Honors Course Example 1: Enhancing Honors
The Enhancing Honors course focused both on examining the city of Boston through film, literature, and walkabout tours and on creating peer-to-peer networks within the honors program. We began the course with a presentation from Dr. Maureen Kelleher, sociology professor and head of the Honors Program, which briefly summarized the history of Boston and overviewed the course. From then on, over the course of the semester we completed assignments ranging from watching a movie about Boston to writing an essay about our hometown. Meanwhile, every other class period of Enhancing Honors we would meet in small discussion sections with upper-class honors students, where we would share our assignments, discuss what we learned in the larger lecture sessions, and generally bond with a core group of other students within the honors program.
One of the core threads throughout the year within the course was the First Pages program, in which every honors student read as a requirement the book All Souls, by Michael Patrick MacDonald. MacDonald, who teaches several honors classes on campus in addition to running gun buyback programs in New York City and participating in several activism and advocacy groups, spoke to us midway through the semester on his experience growing up in the Irish ghetto of South Boston, the topic of the book. While I was fortunate enough to take one of MacDonald’s classes and speak with him further on the experiences of which he wrote, I believe that this particular event added a greatly personal aspect to the course for every student. There was something deeply special about learning about Boston not only by watching movies about it, reading about it, and walking through it, but also through hearing a respected campus figure illustrate his own deeply moving story of it.
Additionally, the course itself provided several unexpected concrete examples that I could use to contextualize some of what I was learning in other courses. For example, the other honors course I took, titled “Voices of Development” focused on different methods of poverty alleviation throughout the developing world. However, because I took this class concurrently with Enhancing Honors, I read All Souls with this particular lens and in so doing realized independently how many of the sociocultural phenomena detailed by MacDonald could be linked to economic inequality. Overall, I believe that Enhancing Honors as a course serves to break into manageable chunks and personalize an often daunting first semester, facilitating the initial transition into college and enriching the Northeastern academic experience.