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Honors College Implements Comprehensive Curriculum

by University Relations

For two decades, APU's Honors Program served students seeking a rigorous academic curriculum grounded in the Christian faith. In 2013, the Honors College marked the expansion of that effort, with the launch of a new curriculum slated for the 2014–15 school year. The cohesive curriculum seeks to recover the wisdom of the Christian tradition, instill moral and intellectual virtue among future Christian leaders, and reclaim the classical quest for truth, beauty, and goodness.

Although more than 900 colleges and universities offer an honors curriculum for high-achieving students, only 150 have formed honors colleges. APU’s Honors College aims to equip top-performing students, the eventual leaders of tomorrow, with character-based leadership skills, cultivating students’ individual gifts. From four available pathways, Honors College students choose the one that best suits their gifts and goals. The first results in an honors humanities minor. The second leads to an honors humanities major plus another major within any college or school on campus. The third provides an honors humanities major with a thesis. One of the pathways, available by invitation only to National Merit Scholars and Trustees’ Scholarship finalists, includes completion of an honors thesis project and an individualized second major. “The Honors College represents an application of the university mission to cultivate the God-given talents of each student—in this case, the unique needs of academically gifted students,” said David L. Weeks, Ph.D., dean of the Honors College. “This new endeavor will entice more top-caliber students, spark a richer academic climate on campus, and foster strong postgraduation success.”

Honors students will read and interpret primary works from Augustine and Aristotle to C. S. Lewis and Sir Isaac Newton, from Confucius and Sun Tzu to Booker T. Washington and Emily Dickinson, covering the quintessential foundational classics of philosophy, theology, literature, science, history, and politics while foregoing secondary textbooks and traditional examinations. “By reading poets and philosophers, theologians and scientists, believers and skeptics, we join thinkers who have shaped our spiritual and intellectual heritage,” said Weeks. “In the process, as Christians, we deepen our understanding of the Creator and His creation.”

These students will study classic works in a multidisciplinary, communal setting with professors and other students through small, discussion-based classes, writing groups, oral presentation workshops, and extensive peer-critique sessions. In addition, the curriculum takes full advantage of available technology by implementing online lectures and prompts to allow for class sessions primarily consisting of dialogue and debate. The program culminates in an Oxford University-style tutorial, allowing students to work one on one with professors as they develop a capstone project ready for peer review and publication.

Beyond the classroom, each participating student receives a scholarship, personal collection of classic works, research and study abroad experiences, sponsorship in academic conferences, and the opportunity to reside in Honors living-learning communities. Throughout the course of study, students focus on leadership and citizenship, as well as faith, wisdom, and virtue, all of which give participants a competitive edge with graduate schools and future employers.

All aspects of the Honors College inspire students to engage with life’s most important questions: Who are we? Why are we here? Who is God and what is our relationship with Him? What are our responsibilities to others? What is good and true? “The formation of a leader’s character starts with answers to those big questions of meaning, value, and purpose,” said Weeks. “When students grapple with such questions, they participate in a formative exercise shaping their hearts, souls, minds, and characters as difference makers.” Students will graduate from the Honors College as disciples dedicated to Christ and service, lifelong scholars prepared for graduate school and the professional workforce, citizens devoted to civic engagement, and leaders of character and integrity.

Originally published in the Summer '14 issue of APU Life. Download the full issue (PDF).