but it never means simply more work, or just harder work. The goal of an honors course is robust learning, actively fostered by close mentoring and high-impact activities that help learners to grow. Here are some broad ideas, intended as an illustrative rather than an exhaustive list:
- Enrichment often means extending the breadth of content, particularly when that extension leads students beyond disciplinary silos and effectively situates a subject in the larger landscape of human experience and endeavor.
Team-taught interdisciplinary courses are particularly well suited to the honors experience, as are courses in which students encounter practitioners who provide insight and relay wisdom. Feel free to design the experience with guest-speakers in mind.
- Because learning is a human endeavor, modifications to the mode of content delivery can have significant impact on the students' experience, and so on learning outcomes. For example, whereas a standard course might be designed around the instructor's delivery of information, the honors course might be designed around active learning experiences through which students construct knowledge and shape understanding.
Are there ways of learning that are not practical or pedagogically realistic in larger classes, but which might be well suited to a small class of bright, diligent learners?
- Enrichment often involves approaching topics with greater sophistication, attending to nuance or subtlety. Sometimes this involves reading of greater depth than is expected in standard course work, and careful treatment of difficult ideas. Assignments and projects tend to stress theory, analysis, and the synthesis of principles, and often ask students to apply their learning to the world beyond RIT. The student experience sometimes includes original research, and it is common for students to create a culminating project that is publicly shared.
Generally speaking, honors courses are designed to be broadly accessible to diligent, intellectually agile, curious novices who want to know more about themselves and the world they inhabit. If students leave your course feeling that they have accomplished something substantial, that they were supported in their effort, and that they enjoyed the experience, that's a win.
You are encouraged to contact the Director of the Honors Program, or your college representative to the Honors Curriculum Committee (HCC) to talk about your ideas and how to make them a reality.
After thinking carefully about the nature of the course, complete an RIT Course Outline Form, including Appendix C. Here are some things to consider:
- What makes this an Honors course (enriched learning, interdisciplinary content, etc.)?
- What is the enrollment cap (typically 20 students)?
- How does this course fit into a typical student’s program worksheet?
- Courses that appeal to only a few students will be difficult to fill.
After the course is approved at the departmental and college level, the course outline should be forwarded to the college's representative on the HCC, who will advocate for it.
It is not necessary, but is often beneficial for a course to be designated as a general education elective. That requires approval by the General Education Committee, which can work in parallel with HCC.
It is not necessary, but is often beneficial for a course to carry the writing intensive designation. This requires approval by the Institute Writing Committee, which can work in parallel with HCC.
Offering an Honors course is a coordinated effort among the professor, the professor’s home department (and college), and the Honors Program. Approval from all three is required in order for the course to run.
- Remuneration for teaching a course is paid by the instructor's home college, and the Honors Program provides a stipend to college.
- Some courses run every semester, some once per year, and some every other year.
- Students need to know about courses at least one semester in advance, for planning purposes.
- Word of mouth is a great way to generate interest. Talk to people. Come to the Friday Pizza Frenzy. Come talk to the Honors Council. Make flyers.
- Alert your college’s Honors Advocate to the course. The Honors Advocate coordinates the college’s Honors-released activities and has a working relationship with the Honors students in your college.
- Encourage appropriately prepared and academically successful non-Honors students to take the class.
The Honors Program will contribute up to $250 per 3-credit Honors class for pre-approved course-related materials or activities (on a reimbursement basis, receipts required). These enrichment grants are appropriate for expenses that directly benefit students such as local excursions that connect students to course content in experiential ways, printing posters for presentations, meals with guest speakers, etc.
Overview of Process
- Faculty teaching a 3-credit Honors class can submit a Pre-approval form (link below) to the Honors Program for course enrichment expenses. The request will be reviewed and faculty will be notified of the request status.
- After the expenditure has been approved and the funds have been spent, the instructor must submit for reimbursement through Oracle.
- Scan itemized receipts need to be sent to the Honors Program and the appropriate account number to use for the I-expense request will be provided. Contact the Honors office for more information.
Letters of Recommendation
If you have been asked to write a letter of recommendation for an RIT student applying for entry into the Honors Program, you will receive an email from your student(s) once they submit their application. In the email, you will receive a link directing you a web site where you can attach your letter. (Please note that you will be unable to upload your letter until the student’s application is complete.)
If you are from the College of Science, more information is available on the Emerson Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships webpage.
If you have any questions or concerns, or if the application system has closed before you submit your letter, please contact the Honors Program office.