Competition at FM

February 13, 2012 — Dr. Shirlee Dufort

Even as FM’s Honors students compete for good grades, they are considering the very concept of competition. Students in the Honors Seminar, a capstone course for those seeking to graduate with an Honors Concentration degree, are exploring the topic “The Culture of Competition,” during the Spring 2012 semester. The course addresses such questions as: Are human beings competitive by nature, or does the culture we live in shape our sense of competitiveness? What motivates us, and why are some of us more competitive than others? Does gender play a role? Should we question the long-held notion that competition brings out the best in us? Does competition encourage excellence or promote anxiety? How does the American educational system affect the development of competitiveness? Is the American dream an option for all Americans? How do individuals compete in a rapidly-changing and increasingly-more-global world?

Honors classes encourage the examination of these kinds of vital questions and concerns, providing students with the opportunity to delve into the areas that interest them and to look deeply at issues they might otherwise not have considered. Because Honors classes have a smaller number of students than traditional classes, they can also offer greater flexibility and choice about the direction the learning will take. The Honors Program is designed to meet the needs of students who have demonstrated high academic ability, preparation, and motivation, and who are ready to undertake more challenging academic work. Students explore their course material in greater depth and breadth, with the focus on the intellectual growth of each student. The program does not focus on accelerating the learning process but on enriching it.

The Honors Seminar meets once each week, with classroom time supplemented by online instruction. The focus is more on discussion than lecture, and discussions that begin in class continue online. This means that students can make their online contributions at times that are convenient for them and take the time they need to formulate their thoughts in writing. Gone are the days when professors simply lecture, while students sit quietly, taking notes. Instead, students take an active role in class, as they read, reflect, write, and engage with topics, considering them from philosophical, historical, social, technological, and scien¬tific perspectives. Students learn the essential skill of critical thinking, as they explore the ideas of others. Discussions are rich, engaging, thoughtful, and can move into the controversial. And whatever direction the discussions take, students know that their ideas are valued.

The interactive format and smaller class size leads to close communication and connection among the students and with the faculty. The course is being taught collaboratively by Jim Gyldenvand, from the Arts and Sciences, Charlene Dybas, from Business, Technology, and Health Professions, and Colleen Sanders, the Writing Lab Coordinator and a Phi Theta Kappa National Honor Society Advisor. Bringing together faculty from across the disciplines facilitates a rich and varied learning experience and exposes students to a variety of viewpoints, as they consider questions that do not have easy answers.

If this way of learning appeals to you (or you think it would appeal to your son, daughter, or someone else you know), and you are interested in enhancing transfer opportunities or employment prospects, I encourage you to contact FM’s Admissions Office at 736-FMCC, ext. 8301, to ask about our Honors Concentration degree.

Dr. Shirlee Dufort is Dean of Arts and Sciences at FM.

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