When many people hear “Honors classes,” they think of extra homework and weighted grades. However, Missouri Western’s Honors Program is much more than a level of difficulty: it’s a community.
Dr. Teddi Deka is the Honors Program director and professor of psychology here at Missouri Western. She has been involved in the Honors Program for years and director since 2012.
“I get to work with so many people from different departments,” Dr. Deka said. “Working with students from different majors is a lot of fun; I would never have gotten to meet them otherwise.”
The main thing that makes the Honors Program stand out is the special classes called colloquia. These classes are created a year in advance, explore a specific topic, and include a trip to give students hands-on experience.
“Professors apply to teach colloquia ahead of time, so they get to choose topics they really care about,” Dr. Deka said. “That’s what makes them so special. It gives them an opportunity to teach something they’re interested in.”
Students in the Honors Program are required to take a few of these classes, but it isn’t a punishment. Most students reported that the colloquia were their favorite aspect of the program, including Raechel Tittor, an active member of the program.
“They are essentially field trips,” Tittor said. “We have gone to the Renaissance Festival, toured Haunted Mansions, traveled to Europe, visited the WW1 museum, and taken a weekend trip to the Ozarks to tour caves and search for scorpions with black lights! I have gotten to go on several of these retreats and they have been the highlight of my time in the Honors Program.”
These classes expand larger than the classroom, creating a bond between students that form into a community.
“Trust me, you never get to know your peers and teachers better than when you're playing charades for hours on the bus, or sitting around a campfire roasting s'mores, or after you've seen them consume a turkey leg in 30 seconds flat,” Tittor said.
In addition to the colloquia hosting trips, Honors classes also have the benefit of being smaller class sizes, usually including 10 to 15 students.
Matthew Bobela is a Golden Griffon Scholar and found the smaller classes less stressful and intimidating than other gen-eds.
“They’re more intimate. With smaller classes you’re able to have more dialogue, more discussion with the professor,” Bobela said. “The smaller classes help calm jitters a new student might have, so it’s less intimidating.”
The Honors Program also encourages students to plan out their degree their first semester in order to help them graduate and take the courses they prefer. This can be extremely beneficial, but also a bit frustrating to new students fresh out of high school.
“The planning in the beginning was tedious. It’s helpful, but the process can be a lot when you don’t know what to expect yet,” Bobela said. “But with the opportunities the program provides, you can really build up your resume. It looks nice (to employers) and shows the students go above and beyond.”
The Honors Program is full of research and outreach opportunities to help students build up their resumes for post-graduation, as well as a couple related organizations the students can get involved in.
Alpha Chi is a National Honors Organization for the top academic 10%. Students must be invited to the organization during their junior and senior years, and it includes non-honors and any major.
SHO is the Student Honors Organization, a fun club for Honors students where Tittor sits as President.
“SHO offers social, leadership and service events for Honors students to be able to connect with each other and get involved on campus,” Tittor said.
SHO puts on several events to provide students with emotional support, including scavenger hunts, movie nights and pumpkin painting. They also plan outreach events to help the community, like Trick-or-Treat for Canned Goods and Puppies and Pastries.
“We typically do Trick-or-Treat for Canned Goods on Halloween and take the donations to the MWSU Campus Cupboard,” Tittor said. “We also do Puppies and Pastries every spring, in which we bring service dogs on campus before finals and sell pastries!”
While COVID-19 has caused hiccups in their plans, SHO keeps finding solutions to keep everyone safe, such as moving Trick-or-Treat for Canned Goods to Hyvee rather than knocking door-to-door.
The Honors Program is a wonderful place for students to challenge themselves and find their home on campus.
“When you become part of the Honors Program, you become a part of a community,” Dr. Deka said. “The students have a lot of support. They have not just their academic professors, classmates and advisor, but also their Honors classes and director. It’s like family.”
All the students interviewed were grateful for the program and the home they found within it.
“The Honors Program has pushed me to be a better student and to take on leadership roles,” Tittor said. “I have developed a better relationship with my professors due to the small class sizes and emphasis on class discussions, and in turn they push me to work harder and to apply myself in my studies. I have truly learned a lot and have enjoyed my time in the Honors Program.”