- Associated Press - Friday, September 11, 2015

HAMMOND, Ind. (AP) - Whether it’s a lively discussion about Rudyard Kipling’s story “Wireless,” from 1902 or a position paper on Kanye West or Donald Trump for president, the students in Purdue University’s Honors College are experimenting with enriched classes.

Ellie Michalski, 19, of Milwaukee, was recruited to Purdue University Calumet for her skills on the basketball court, as well as the classroom.

Michalski considered the University of Wisconsin but was sold on Purdue Calumet because of its basketball program and the Honors College. She said she’s had an opportunity to get involved because Purdue Calumet is a smaller school and offers many opportunities.

“The courses in the Honors College are completely different,” she said. “There are things you don’t learn in normal courses.”

She said it gives the opportunity to meet people and make connections.

“If I need assistance in another subject, I can get the help. In return, you can help someone else who needs assistance,” she said.

Aaron Ratigan, 28, of Portage, will earn his bachelor’s degree in December from Purdue University North Central in Westville. He went to college in 2012 after a four-year enlistment in the Army.

“The honors program has given me the opportunity to go beyond what’s required in a basic class,” he said. “We’re guided by faculty but we do independent research and ask certain questions that we might not be able to do in another program.”

He said the program “pushes students who want to excel and (gives) an opportunity to do so.

“The honors program also requires much more from students, and it helps us to think outside the box,” Ratigan said.

Ratigan has completed an internship with Gary’s Social Media Development Group.

John Rowan, dean of The Honors College and Purdue University Calumet Campus, said education is not a one-size-fits-all proposition.

“In an effort to ensure that all students at the university get what they need to optimize their future prospects for success, it is important to provide an assortment of opportunities for students at all levels,” he said.

The Honors College gives changes for internships, along with “academic and career planning, novel research, leadership, study abroad and similar endeavors which help students develop important traits,” Rowan said.

Purdue Calumet established an honors program 10 years ago, but it’s only been a year since it received approval from the main campus in West Lafayette to create an Honors College. Purdue North Central in Westville developed an honors program four years ago.

Once Purdue Calumet and Purdue North Central are consolidated, the new Purdue University Northwest will have one Honors College for the university, Rowan said.

Unlike high school, honors courses are not simply more difficult. Honors College courses tend to be interdisciplinary and expose students to topics and modes of thinking not typically found in other courses, he said.

He said there are myths about Honors College, extra courses being among the myths. And while different, difficult isn’t necessary the right word for the classes.

“Courses in the Honors College tend to be different in kind, with more emphasis on critical thinking and analysis at the conceptual level, but not different in terms of the quantity of coursework or the level of difficulty,” Rowan said.

Admission to the Honors College is competitive. Students with high school GPAs under 3.5 or SAT scores under 1100 have a difficult time being admitted. Sometimes a student’s record of leadership, citizenship and potential allows for flexibility, he said.

Extracurricular experiences are also crucial for admission, he said.

Essays, letters of recommendation are needed and personal interview sometimes are included, Rowan said.

Karen Bishop Morris, faculty adviser for the PUC Honors College said students in her classes read local and major newspapers.

The students blog, write a position paper identifying and taking a stance on an issue and take a stance, conduct mock debates and produce a digital story focusing on what is learned in the semester.

“The assignments in the introductory honors course are designed to get students to read, think and write critically about issues connected to their academic areas of focus, their intended pathways, the communities they live and work in and the world at large,” said Bishop Morris, also an associate professor of English.

Heather Fielding, director of the honors program at PNC, said she believes in challenging students “with difficult material that they will have difficulty grasping at first.”

But support is also a part of it.

“I try to create a supportive environment where they feel free to struggle, to be wrong, to get better, to write something terrible and then make it good.”

That’s what the honors program is about, Fielding said.

“It’s about helping students who want to be challenged to find those challenges, and then to support them,” she said.

PNC senior Kelsey Tabbert, 21, of Chesterton said she found Kipling’s, “Wireless,” confusing but interesting.

“I’ve enjoyed the honors program a lot,” she said. “The research project that you do can be something you’re really passionate about. I presented a paper last year at Butler University and I met so many people and learned a lot from that experience.”

Carmel High School grad Alex Liu said he, too, is enjoying his first-year experience as a freshman in the Honors College at Purdue Calumet. The civil engineering major said the small group of students are like a family.

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Source: The (Munster) Times, https://bit.ly/1K04QUE

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Information from: The Times, https://www.thetimesonline.com

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