In 1954, Clinton E. Albertson, S.J., former English professor, earned a master’s degree in English literature from Oxford University. He was so impressed that he decided to import the Oxford model when he began teaching at Loyola University, also in 1954. Thus, in 1958, the University Honors Program, founded by Albertson, was launched. Fifty-one years later, the program still thrives.
"The Honors Program is designed to transform who the students are into who they will become," says Mary Beth Ingham, C.S.J., former director of the program. "The students have big aspirations, and it is our job to provide them with the tools they need to make their dreams come true."
About 140 students are in the Honors Program each academic year. Students may apply to join no later than the first semester of their sophomore year, and they are selected based on GPA and SAT and ACT test scores, as well as their academic and personal motivations and ambitions. Once admitted, they must complete 12 interdisciplinary honors courses, two university core classes and a senior honors thesis, along with requirements for their major and elective courses. Honors classes, which usually are no larger than 15 students, are conducted in seminar style.
"Honors seminar courses should be a working laboratory that lets the professor experiment with different styles of pedagogy and the evaluation of the student’s comprehension of the subject," says Kathleen Harris, director of LMU’s national and international scholarship office and member of the program’s advisory council.
One of the program’s unique features is summer fellowships for international study and research. Fellows receive $5,000 for research, travel, internships, writing or tuition. LMU students have traveled, among other places, to India to study Buddhism and Jainism, to Central California to learn about a micro-lending project, and to France to explore Ignatian spirituality.
"The fellowship offered me an opportunity to get hands-on experience on a project that was my own idea," says Gena Gammie, senior honors student, who traveled to Peru this past summer to research that nation’s disaster relief and reconstruction efforts after a massive earthquake in August 2007.
This past spring, the Honors Program reintroduced "Attic Salt," its interdisciplinary academic journal, after a decade-long hiatus. But "Attic Salt" also included a new feature: a DVD with student performances in dance, music and theatre, as well as a film homage to the silent movie era, in black-and-white, with subtitles and no sound.
"‘Attic Salt’ represents the philosophy of diverse viewpoints, and is emblematic of LMU’s mission of the education of the whole person," says Robin Miskolcze, faculty advisor for the journal and assistant professor of English. "You can’t help but see the excellence of the university when you open the journal."
Ingham hopes to see continued growth in the Honors Program, in every area from ethnic diversity to funding and study-abroad opportunities. But one sign of the program’s appeal already is evident in its enrollment, she says.
"Next [fall], 45 percent of the honors students will come from out-of-state," Ingham says. "This is a clear indication that the profile of LMU and its honors program is growing stronger and becoming more visible."