Welcome to the MVNU Honors Program!

Dr. W. Brett Wiley (Director of the Honors Program)

Last week I found an Honors Program handbook from 1998, which was one of the first (if not the first) years of the program’s existence at what was then Mount Vernon Nazarene College. In that document, students were introduced to an Honors program that included some large, seminar-type courses and contracted courses, meaning students worked with a professor to plan extra assignments and requirements for a regular class in order to get Honors credit. The handbook is evidence of an audacious start to the program, the beginning of a venture intended to help and challenge students.

A great deal has changed since 1998. However, the Honors Program at MVNU continues, focused on providing unique opportunities—travel-study and experiential learning courses, independent research, topical seminars, faculty mentors and more—for students who are ready to take advantage of all that is offered. Our current curriculum focuses on providing alternative courses better suited for gifted students and intended to enhance the already valuable liberal arts education that students take at Mount Vernon Nazarene University. The idea, as the term “liberal arts” suggests, is to free our students to take ownership of their education, to broaden their experience and deepen their understanding by defining and then untangling the rich traditions and complex issues that have and continue to shape our world. Along the way, students develop valuable skills and habits such as interdisciplinary thinking or advanced writing that will serve them in whatever path they choose in the future. By graduation, they are better equipped to excel in their vocations, better prepared to provide a faithful, Christian presence, and better able to live as thoughtful, engaged human beings in our world.

Since 1998, we have made these goals our focus. Those who have completed the Honors Program curriculum, our Honors Scholars, are the best evidence of our efforts. One graduate, in reflection upon her time in the Honors Program, had this to say:

“My Honors coursework taught me how to think critically about relevant issues, and to form my opinions by research and conviction, not by denomination or political affiliation. The moments that were most valuable for me were discussions in the Core Conversations [courses] and breakout sessions in Honors Seminars. The conversation was rich, and it would spill over into the cafeteria, the chapel, and the residence hall. In short, I would say that the Honors Program challenged me to engage critically and compassionately with the world around me. And I can honestly say that my university experience would have been cheapened had I opted out of the Honors Program.”

I am proud to be directing a program that can have this type of influence. And, yet, as positive as our past has been, there are even more exciting things to come in the months and years ahead. I look forward to continuing the good work that started twenty years ago.

 

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Honors Colloquium: Friendship

Earlier this fall, a group of honors students took part in an academic colloquium at Grove City College. They, along with other honors students from Christian colleges in our region, were able to interact with each other to discuss a specific topic and engage the given text from various viewpoints. This year’s theme, Friendship, pulled from Aristotle, C.S. Lewis, and a few other philosopher-scholars who have dug deep into the meaning of friendship.

Kayla Washington, an honors student and freshman at MVNU, was one of our representatives in this discussion. Here’s what she had to say:

“I had a fantastic experience at the Honors Symposium. I never knew friendship was such a complex and nuanced concept until I began reading more about it and discussing it more. I learned a lot from the discussion groups and the speakers were insightful and interesting. I enjoyed meeting students from other honors programs and getting to know the other honors students from MVNU. I would definitely go again!”

Honors Project Spotlight: Perceptions of Abuse

By Bailey Sapp (senior)

As a Social Work major, there were multiple routes I could have taken for my senior honors project. I had a lot of loose ideas for general topics that I could have studied, but my ideas lacked specific direction. When I approached my mentor, Dr. Danielle Giroux, to begin my project, I basically spilled out all my interests to her. I expressed that I was most interested in studying LGBTQ+ issues, the concept of feminism, domestic violence, and women’s rights issues. Through this discussion, she helped me direct my thinking and narrow my focus on how specific demographic factors, or traits about a person, might impact the way they view intimate partner violence.

After the long process of delving into the existing literature surrounding the various forms of abuse and what factors impact the way a person perceives abuse, I decided to specifically study how college students recognize verbal, sexual, emotional, and physical abuse, as well as coercive control, isolation, and intimidation. Based off the existing literature, the demographic factors I decided to focus on were age, year in college, and gender. These factors have been previously proven to impact the way a person perceives abuse. However I also added two unique demographic aspects to my project that were not previously reflected in existing literature. I asked the participants if they were single or in a relationship and whether they identified as a feminist or not to try to understand if these factors might also sway the way a person recognizes abuse.

In order to carry out my research and test my hypotheses surrounding my topic, I administered an anonymous survey that included all of the demographic factors listed above, as well as a scenario for each of the seven types of abuse I chose to study. Participants taking the survey were asked to rate the level of severity of abuse in the scenarios on a five-point scale where 0 is equal to “Not Abuse” and 4 is equal to “Severe Abuse”.

This is an extremely important and relevant topic, and it is something that I am very passionate about, so I am so excited that I have been able to conduct this research on campus and share my findings with the MVNU community. I was also honored to be able to share my project through an Honors Seminar where we had tough but meaningful discussions regarding intimate partner violence and the various forms of abuse that can exist within a relationship.

In April, I will present my findings at the Symposium for Undergraduate Research (sURC) here at MVNU, and in June, I will be presenting my research at the National Association of Social Work (NASW) Conference in Washington, DC. Working on this project has been the most wonderful experience, and my research has gone so much further than I ever expected. I am very thankful to have had the opportunity and am so excited to share my findings and raise awareness through this project.

 

Alumni Spotlight: Megan Motley

By Megan Motley

It’s been three years since I graduated from MVNU, and I still think about many of the things that I learned in the Honors Program. You’ve never experienced Washington D.C. unless you went there with Dr. Devine to study public perceptions of national monuments, and you are missing a critical component of apologetics if you haven’t read N. T. Wright with a room full of fellow students who will challenge you to understand it. The Honors Program enriched my time at MVNU because it allowed me to critically engage with subjects I would not have otherwise—without having to be in a general education class filled with students who aren’t interested in the subject material. While I can’t say that I use N. T. Wright in my professional life, I can say that being challenged and stretched through (often rigorous) honors classes has been an asset. In my graduate courses, I am able to make connections outside of my normal subject matter. In engaging with people who hold different beliefs, I am more able to listen respectfully and respond confidently because the Honors Program gave me a forum to practice that with my peers. Life after college—as an “adult”—is hard, but it’s way easier if you allow yourself to be equipped with what you’re learning right now.

 

Honors Colloquium

By Drew Juniet (junior)

Last semester I was invited, along with five other students from MVNU, to attend an Honors colloquium at Grove City College. I greatly appreciated the opportunity to learn with students from my own university as well as with those from other educational institutions. We examined what temperance might look like in our everyday lives, and we discussed the benefits we could receive from committing ourselves to a temperate life. It was a unique experience that challenged my opinions on the importance of self-control and the freedom it can provide. I came away from this event with many practical applications of integrating temperance into my day-to-day activities, and I have shared many of these with my friends, family, and classmates. This experience helped me grow in multiple ways, and it was definitely worth the time and effort it took to put it together. This event will be a fantastic opportunity for future students to grow in both their educations and their relationships with their peers across multiple states. 

A Semester Abroad

By Faith Aleshire (senior)

When I started college, I had NO plans of studying abroad. I certainly couldn’t move across the world and live for 3 months on my own. But I did. From the gentle pressuring of friends to consider this opportunity (shout out to Regina Rudder), to completely rearranging my junior and senior schedule, and finally realizing this could be a reality for me, I agreed to study at Oxford University for the fall semester of my senior year. Looking back, I can confidently say this was one of the best decisions of my life. I made friends with other Honors students from across the USA and connected with students from around the world who were all soaking in the history surrounding our city of dreaming spires. I was able to travel to other countries, see historic landmarks, and become more independent than I thought possible. While this academic fairytale was incredible, it was not without work. Over the course of the 13 weeks there, students in my program wrote fifteen 7-page essays and one 10-15 page paper. The constant demand to be working was heavy, but all the more inspiring when doing so alongside new friends who had the same interest and dedication to their studies. So, while I never intended this to be part of my life, I am so thankful for that time of growth, personally and academically. I LOVE talking about my time there, so feel free to ask me any questions via e-mail or over coffee now that I’m back state-side!

Radcliffe Camera Library
In front of the Radcliffe Camera Library, where I did most of my studying.