By the students, for the students of Central Washington University

The Observer

By the students, for the students of Central Washington University

The Observer

By the students, for the students of Central Washington University

The Observer

What is an Honors Student?

CWU has been home to the William O. Douglas Honors College (DHC) since 1977. According to its page on the CWU website, the Douglas Honors College “supports and encourages all students to find individual success through academic excellence and a commitment to intellectual exploration and community engagement.” 

The DHC promotes an interdisciplinary field of study that can fit in with any major. The DHC is a place for passionate and motivated learners, but according to staff, it is so much more than that, and they hope to get that message out to more students outside of the DHC.

Dr. Christana Dennison is the new director of the honors college as of this academic year, but has worked for the DHC since 2006. “There is a perception that when you hear honors, that the students in the Honors College are the ones that have the highest GPA coming out of high school,” Dennison said “They’re extremely driven and achievement-oriented, and they need little to no help because they are so smart. While some of those things are true of some of our students, it is not true that every one of our students has every one of those qualities.” 

Dennison believes that honors goes beyond the traditional sense of the world. That being in honors is not just about who gets the best grades, who is the smartest or who has the best education coming in.

“Who is an honor student? Take a look in the mirror. What do you see? You see that person there? If you believe you’re an honor student, you’re an honor student. If you want to be in honors, if that’s what you have with you, and you look in the mirror, that’s an honor student,” said Dennison.

Being an honors student is about taking risks, said Dennison. The DHC boasts smaller class sizes, as opposed to the big lecture halls of Samuelson or the Science Hall.

In the DHC classrooms, “You can’t hide here,” Dennison said. “So take the risk to take our classes because we expect you to come in and participate. Answer a question and be the person willing to say something, and be willing to be wrong. We know that it’s okay to be wrong. The only way we learn is by trying something that doesn’t work, and trying again.”

Matt Martinson is a senior lecturer and writing curriculum coordinator who has been with the DHC for seven years now. If you are part of the DHC, it’s impossible not to have a class with him, as he often only teaches two or three classes a quarter; ranging from “Seriously Kidding,” a class on the genre of satire, to “Satan and Society,” a class on the concept of Satan, and the ideas of good and evil in society.

Martinson echoed many of the same points as  Dennison, “I think a lot of people seem to think we are like the college version of AP classes, and we most certainly are not that,” Martinson said. “I wish students knew that we are purposely interdisciplinary, and so every course tries to pull different fields of study together. It often leads to fun and interesting conversations and unique classes that are really interesting.”

Just like Dennison, Martinson puts a heavy emphasis on the students, believing that they are what makes the honors college what it is. “My favorite part of working in the honors college is the conversation with students in class and out,” Martinson said. “We try to provoke discussion on questions that are hard to answer and it’s fun seeing students going out and looking into answers on their own. I rarely come into a class with a predetermined lesson plan because students always have questions or ideas that bring us into new areas that I hadn’t planned on, but are often quite fascinating and rewarding.”

But it’s not just staff who believe in the DHC’s ability to create an interesting learning environment. “Everyone talks about sparking curiosity, and no one really did that for me until the DHC,” said Daniel Caldeira, a DHC student graduating this year with his Bachelor of Arts in English language arts teaching. “Being curious truly makes life more exciting and interesting…it sounds nerdy, but don’t knock it till you try it!”

Denison is always willing to meet with students, “Our office door is pretty much always open.” Perspective students can talk to Denison about whether the honors college is in line with what they want out of their university experience, and they can also set up a “day in the life” of a DHC student, where they can attend classes for a day and interact with the daily life in the honors college.

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