STORY BY MORGAN MURASKI
Institutions of education are constantly changing, implementing new curricula and ideas to create an ideal learning environment. Recently, Drake University’s honors program made one change.
Jennifer McCrickerd, director of the honors program, decided over the course of this past academic semester that the cumulative GPA requirement for participation in the program should be dropped from a minimum of 3.5 to a minimum of 3.2.
After engaging with some of her own educational reading about how students learn best, McCrickerd said the need for the change became obvious.
“The way you get students excited about learning is not to focus on grades,” McCrickerd said.
Taking some focus off of getting good grades may be more challenging than expected. McCrickerd openly admitted that traditional schooling teaches students that grades are above all else.
Her decision became cemented when she received some troubling news about student activity in the honors program.
“I was hearing stories of students avoiding certain classes for fear of pulling their GPA down,” McCrickerd said.
So far students seem to be on board with the change, including first year Emily Spillane.
“I like it because it allows us to focus on the learning process as opposed to trying to make the grade,” Spillane said.
Some students weren’t even aware of the change, such as sophomore Kelly Leatherman. Leatherman has enjoyed her experience in the honors program thus far, and said the change is not going to affect her experience one way or another.
“You can learn regardless of how grades stack up on a report card,” Leatherman said.
In the end, the change is less about the academic side of the honors program and more about its method for creating successful learners.
“I question things so much more now and am not afraid to challenge the status quo,” Leatherman said.
The change, she hopes, will be a catalyst that alters the way all students think about the process of learning.
“We want students to take educational risks and take classes that will challenge them,” McCrickerd said.
Regardless of the new requirement, students in the honors program will continue to receive an education that can take them beyond the classroom and into the working world, something that is important to faculty and students alike.
“When you are not in school and you’re trying to learn, this is how you do it,” McCrickerd said.
“We are teaching collaborative learning that goes beyond anything a grade will get you.”