Friday, February 7, 2014

Alpha Dogs: Finding Community and Inspiration in the FCRH Honors Program

Something weird happened during my senior year of high school. Due to bizarre scheduling, there were only ten students in my AP Lit class. It was odd, especially after four years of classes with 20 to 30 students each. My teacher also expected us to participate in a "roundtable discussion" format whereas past teachers had mostly lectured at us. Thanks to that class, I learned something important about what I wanted in college: small class sizes and discussion-based learning. And that's exactly what drew me to the Rose Hill Honors Program at Fordham. 

The honors program accepts about 35 students from each entering class. Though students don't have to complete a separate application for admittance to the program (they receive an invitation shortly after being admitted to Fordham), I sent a letter to the Honors Program director asking to be admitted. 

(Click through for larger image)
Most of Alpha 2016 at our last Secret Santa exchange; I'm in the bottom row, second from the right!
These kids are smart. Easy on the eyes, too. ;)

The honors core curriculum differs completely from the regular Rose Hill core. You can view the course layout here. Each semester consists of mainly literature, history, and philosophy courses that focus on a specific era of the world. 

Off the top of my head, here are a few immediate benefits of being in the honors program:  
  • Class sizes of about 10-14 students, sometimes even less
  • Fabulous professors--and the opportunity to develop close working relationships with them
  • Alpha House 

Maybe the biggest tangible benefit of being an honors student is getting a key to Alpha House: a small cottage-turned-building dedicated to honors classes, complete with couches and free printing in the basement. It functions as a 24-hour space for both studying and bonding. Just two weekends ago, we held a Lord of the Rings (Extended Edition) marathon in Alpha. We've held our "Secret Santa" exchange party there for the past two Christmases. Even if we're there just to cram in a paper due the next morning, we get to help each other unwind and stay sane.

With all of its required philosophy and literature classes, the program forces us to consider how humanity has reached this point in history, and how we should prioritize our own lives as a result. I've taken classes I wouldn't normally have chosen on my own. As much as I struggle with philosophy, my philosophy classes have been surprisingly pivotal in helping me understand the world and figure out what I believe to be true. 

I've also had some of my favorite professors at Fordham through the honors classes, and small class sizes allow us to have actual relationships with them. For example, my philosophy teacher from last semester, an honors alum herself, has a tradition of taking her classes apple picking upstate. That day trip is easily one of my most favorite honors memories so far.

Apple picking with Dr. Jude Jones back in October. We climbed trees (technically against the rules), ate pumpkin cheesecake, and danced to a live folk band.
Honors rounds out not only the academic aspects of my life, but also the social ones. I can't speak for every entering class, but the program gave me an instant community of genuinely nice kids who genuinely enjoy learning about the world. I'm honored (haha get it? "honored"?) to be in such great company. My classmates make me want to work harder--they're smart, funny, interesting, articulate. Sometimes I even feel a bit out of my league during class, but that just means I'm actually being challenged. I know I've become a better reader, writer, and thinker for it. Best of all, everyone supports each other. Our Facebook group is always alive with jokes and collective study guides, commiseration and plans to hang out. My Fordham experience wouldn't be the same without these kids.

If you have any questions about the honors program, don't hesitate to e-mail me at! 

No comments:

Post a Comment