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Academic and Extracurricular Updates in the Honors Program

Each year brings new academic and extracurricular opportunities for the Saint Louis University Honors Program students, faculty and staff. 

Four students posed for a picture against a wall at the NCHC conference
Honors students Aarti Sahai (Investigative and Medical Sciences, '24) and Peyton High (Biology '22) present their research at the National Collegiate Honors Council Conference in Orlando, Fla., along with Dr. Robert Pampel and Dr. Brooke Taylor.

Since its founding in 1938, the Saint Louis University Honors Program has evolved from an academic program for junior and senior “honors men” in the College of Arts and Sciences to an all-inclusive academic program for students of all majors across their four years at the University. Along the way, the program has had various curricular structures, student organizations, campus locations, and faculty/staff leadership that endeared it to generations of honors Billikens. For our loyal alumni leadership, we offer a few important academic and extracurricular updates below to let you know the latest news as we chart our course in the program’s ninth decade.

Academics

Discontinuation of Crossroads 

Beginning in fall 2022, the University will feature a common core curriculum for all new undergraduate students. This important University-wide initiative brings important changes to the Honors Program curriculum, notably the discontinuation of the Crossroads first-year seminar to make room for the University’s new Ignite seminar for all students.

University Honors Program Director Dr. Robert Pampel lamented the discontinuation of the Crossroads class but noted the pivotal role the Honors Program played in helping SLU move towards a common first-year seminar requirement.

“Honors education has always been about innovating and, in a way, test-driving ideas for the general campus community. We are sad to see the Crossroads class go away, but we are proud that it served as the archetype for a powerful first-year experience that all students can enjoy.”

New Foundations in Honors Sequence

In place of the Crossroads class, the Honors Program will now feature a first-year “Foundations in Honors” sequence, a series of extra- and co-curricular experiences that build on the Honors Program’s core values of academic innovation, holistic learning, Ignatian reflection, and global citizenship. Students will engage in guided reflections, hear from thought-provoking guest speakers, and participate in a program retreat in which they consider together the role of their honors education in their personal and professional pursuits.

In addition, the program will pivot from a first-year to a sophomore class experience for honors students, bringing together faculty partners from across the institution to deliver a signature honors experience. The theme of the class will be chosen by the Honors Faculty Colleagues, a carefully selected group of engaged and engaging teachers from different departments across the institution.

Pampel said sophomore students are often overlooked in students’ development, particularly in terms of common intellectual experiences.

“We hope to engage our sophomore students in new ways through the sophomore seminar, meeting them at a time when they are developing new intellectual confidence while remaining deeply thoughtful about the roles and responsibilities they have in society,” he said.

Regardless of the course theme, it will feature an interdisciplinary reading list and a goal of encouraging thoughtful discussion about vocation and the common good. The course will debut in the 2023-2024 academic year.

See a Full Overview of the New Honors Curriculum for 2022-2023 

Research and Scholarship

Investigative Learning Experience (ILEX) Grants

Each year, the Honors Program awards Investigative Learning Experience (ILEX) grants as part of a competitive selection process. Active members of the Honors Program, as well as recipients of SLU’s Presidential Scholarship, may apply for up to $1,200 of funding to carry out an original scholarly, research, or creative endeavor connected to their major field(s) of study. The grant covers expenses such as equipment, conference registration fees, travel expenses, and other items that facilitate students’ investigative efforts.

During the 2021-2022 academic year, the Honors Program distributed over $15,000 to 14 ILEX recipients. Among others, the approved projects included:

The range of projects serves as a reminder of the rich intellectual diversity and ambition of SLU Honors Program students.

National Collegiate Honors Council Conference and Senior Legacy Symposium 

For many honors students (ILEX and non-ILEX recipients alike), the exhibition of this research is common. In November 2021, two Honors students, Aarti Sahai (Investigative and Medical Sciences, '24) and Peyton High (Biology, '22) presented their research at the National Collegiate Honors Council Conference in Orlando, FL.

In May 2022, 50 honors seniors were nominated to represent their academic departments at the annual Senior Legacy Symposium, a celebration of the best undergraduate scholarship at SLU. Although they represented just 8% of the graduating class, honors students comprised over 25% of the Senior Legacy Symposium presenters.

Extracurricular Activities 

Graduating students routinely cite the strong relationships formed in the Honors Program as one of the greatest benefits of an honors education. Students form these strong bonds with like-minded peers through involvement in the Honors Learning Community, participation in Honors Student Association (HSA)-sponsored events, and through casual conversations and serendipitous encounters in the Honors Program lounge.

Here are a few highlights of honors extracurricular events during the last year:

Food Fridays

Every Friday afternoon, students gather in the Honors Program lounge to mark the end of the academic week and to enjoy a brief moment of calm before the weekend. They enjoy games, conversation, popcorn, and often a sweet treat baked by the Honors Program coordinator, Annie Henning.

Fireside Chats

Each month, the Honors Program invites a favorite faculty member to enjoy lunch and conversation with students in the lounge. Although the faculty member is usually chosen because they are expert teachers and mentors, the fireside chats are more about getting to know an instructor beyond the classroom. Faculty often share vocational stories, offer advice about how to get the most out of an undergraduate experience, and provide a glimpse into the work they do at SLU. Guests from the past year included Cameron Anglum (Education), Ilene Berman (Fine and Performing Arts), Scott Berman (Philosophy), Bruce O’Neill (Anthropology), and Leah Sweetman (Center for Social Action).

Fox Theatre Trip

As the academic year wound to a close, honors students and staff gathered at the Fabulous Fox Theater near SLU’s campus to watch a performance of Hairspray. Students enjoyed discounted tickets and got the chance to experience one of St. Louis’s premier artistic venues.

AJCU student event

Each year at the AJCU Honors Conference, students and staff gather to discuss best practices in Jesuit honors education and to develop bonds across institutions. For the first time, the SLU Honors Program hosted the conference in St. Louis and emphasized the importance of student fellowship across the two-day gathering. In addition to breakout sessions designed especially for student attendees, a Friday night social event at Pieces Board Game Bar and Restaurant provided guests a chance to mix and mingle at a unique St. Louis attraction.

Path Wellness Events

Path is the first-year peer mentorship program designed to help students adjust to campus life and to equip them with skills to succeed. This year, Path mentors (veteran honors students) staged a series of wellness events designed to foster a healthy and thriving community of students. Their efforts dovetailed nicely with programmatic efforts to encourage intentional, regular conversations about wellness among honors students.

I Heart Honors Week

Each February the Honors Program hosts a week of events to celebrate students and supporters in the Honors Program. The week is filled with faculty engagement opportunities, lots of food and fun, and ways for students to show their support and appreciation for honors faculty.

 

About SLU's Honors Program

The Honors Program at Saint Louis University, established in 1938, engages intellectually curious and academically successful students in a community-oriented towards the Jesuit ideals of holistic learning, academic rigor, and community engagement. Through a combination of individually tailored curricula, experiential learning opportunities, and developmental guidance and mentorship, the Honors Program prepares students to become citizens who engage in the process of inquiry and apply their knowledge in service to society.