It’s that time of the year where everyone has begun enrolling in classes. While everyone is struggling to enroll into a physical education course or other classes required to graduate, there is another group of classes we need to discuss: honors program courses.
I am currently enrolled in the English Honors Program, and I am having some difficulty completing the program. It’s not because I find the courses extremely challenging; it’s because I have trouble enrolling in classes that fulfill my degree requirements.
While I can’t speak for other honors programs, in English honors, we have to take an honors seminar class, a graduate class and either an independent study or another graduate or honors seminar. On paper, this seems plausible, but in reality, it leads to many problems. Here are some problems that persist in the English Honors Program and some suggestions to fix them:
1. Graduate Courses
One of the requirements for English honors is to take at least one graduate-level class. I have no problems with this requirement. The problem is signing up for them.
We can’t normally enroll in these courses through MyPack Portal. Instead, English honors students need to email the professor teaching those courses and forward the permission to the graduates office so they can enroll them.
The problem with this is that most graduate courses in the English major have a small class size, around 15 students. In addition, professors can only enroll two undergraduate students into their courses until after a certain deadline. Plus, some professors are bad at responding to emails.
A suggestion to improve this is to expand the class roster by two or three more students. That way, it gives undergraduates a chance to enroll and not take spots away from graduate students.
Another way is to put the undergraduates on a special waitlist. This still gives graduate students priority, and it’s up for the professor to determine how many undergraduates can take their course. Also, it avoids the problem for when professors don’t respond to their emails quick enough.
2. Honors Seminars
All students in the English Honors Program have to take ENG: 491H, which is a special topics course. This means that the content and course material changes each semester, fulfilling a different degree requirement.
The English Honors Program sent an email listing future special topics courses and what degree requirements they fulfill. While this is a great improvement, there are still some areas that need to be addressed.
For one, the email doesn’t specify what literature requirements the special topics course fulfills. For English majors, each student has to take an American literature course, a British literature course and a world literature course. As someone who has already fulfilled his American literature requirement and is taking a British literature course next semester, it would be nice to know this information in advance.
I emailed Margaret Simon, director of the English Honors Program, to clarify this issue. She responded by saying the program is still working with administration to determine what corequisites the class will fulfill.
While I understand a lot has to be taken into consideration when creating these special topics courses, I wish they would determine what requirements they fulfill in the early stages of planning.
Another suggestion I have is that they should offer at least one more honors seminar each semester, as it could give students more chances to take courses that fulfill some of their degree requirements.
3. Public Presentation
The last requirement to complete the English Honors Program is to give a presentation about a creative project or research we have done in one of our classes. While this seems fine on paper, there are some problems.
An obvious one is that we are in the middle of a pandemic, meaning it will be difficult to host a public presentation. Furthermore, a classmate of mine in the program emailed Simon about this issue, and she said the English department is still working on the format.
Well, the semester is coming to a close soon, so here are some suggestions on how to complete it.
One way is we film our presentation, and the English department sends a list of expectations. Another way is we submit our project and write a reflection paper. My last suggestion is we present it through Zoom, which would honestly be difficult and cringey.
Even though I have been in the honors program for one semester, I have enjoyed my time and plan on completing it. It is evident the professors and the administrators care about the students in English honors and want to see them to succeed.
However, there seems to be limited opportunities for students to fulfill these requirements. I hope the administration in the English Honors Program at least considers some of my suggestions for future improvement.