Olin 104 has earned the nickname “The Glass Classroom” because of the wall of glass panes that separates it from the rest of the library’s first floor. A sign on the door indicates that it is reserved as an Honors Program student lounge during certain hours on Thursday and Sundays. The Glass Classroom has wheeled tables and chairs, and the room is ready for board games, studying, or just hanging out. The only thing missing is the honors students.
“You guys need to kind of awkwardly and specifically decide to get together and say, ‘Hey, wanna study on Thursday? Let’s go down in that space,’” said Dr. Emily Russell, Professor of English and Co-Director of the Honors Program. “As you start using it, then you’ll start to know that you can take for granted, ‘Oh, I could walk past that space and know people at any given time.’”
The lounge space in The Glass Classroom has only been available since the beginning of this semester. Last semester, there were limited times, about once a month, that another room in Olin was reserved.
“I do not frequently use the honors lounge space because it is not open 24/7,” said Andrew Phillips ’18, an Honors student.
The addition of the lounge space is just one of several student requested changes the Rollins College Honors Degree Program is making this year. Though everyone on campus has noticed the major changes to the general education system, the changes to the Honors Program affect fewer people and are harder to see. Since it is an invitation only program, there are only around 100 students in the entire Honors Program.
Though the program is changing to function similarly to the neighborhoods socially, the academic expectations will remain very different. Honors students are required to maintain high academic standards, take harder honors level classes, and write a thesis during their senior year. The honors program also comes with plenty of perks, including early registration for classes and parking privileges.
“We want to help create an atmosphere where being part of the Honors Program becomes more than simply attending an extra class every semester or getting to register for class early,” said Hanna Cody ’16, Community Coordinator and member of the Honors Program.
One of the biggest complaints about the program was that students felt like there was not enough social engagement in the program, especially between students from different years, hence the attempt to make a lounge space accessible to only Honors students.
The other changes are a mix of the social and the academic. Students went to St. Petersburg and Apopka on two successful Honors-only Immersions. In St. Petersburg, students worked with Habitat for Humanity to build a house for a local family. In Apopka, students spent time with farm workers as part of a gender and globalization class. Two community coordinators have been hired to plan gatherings and events for students, similar to the structure of the neighborhoods. Some of the potential upcoming events include lunches, speed dating, game nights, and seeing plays. If there is enough interest, the program could eventually even apply for the Honors Program to have Living and Learning Community housing, which would probably be a floor in a dorm designated for only Honors students.
The required classes have also been restructured so that the Honors students have to take approximately the same number of general education requirements as students in the new neighborhoods system.
“We wanted to streamline the Honors Program so that it’s similar in its structure to the rFLA [Rollins Foundation in the Liberal Arts] neighborhoods,” said Dr. Rachel Newcomb, Professor of Anthropology and Co-Director of the Honors Program.
Honors students will be done with general educations requirements when they take a capstone course at the junior level, instead of the old senior seminar; this class will involve a new component called “Your Last Lecture.” Professors will come from different fields and give presentations on what they think is critical for students to know. Students will then work on developing their own lecture, helping to build presentation and public speaking skills. Having this class at the junior level will leave the honors students with all of senior year to work on their thesis. The restructuring allows the courses to be taken in a more flexible order than before which will allow students of different grade levels to take classes together.
“I’m excited to start creating an environment where there’s a mixing of the class years, both socially and academically,” said Julianna Dubendorff, Community Coordinator and Honors student.
Some of the changes, like the immersion programs and new courses, have been successful, but the Honors students still need to take initiative on some of the changes they asked for. With enough interest, the usually empty lounge space could be filled with students having game nights and study sessions.