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A Letter from the Honors Student Council

We are the Honors Student Council. Our job? Good question. I myself wasn’t so sure when I ran for a position on the council. I was barely a week into my first semester at YU when I received the email asking the new Honors students to send in short descriptions of themselves for the election. Every year, there are two  out of  seven positions reserved for first time on campus (FTOC) student representatives, which gave us a chance to get involved. Already overwhelmed by the amount of nightly homework I had, I was hesitant to offer my time. Nevertheless, I wanted to get involved in the YU community outside of my schoolwork, and, since I already belonged to the Honors Program, I thought I should try to make a difference there. So I wrote the blurb about myself including propositions I would bring to the council, and it was sent with the other candidates’ statements to the other first year students for them to vote.

After winning the votes of my peers, I met with the council soon after the election and quickly discovered that my fellow members are a diverse group with a wide range of interests. We hail from Pennsylvania, Ohio, New Jersey, Illinois, New York, and California. Some of us are majoring in Economics, Biology, Philosophy, and Chemistry. We participate in SHEM (Student Holocaust Education Movement), Project START, the Neuroscience Club, and Bnei Akiva.

It soon became clear that the council was interested in shifting directions from years past. Traditionally, the council acts as a liaison between the Honors students and the Honors faculty, listening to ideas about courses and events and sending those ideas to the administration who would then implement them. But that function seemed to be an unnecessary one. The Honors administration already plans fascinating events for the students, with interesting speakers for the Honors Wednesday lunch program complemented by recurring cultural events, such as trips to Broadway or to the New York Philharmonic. Even the need to act as an intermediary on behalf of the student body seemed unnecessary. Honors students can, and are, encouraged to go straight to Dr. Cwillich or any of the other members of the Honors Program faculty to suggest ideas. Without the Honors Council, the Honors Program already provided captivating events.

We decided that the focus of the council this year would be to create the feeling of a true program. Until now, the Honors Program consisted of two spheres: Honors courses and Honors events. Not many people felt though that they were part of an official program. They took some Honors courses, if any, and maybe once in a while went to hear an interesting speaker. But no one knew who else was in the program. The existing Honors events stimulated the mind, but seldom offered a chance to interact with other Honors students.

In fact, as of this past year, the requirements of the Honors program were changed to address this problem. Students in the program are now expected to take two Honors courses each year, which aims to ensure that they remain involved in the program and involved with their peers. Taking these efforts to the next level, the Honors council decided to make a further impact in that area, to create a third, overlapping sphere for the Honors Program: socializing.

So, we are planning some new initiatives. One subcommittee is working on organizing a Shabbaton for next semester, hopefully in conjunction with the Stern Honors Program. Another group is well on the way to starting a college bowl intramural league, an initiative which arose from student interest, with dreams of competing with other colleges. We are organizing a mentorship program to pair Honors FTOCs with Honors seniors to mentor and advise them in the process of adjusting to Yeshiva University, and specifically the Honors Program . We reach out to the Honors student body on a regular basis via the Honors e-newsletter to create a shared experience for all members. We even have a Facebook page.

We hope we can achieve our goal of creating a niche in the already vibrant YU community. The Honors Program represents a third of the YC population, so it is important that they also have representation with the school’s administration. Of course there is a fine line to walk between maintaining a unique feeling in the Honors Program while not isolating the rest of the college with an aura of elitism. We anticipate that our programming will help create only a stronger Honors community that exists within the larger university.

We are the Honors Council. Our job? To make the Honors Program feel like an Honors family.