PENDLETON --- Tri-County Technical College will roll out a new program for high performing students this fall with the launch of the Honors Experience.

"High academic achievers are among the students who enroll at Tri-County.  We have initiated the honors program in the hope that it will provide intellectual challenges and a learning community for them," said Dr. Hap Wheeler, dean of the Arts and Sciences Division.

"It's not about writing extra papers and getting additional reading assignments," said Dr. Kate Williams, social sciences department head and one of the honors team leaders.  "It's designed to be challenging in terms of a student growing intellectually and being a deeper learner. Instead of the traditional lecture format, classes will enroll 15 really academically-strong students who will engage in discussion, peer-to-peer teaching and participate in more hands-on learning," she explained.

"The Honors Program is for students who want to be active learners, are highly motivated and capable, want to stretch their minds and make the most of their academic experience at Tri-County," she added.  "It's for students who want to interact more deeply with the material."

A team representing the departments in the Arts and Sciences Division has been working for a year on eligibility criteria, assessment of applicants, philosophy of the coursework, developing courses and evaluating other programs, said Dr. Wheeler.

Participants must be enrolled in the associate in arts or associate of science degree programs and meet certain eligibility requirements. Graduating high school students must meet two of the following:  a 3.5 GPA, or a combined score of 1150 or better on the critical reading and math sections of the SAT; or a score of 25 on the ACT; or rank in the top 10 of their graduating class.

Current students must meet these two requirements: a 3.5 GPA on courses taken at Tri-County and have 12 credits at Tri-County that would qualify for university transfer. 

"We anticipate enrolling 40 to 50 students with diverse ages and backgrounds in the first semester this fall.  This experience will provide the academic challenge sought by students who expect more than a job or transfer credential from their education.  Students will take an active role in class presentations and will have ownership of the material," she said.  For example, Dr. Williams, one of the honors faculty members, says her Psychology 201 class could replicate a well-known study by Robert Cialdini on littering behavior. "Subjects observe someone either dropping or picking up a piece of litter in an environment that is either full of litter or free of litter. The question is under what conditions littering is encouraged or discouraged. Honors students can replicate a study like this right here on campus, which will give them great exposure to research methods and data collecting," she said. 

Offered this fall will be Astronomy 101, English 101, History 202, Sociology 101, Biology 101 and Chemistry 110.  "We hope to add one-hour topical colloquia which have been submitted for state approval by Dr. Sue Ellenberger.  The first of these will be taught by Dr. Della Vanhuss, Spencer Heringa and Lara Wrightson.   The colloquia will be co-curricular opportunities for honors students to delve into a topic of interest while working closely with other honors students and faculty. The courses might include service learning or research that culminates with a group project," she said.

Students will take one or two honors classes each semester and one to two colloquia per year as part of their regular schedule. 

Students will be awarded the honors distinction at graduation on their credentials.  "As a transfer student, other colleges and universities will see they have gone above and beyond the typical two-year experience," Dr. Williams said. 

Dr. Williams, who has worked at a number of colleges and universities with service learning and leadership development programs, is excited about this new venture. "I enjoy working around high performing students and those ready for the next challenge.  The faculty who are involved are excited to be building a program that develops student scholarship for those who are deeply committed to their education and who think about the big questions.  It's more than getting the degree; it's what they can achieve and invent.  I'm glad we are offering this program that will benefit students who want to collaborate with like-minded students and work closely with faculty."