Why did you decide to pursue General Honors?
I chose to pursue General Honors because I value the liberal arts and interdisciplinarity. I was excited to have a way not only to distinguish myself among Truman’s incredibly bright and able student body, but to have the opportunity to take challenging classes outside of my majors. Also, it turned out that due to the structure of my degree programs attaining General Honors only meant taking a couple of extra classes, so I thought it was most definitely worth it.
I decided to pursue General Honors because I wanted to meet and work with faculty and students outside of my History major.
Truman’s curriculum already provided me with a challenge, but honestly, I liked the idea of being part of something more elite in college. I was already earning some 4.0 semesters in my LSP and major courses, so it seemed like I should at least give GH a try. There was really nothing for me to lose. The fact that I could double-count most of my GH courses (for LSP, BS requirements, and my minor) was what sealed the deal.
At first I thought about minoring, but decided that I wanted a little more breadth of education than that, at which point I remembered general honors. I had already completed my LSPs and liked the variety that brought, and General Honors seemed like a more structured solution than just taking random interesting classes. Later General Honors, more than the other way around, was a reason I choose to attend law school, since otherwise I think my science heavy background would have been a detriment to my confidence in my ability to succeed.
In high school I was very obsessed with excellence; I wanted to be the best at everything and I liked the feeling I got when I achieved certain goals or won awards, so my desire to pursue General Honors naturally came out of that. My obsession has cooled a lot since coming to college, but I still see the benefit of pursuing General Honors for other reasons besides personal achievement.
I pursued general honors because I have very broad interests and thought that it would expose me to many different fields of study. It allowed me to get a taste of different disciplines, and even started me on the track to my minor, mathematics.
I’m interested in a lot of different fields, and actually would have ended up taking all of the classes to fulfill General Honors anyway because they sounded interesting, or at least more challenging. There is nothing that kills my interest in a subject like it being too easy.
What were the benefits you received and/or expect to receive from the program?
I’ve taken and will be taking a few courses that I probably wouldn’t have taken in my degree path that I really enjoyed (e.g. History of Science to 1700, Anthropology of Gender).
After taking a GH course in Philosophy and Religion, I became a double major and discovered the discipline in which I hope to be a professor.
One of the most immediate benefits came from working with a variety of really cool people (students and faculty) who I likely would not have encountered in my regular major courses. I also took comfort in knowing that even the Math majors were just as challenged by our GH Math course as I, the Linguistics major, was, and together we had a collaborative learning experience. As a Truman graduate, I’m now gainfully employed in a great job, and I have no doubt that my exposure and experience through GH helped me get where I am now. I also like that I can rattle off random information about ancient philosophers, mathematical proofs, famous artists, or different cultural traditions (thanks to my GH courses) at random. I think I’m a better Trivial Pursuit player, too.
The main benefit I expected was to learn more about subjects I was interested in, and also to improve my abilities as a writer. I think I was successful in achieving both of these goals.
The most significant thing is that because I started taking General Honors courses in fields outside my Classics major, I ended up deciding to pursue a double major. I hadn’t intended to take any math classes in college, but the math class I took freshman year for General Honors began to change my mind and eventually pushed me to declare a math major.
Through General Honors, I was able to feel confident that while taking a course outside of my field, but at an advanced level, the faculty member teaching the course would actively engage me as much as any other student. In my Asian American History course, Prof. Huping Ling presented non-majors with the same expectations as everyone else, challenged our thinking processes, and in the end it helped me to produce high-quality work. Overall, General Honors has given me the ability to adapt my normal thinking strategies to other subjects outside my area of expertise, and to offer to others the interdisciplinary insight which is often crucial to making connections between fields.
The classes were (I’m taking my last one now) more interesting than intro courses, so I feel like I actually learned something in them rather than glossing over a bunch and leaving no more knowledgeable than before, like in some of my LSPs.
What has been your favorite aspect of the program?
My favorite part of the program is finding out that I’m capable of taking difficult courses in areas outside my major and working on the same level of major students. Also, I love that general honors students, generally being from different majors, offer different perspectives in class discussion and add interdisciplinarity to the classroom.
Math and Physics majors taking Ancient Philosophy for General Honors benefited the course exponentially. It was incredibly fun to interact with them and consider the subject from their unique perspective.
I liked how flexible the program was. While I’d never encourage a student to do this, I was able to complete my GH coursework in the period of a year and one summer. (Note that I decided late in my college career to pursue GH.) Most disciplines offered a variety of GH courses to choose from, and I also was able to use my study abroad experience toward the program.
I think the best part of the GH program is the way in which it forces you to extend your academic ability to subject areas beyond your traditional strengths. LSP’s are great for exposure, but after finishing a GH class I have a sense of accomplishment that I never got from the (generally) easy LSP classes.
That I was able to receive recognition on my transcript, in front of my peers, and in front of friends and family, for taking the time to make my curriculum at Truman especially well rounded. I earned nearly a 3.8 GPA, but not being selected to Phi Beta Kappa or similar societies, this provided a level of distinction which set me apart from other graduate school applicants.
Seeing Bio majors in my philosophy classes, or being in History classes with physics majors. Just meeting and learning with people who are from completely different areas of the university than where I usually spend my time.
*These testimonies are from students who completed the Honors Scholar Program under its former name of the General Honors in Arts and Sciences Program.