Several ACU Honors College faculty members attended the National Collegiate Honors Council conference last week, in Kansas City, Mo. Dr. Victor McCracken, assistant professor of theology and ethics, and Dr. Kristina Campos, assistant professor of communications, gave a presentation regarding ACU’s interdisciplinary core curriculum to hundreds of national and international college faculty and students.
“There are honors colleges and programs from a wide variety of schools, all the way from junior colleges to well-recognized state schools,” McCracken said. “We try to go to every year because it’s a great place to learn what their programs have to offer their students.”.
McCracken and Campos’ presentation, titled “Going General: The Future of Honors Education in an Interdisciplinary University,” included a discussion about how the ACU Honors College can continue to advance its students when ACU’s basic core curriculum is similar to those of most honors colleges.
“One of the big issues in honors education is ‘what makes it distinctive?'” McCracken said. “What makes it different than the education an honors student would get in regular classes?”
Dr. Joe Stephenson, assistant dean of the Honors College and assistant professor of English, said the presentation provided an interesting discussion of how the Honors College is responding to changes in core curriculum and how it can both lead and follow other colleges in the process.
“They did a great job,” Stephenson said. “It was a very interesting presentation. They presented along with some people from Western Kentucky who talked about a new core curriculum just for Honors, so that contrasted with what Dr. McCracken had to talk about, how the college here sort of led the way and piloted the courses in the new core curriculum.”
McCracken said the model of interdisciplinary core curriculum, which blurs the lines between regular and advanced courses, is a model ACU feels all its students can gain from and recently became the basic core curriculum.
“It is definitely innovative for ACU,” Stephenson said. “I don’t know any other school that has a core curriculum like ours and that, in fact, makes a special challenge for Honors – to take this core curriculum which, in a way, is already sort of an Honors curriculum, and how to do something with it that is even more ‘honors’ than it already is.”
ACU was among many other honors colleges presenting at the conference that are members of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities.
“Every year at this conference there’s a gathering of Honors directors and leaders from the other schools in the CCCU, and Abilene is one of the leaders amongst that group,”McCracken said. “It’s really good company. It’s great to visit with other directors that are thinking that we are not only working with really great, intelligent students but we are working in a Christian atmosphere.”
For now, McCracken said that the “million dollar question” is how the Honors College will advance the core curriculum to continue to challenge Honors students and appeal to their interests.
“We attract students that are very curious and want to learn about many different things,” McCracken said.
Dr. Chris Willerton, professor of English and honors studies and former dean of the Honors College, was also recognized for his leadership in Honors programs last week. After serving more than 25 years as director and dean of the Honors College, the Great Plains Honors Council, ACU’s regional Honors council, awarded Dr. Willerton a plaque for his service.