Honors Program Is “Neighborhood” Where Students Flourish

Honors TeaEach week the students in Trinity’s Honors Program meet for tea, which doesn’t resemble Earl Grey and scones as much as it does double-cream, low-fat Oreos and deep—or not so deep—conversations about classes and culture and Scripture and Seinfeld.

The Honors Program challenges and supports academically gifted students through unique opportunities, like meeting informally for Honors Tea.

According to Dr. Craig Mattson, professor of communication arts and newly appointed director of the program, “good talk and good laughter” arise out of this mid-week “sabbath” for honors program students and faculty members as they gather in the Green Room of the Art and Communication Center (ARCC).

Honors Tea is only one of the many co-curricular activities that accompany the program’s honors courses and seminars, as well as the work required within each student’s major. Students also participate in events held at Mattson’s home and in field trips to Chicago’s Provision Theatre, the Chicago Humanities Festival, and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, among others.

Former Honors Program Director Dr. Aron Reppmann ’92, professor of philosophy and current director of new faculty formation, recently contributed an article about Trinity’s program to “Honors Programs at Smaller Colleges” by Dr. Samuel Schuman. The publication—part of a National Collegiate Honors Council monograph series—highlights five colleges and their programs.

Reppmann is a member of the Small College Honors Program Committee, which commissioned the monograph. He had several opportunities to work with Schuman, who is a nationwide leader in honors education and, Reppmann said, has become increasingly interested in the contributions made by religious colleges.

“When Sam approached the committee last year to let us know that he was revising the Small College Honors Programs monograph and wanted fresh ‘model program’ examples, I was glad to offer Trinity as such an example,” said Reppmann.

When Reppmann assumed his new role at the College this year, Mattson accepted the position of Honors Program director. Changes under Mattson are not programmatic as much as aesthetic. So far, those changes have included moving the weekly Honors Tea to the larger space in the ARCC and creating the blog “An Inventory of Uncommercial Goods,” the title of which refers to a line from a Wendell Berry poem. The blog has become a virtual gathering place where Mattson and the students can reflect and comment on recent topics of discussion and continue their camaraderie and communication online.

The retention rate of students is strong in Trinity’s Honors Program, Mattson said. “People in the program love the conviviality and sense of being a neighborhood within the ‘city’ of Trinity that is a place to flourish.”

Mattson refers to that “neighborhood” as a “concentrated expression of the values across Trinity’s campus.” Those values are evident not only in the character of the honors students themselves; they are evident in the intent of Mattson and Reppmann to focus on benefits that cannot be measured.

“There is importance and life in good talk and humor and attentive reading,” said Mattson.

The very items one might find in an inventory of uncommercial goods.

For more information about the Honors Program, visit the program webpage.