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.