By: Eitan Lipsky  | 

Freshman Honors Experience Initiates First Class of Students

Starting your college career can be tough. Adjusting to busy schedules, difficult assignments, and a new social environment often make the transition into this new stage of life an arduous one. Students who have achieved excellent marks up to this point in their schooling careers might find that maintaining their previous academic standards is quite daunting. Many of these students attend college on academic scholarships which require taking more difficult courses and maintaining a certain GPA. For this reason, many universities offer programs designed to ease honors students’ transitions by providing them with necessary support and community. With the initiation of the new Freshman Honors Experience this year, YU now provides such a program.

The Freshman Honors Experience (FHE) is mandatory for all beginning Yeshiva College honors students. It consists of taking an Honors course that is fairly writing-intensive in their first year on campus, as well as an Honors First Year Writing course in their second semester. These courses, unlike many YU Honors courses, are limited strictly to Honors students. Additionally, the program features several events throughout the semester for all of its students geared towards giving them a taste of New York City culture. These events include museum visits, shows, lectures and a movie screening.

According to Professor William Lee, former head of YU’s Honors Program and a current professor of one of the four sections of the FHE, the program was created with four goals in mind. The first is to provide honors students with a writing intensive course similar to the now defunct First Year Seminar of previous years which would teach specific writing skills not ordinarily taught in a First Year Writing course. Secondly, it is meant to expose students to New York City and its cultural resources. Thirdly, it intends to create a common link among freshman honors students. Finally, it serves as a nice transition for high school honors students into the rigors of a collegiate honors course.

The FHE’s events are mandatory for all of its students. According to current Director of the Honors Program Professor Gabriel Cwilich, these events feature ideas from all disciplines, including both sciences and the humanities, so that there is something edifying for everyone. At the end of October, the FHE made its first trip to the Jewish Museum where they saw many Jewish artifacts and an exhibit about Jewish Russian photography in the Bolshevik era. Nearly all of the students were able to attend and enjoyed the outing.

In addition to these FHE-wide events, there is a requirement that each of the program’s sections participate in cultural activities that relate to their course topic. Last month Professor Broitman’s class on the Spanish Civil War went to the Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives in New York City. “It was very interesting to be able to see the diary of people who participated in the war. It really brought our class discussions to life,” said Aaron Schwartz-Messing, one of the class’ honor students.

Currently in its first year, the program is viewed by the staff as an experiment. Both Professor Cwilich and Professor Lee stressed that the other professors will be meeting together after the semester to evaluate the program and to determine what needs to be improved. They are also very interested in what the students have to say about the program.

Student reactions have been very positive overall according to Cwilich. Dovid Schwartz, a student in World Masterpieces and Cultural Values, reflected, “I like that I can feel what it’s like to take a rigorous course, while at the same time being able to be with first-year students so the atmosphere of the class is lighter and more enjoyable.” Schwartz continued, “[The program] gives me the incredible opportunity to see many different things and to start taking advantage of opportunities in my first year of college.”