by Haleigh Hinojosa
In case you need another incentive to “make the grade” at South Plains College, there’s a new Honors Program.
It officially began last fall, and courses offered are different each semester These classes offer new and challenging perspectives and teaching styles for the students who are admitted into the program.
Kristina Garrett, associate professor of psychology, is currently in charge of the Honors Program. Garrett says one of the main reasons SPC decided to start an Honors Program was because of other universities. She says that when a student transfers to an honors program at a four-year university, that program is often hesitant to admit a student who has no previous experience with honors classes.
“Several major things impacted the timing of the creation of the honors program,” Garrett says. One of those things was the hiring of Dr. Robin Satterwhite as the president of SPC.
Garrett says Dr.Satterwhite brought energy to the campus that showed her he was in full support of the Honors Program.
Current SPC students who are interested in enrolling in the program must have 12 or more college credit hours completed, with a GPA of 3.5 in those classes. Garrett adds that students coming to SPC from high school are eligible for the program with any of the following: a GPA of 3.5, top 10 percent of their graduating class, or an ACT score of 26.
English, history and psychology courses are being offered this semester. The classes for the upcoming fall 2020 semester are still in the planning phase as professors in a variety of subjects are still making their offers.
Garrett says students also have the option of speaking to a professor and asking that professor to do an honors contract with them. This would mean that the student is present in the traditional class lecture and then completes different assignments that challenge his or her thinking abilities.
Dr. Peggy Skinner, chairperson of the Behavioral Sciences Department and professor of psychology, says she has one contract with a student this semester. Dr. Skinner says that to make sure the honors course differs from a regular course, she requires her one contractual student to complete four short papers in addition to the regularly assigned coursework. She says she uses these papers to help the student enhance how she thinks about these assigned topics.
“I do not see an honors course as more work,” says Dr. Skinner, “but as an opportunity to have a better foundation and understanding of the course content.”
Dr. Corye Beene, professor of history, also teaches an honors class this semester. It has five students in it. One of the things she has her students do is teach two class lectures or lead a book discussion. The students must choose from a list of topics such as the Spanish-American War, Progressive Period, and the Roaring Twenties. After choosing a topic, students must then prepare a full lecture to present to the rest of the class and receive a grade.
Dr. Beene says students must be “self-motivated,” as this class is reading heavy and requires outside work as well as in-class work.
Another way Dr. Beene says she differentiates the honors class from the regular class is through exams. She says she replaces exams with essays in the honors class. The students are required to write a three-to-five-page paper on specific topics. There is also no final exam, but rather a final presentation.
“For students, it gives a greater understanding on a topic,” Dr. Beene says of honors courses.
Garrett points out that one of the benefits of honors courses is they often involve a different way of thinking about the material, which often transfers into other classes.
Along with challenging coursework and an easier acceptance process into a university’s honors program, there are other benefits to taking an honors course at SPC.
Garrett says if a student completes 12 course hours, that student will graduate with the Honors Program distinction and have the opportunity to wear the honors program stole during graduation.
Another big benefit may come down to dollars and cents. According to a 2020 article titled, “Pros and Cons: Taking Honors Courses,” found on collegeraptor.com, which is an informational website about everything college related, students who are enrolled in honors classes have better opportunities for scholarships. According to the site, students in honors classes not only have a larger selection of scholarships but the money attached to the scholarships is often larger.
The website also says that honors classes have fewer students, which means students in these classes will receive more individualized help and more attention from the instructor.
Dr. Beene says she thinks being in an honors class helps students prepare for life in the real-world and future jobs. Because of the required readings and discussions, Dr. Beene says her students are always up to date on the news, politics, and public figures in the news. By participating in class discussions, she says her students will improve on their communications skills. Furthermore, by assigning essays instead of exams, Dr. Beene says her students are learning valuable tips to improve their writing that they take with them after leaving SPC.
“A lot of people in this generation are all technology driven,” Dr. Beene says. “You don’t have conversations on the phone, you have them through text, and that’s not the real-world. That’s not how you will communicate in an employee-employer relationship.”