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Drake’s Honors Program Offers Alternative to Areas of Inquiry

For many students seeking rigorous, reading and writing-based courses, the Honors Program at Drake offers a unique alternative to traditional AOI requirements. 

Current Honors Executive Council Vice President Amina Marquart joined the program as a freshman, and said she believes it has offered her experiences she would not have had otherwise.

“I loved the people I talked to in the program and I wanted to be a part of something in college that was reading and writing intensive because I love that element and I wouldn’t get it otherwise,” Marquart said. 

While Drake’s AOI requirements lay out specific guidelines for classes students must take, the Honors track requires only that students take a certain number of Honors courses, with a rotating variety of subjects and courses each year.

“I joined mostly because I saw that it was open to everyone and wanted to give it a shot,” Honors Mentor Chair Matthew Jordan said. “I was also super impressed by how freeform the requirements for the Honors track were, even compared to the AOI track.”

Honors Publicity Chair Savannah Hulse chose the Honors track to prepare for higher education, but said she enjoyed the courses so much that she continued taking them even after her plans for the future changed. 

“I originally joined the Honors Program because I hoped to go to grad school and knew the Honors Program would help to ready me for that level of higher education,” Hulse said. “However, even as my plans changed, I found that I still really enjoyed the education that I received in the Honors Program. For that reason, I stayed.” 

Though Honors classes can be taken by anyone and are not exclusive to Honors track students, Hulse said that she has been able to connect with faculty and peers more through the Honors program. 

“Honestly, I think the best part is the classes,” Hulse said. “You can take honors courses even if you aren’t in the Honors Program, but I think there’s a certain level of familiarity you get with the Professors when you’re in the program. The courses are also much more individualized. I like being able to write papers over taking tests, and I think it’s also great to have such interesting course topics.”

Rachel Wente, who served as the president of the Honors Executive Council two years in a row, said that taking primarily reading and writing-heavy courses can be challenging but rewarding.

“They’re reading-writing-discussion intensive courses, and they tend to be more niche in their topics versus an introductory course,” Wente said. “There have been times that I’ve struggled to stay on top of a class, but for those classes, I also struggled to stay on top of things when I was taking a different, non-Honors course with the same professor.”

According to Wente, the topics covered by Honors courses set them apart from traditional courses at Drake.

“It’s a fun bunch [of classes],” Wente said. “It’s very easy to find classes that you enjoy without having to worry about AOI requirements, since the only requirements for Honors courses is that you diversify the subject fields you’re taking courses from.”

Marquart said that the way in which Honors classes relate to each other also sets them apart from traditional classes. 

“Honors classes are different from other classes because of the nature of what we are studying,” Marquart said. “While the topics may vary, they all are very interdisciplinary. The rigor is intense sometimes, but I’ve been able to handle it by taking the time I need and talking with the professor.”

For Jordan, the format of the Honors classes has helped him reach a deeper understanding of material than he said he would in a regular class.

“In my experience, they’re usually a little more writing-heavy, and the classes are typically much less lecture-centric and instead focused on student involvement and discussion,” Jordan said. “It can be a little bit much at first, but once you’re used to the format, I actually love them. I feel like I understand things on a much deeper level when I’m actively engaging in them.”

Though COVID-19 has prevented the Honors Executive Council from holding some of the events they traditionally would throughout the semester, the council is still working on coordinating events through Zoom. 

“We have some fun things in the works,” Hulse said. “Last night, we got the idea for a trivia night that we’re all really excited for. If we come up with anything else, we’ll be sure to update it on our social media pages.”

For entering Drake students considering the Honors track, Hulse encourages them to take an Honors course and see if it’s a good fit for them.

“There’s a lot of fun to be had here, and there’s no harm in trying,” Hulse said. “Even if you decide the program isn’t for you in the end, you can still make lots of friends and have lots of fun experiences! Plus, you don’t even have to fill out an application.”

Jordan agreed that though the Honors track may sound intimidating, it has allowed him to meet people and make friends he might not have otherwise. 

“The friends I have made because of this program are some of the best, and I count myself lucky to have met them,” Jordan said. “I’d like future students to know that the program might seem scary at first because it’s labelled Honors and courses are described as intensive, but it isn’t as bad as it may seem and the classes aren’t ultra-exclusive.”

Though the Honors track is designed to be rigorous, Hulse said that the students in the Honors Program are just like anyone else and no one should be afraid to join.

“The Honors Program can sound like a scary thing at first,” Hulse said. “It might seem like everyone is hard-working, and never takes breaks from studying, and like everyone knows exactly what they’re doing. I can promise you it’s not like that. Yes, we do want to put effort into our work, but some of us are just as lost as you might be.”

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