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Honors credit proposed

Task force looks at various options for new program

By Leah Thomas
On April 18, 2017

MCCC may offer honors credit for students in the future.

Within the last month, a task force has assembled to begin researching and discussing plans for an honors option at the college.

Paul Hedeen, the dean of Humanities/Social Sciences Division, organized the task force.

Paul Hedeen hopes to have some sort of honors credit for students in the Fall 2018 Semester.

Although the project is faculty-driven, the task force is compiled of administrators, staff, and faculty.

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Hedeen said students will be designated as an honors student or honors graduate on their transcript, at graduation, or through another form of public recognition.

“It gives the best students, high-merit sort of students, a program all their own,” Hedeen said.

“It gives them a reward and a distinction for high merit for the work they have already done and opportunity to do more work.”

The task force met twice this semester, and Hedeen hopes to hold at least one more meeting in the spring. 

The task force was split into four work teams to begin research. Each team looked at area colleges  and universities to find answers that could begin to shape MCCC’s honors option.

Jeff Peters, coordinator of e-Learning and Instructional Support and a task force member, said the work is daunting because there is a lot to consider.

“The nature of a task force like this is to try and do your due diligence and get a lot of different perspectives from other community colleges to see what works for their college and for their students, and then try to determine if that would be the same experience for students here,” he said.

Hedeen hopes the faculty on the task force will be able to answer some basic questions about where they want to go as an institution, so they will have a foundation to start with when they reconvene. 

“I want to know where to begin in the fall. I don’t want to start all over again, sort of have all the same discussions again, which tends to happen in task forces that go from one academic year to another because so much is lost in the summer,” Hedeen said.

Hedeen said they are at the beginning stages of making basic decisions that form the skeleton of the project.

Once they have the macro logistics worked out, they can begin filling in the pieces that will make the model a reality.

There are several big questions that must be answered before they have any concrete idea of what MCCC’s honors option will be.

First, they have to decide whether they want an honors program or an honors designation.

Hedeen said the honors program would probably be more extensive and costly.

The designation is not a real program, but it could be an interdisciplinary process where students earn honors credit with their degree. Hedeen said it could be modeled after the Global Studies designation.

The honors designation could be achieved through the American Honors Program. This organization would provide service, structure, and transferability.

“It has a lot of transfer agreements with some of the leading universities in the country,” Hedeen said. “It does not guarantee transferability, but it has articulation agreements so that if you are a part of America Honors Program you would be in line.”

If MCCC decided to contract with the organization, it would only have to create the content for the designation.

No matter which option the task force decides to take, the honors credit has to transfer to be beneficial to students, Hedeen said.

He said they are researching ways honors programs and designations are accredited.

The flexibility of the program or designation is another important decision that will impact the skeleton of the project.

Hedeen said the concept of flexibility is vital to the project’s success, but they have to decide how much flexibility is reasonable.

“It wouldn’t just be something for transfer students. It would be something also for occupational students,” he said. “The hope would be that we could design something that would allow for maximum flexibility in fulfilling your requirements.”

Although the program needs to be flexible, the task force also needs some degree of exclusivity.

“Obviously, not everyone can join,” Hedeen said. “Only certain people with certain grade threshholds coming out of high school or grade threshhold while they are here could be part of it.”

The extent of the exclusivity could be extensive, with separate courses, graduation ceremony, space on campus, extra curricular opportunities, and special privileges like first-in-line services.

Hedeen said the taskforce has to decide if they want to offer separate courses for honors students or offer an honors option to the classes that already exist.

He guesses that they will incorporate honors credit into General Education courses, but he would like to see other components.

Peters said he would like to see work outside the classroom compliment the coursework. 

“Things outside the classroom sometimes are just as informative and powerful as things in the classroom,” he said. “I don’t think the committee or the college should discount other kinds of experiences that could be very beneficial to students.”

The task force members are looking into all these questions.

“We were certainly able to answer some questions, but I think that sometimes as you go through this process more questions come up and you usually need more clarity,” Peters said.

The task force’s preliminary research will help the college nail down what it wants its program to look like.

“I would imagine that as the task force goes further that it will flesh out those specifics and then start talking about those specifics to the campus community and get feedback,” Peters said.

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