Anna Hawk and her classmates in Dr. Doyle’s Honors 390 class are working to create an oral history of the Honors College at Ball State. Over spring break, they travelled to Swarthmore, Pennsylvania to learn about the Honors Program at Swarthmore College.

Update: The Ball State University Honors College Oral History Project will be presenting their showcase on Monday, April 29th from 2-4pm. Drop by Burkhardt room 203 to learn more about their journey and their findings!

By Anna Hawk

What were the goals of this trip?

Our immersive learning class traveled to the Philadelphia region to learn more about the founding of Swarthmore College’s Honors Program. One of the main goals in the class is to enhance our understanding of what it means to be an Honors student. Swarthmore College was a natural choice for this since theirs was one of the earliest honors institutions in the nation. Visiting a program with such a rich history promised us some insights into the Honors experience outside of Ball State.

How did you find the information you were looking for?

Dr. Doyle arranged for us to meet with Dr. Grace Ledbetter, Chair of the Department of Classics and the Director of the Honors Program. Dr. Ledbetter graciously taught us a brief history of Swarthmore College and its Honors Program. Hearing about their history from someone involved in the program made a huge difference. It felt like being part of the Honors story, instead of just learning the information.

After that, we had a chance to converse with several current Swarthmore honors students over lunch. We discussed the differences between our institutions and how Honors factors into our lives. This was perhaps my favorite part of the trip, in large part, because we got to meet Honors students who shared our love and passion for learning.

Meeting these students helped me better understand the goal of Honors programs everywhere: providing a rigorous and engaging liberal arts education focused on the humanities and social sciences to prepare curious individuals for mastery in their major and minor fields.

What about this trip made a lasting impression for you?

What made this trip unique and engaging was that we, as a class and individual students, were able to be the ones exchanging ideas with another institution. We learned about the benefits of our Ball State Honors College by comparing with Swarthmore College’s Honors program.

One of our big takeaways was that Honors programs improve and grow when ideas and curriculum circulate between institutions. Without new ideas an honors program would simply lack the variety and possibility to improve and evolve over the years and meet the needs of its student body. Being part of that process made this trip eye-opening and helpful to our class.

I hope the Ball State Honors College will continue to facilitate these exchanges of ideas between our students and other institutions. I greatly enjoyed learning from the faculty and staff at Swarthmore College as it helped my contextualize the experiences and education I have received thus far from Ball State Honors College.