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Honor Students Bond Over Books, Breakfast, Boots

January 2013

Many of the 33 members of the new St. Ambrose University Honors Program broke in their hiking boots before they cracked a book this past August.

Program members who arrived on campus a few days ahead of the start of the fall semester participated in an overnight trip to Camp Wyoming near Maquoketa, Iowa. The trip included a day of hiking at Maquoketa Caves.

It was an exercise in bonding that the program's directors hope continues throughout this inaugural year.

Denise Kall, PhD, an assistant professor of sociology and criminal justice, and Jessica Gosnell, PhD, an associate professor and chair of the philosophy department, served as co-directors in the fall semester. Brenda Peters, PhD, a professor of biology, helped develop the program the previous two years and joined Kall as a director for spring semester on return from her sabbatical. All three leaders believe a communal atmosphere will help the honors program grow and evolve in the years to come.

"The Honors Program was designed to create a community of people who are intellectually curious," Gosnell said. "We looked for students who were passionate about learning."

The group continued to create a community over the fall semester through group classes, Sunday morning breakfast gatherings and by practicing Tai Bo as a crew each Tuesday.

"Being in the Honors Program helped me find some of my best friends," said first-year student Rachel Hohneke. "It made the transition to college life much easier.''

Helping students bond over books and their class work is, of course, the Honors Program's foremost mission.

Some students did that in the fall through two service-learning projects centered around water issues. Two other groups studied the topic of inequality, then put thought to action by actively campaigning for candidates they favored during the fall elections.

Student efforts in studying water and the environment included researching endangered mussels on the Green River near Colona, Ill., and helping rescue them alongside the Quad City Waterkeeper watchdog group. Another project involved assisting service-learning instructor Art Norris in an ultimately unsuccessful effort to convince the Davenport City Council not to rezone a tree-covered section of the city to allow for the construction of townhouses.

First-year student Halle Lewis made friends of fellow honors students on the campaign trail and over bowls of cereal. "The program gave me friends who have the same academic goals," she said.
The fall semester also included a speaker series, featuring Aron Aji, PhD, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences; Dan Ebener, DBA, a professor of managerial studies and organizational leadership; and Sister Joan Lescinski, CSJ, PhD, the university president.

The directors see a bright future for the program, thanks to this first group of students. "As long as it continues to be a playground of ideas with curiosity, fun and excitement, they are capable of incredible things," Gosnell said.


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