Geneva's Honors Program - Geneva College, a Christian College in Pennsylvania (PA)

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President's Desk
January 20, 2016

Geneva's Honors Program

The word “honor” turns up often in the Bible. “Honor your father and your mother (Exodus 20:12).”  “Pay to all what is owed to them…honor to whom honor (Romans 13:7).” “When Haman entered the room, the king asked him, ‘What shall be done for the man whom the king delights to honor?’ Now Haman thought to himself, ‘Who is there that the king would rather honor than me?’ (Esther 6:6).” “Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching (I Timothy 5:7).”

Colleges traditionally honor some students when they finish by graduating them “with honors,” “with high honors,” or “with highest honors.” More recently, colleges honor some of their students by including them in the college’s “honors program.” Where I went to college that meant two years of two seminars a semester, with no tests or grades, followed by eight terrifying exams given by outside examiners. Failure meant disgrace.

Unlike the college I attended, Geneva’s honors program aims to foster intense intellectual pursuits in an environment that is supportive rather than terrifying. Freshman year about thirty honors students live together on “honors halls.” They take certain honors courses, in the humanities and Bible for example, and they go to symphony concerts, ballet performances, and opera in Pittsburgh. These events provide students with the opportunity to enjoy artistic performances that they might not have previously seen or heard.

All freshmen and sophomore students with good enough grades can apply to the Young Scholars Program (YSP) for the next year, giving them the opportunity to think and talk deeply about certain texts. They take the Honors section of Bible 300 and go on more cultural excursions to Pittsburgh.

The end of junior year and during senior year, the Academic Partners Program allows honors students to work with a faculty member doing research and then present their work in a public forum. This past fall five seniors presented their research: a consideration of “just war theory,” a study on sex trafficking, why Genghis Khan’s Mongols were such successful rulers, how long it takes to make anxious mice less anxious, and an examination of the barriers to Hispanics in higher education.

The Honors Program implicitly, maybe explicitly, rejects the purely utilitarian view of education, that it’s all about getting a job. By promoting a love of art and knowledge for its own sake, by sharing the great musical and artistic achievements of our civilization, and by encouraging students to research whatever grabs their interest, the Geneva Honors program promotes thinking about what is lovely (see Philippians 4:8) and takes seriously this word from God: “The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight (Proverbs 4:7).” 

Dr. William Edgar, Interim President

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