Sean H. McDowell, PhD
Director, University Honors Program
Associate Professor, English, Film Studies
Building: Casey 232
Assistant to the Director
University Honors Program
Honors classes employ a lively seminar method that combines the Socratic dialogue with the Jesuit tradition of challenging students to learn for themselves. The seminar method is essential for helping students become self-motivated learners who can articulate their insights cogently in group settings and one-on one. Professors who teach in our Honors programs have proven experience of excellence in the classroom and are committed to academic rigor and dedicated to bringing out the best in students. Whether pursuing answers to individual questions or interrogating broader issues or problems, students learn quickly how to critically assess ideas and to better understand their own points of view.
Because writing is a process, the program regularly incorporates peer review of papers in draft. With the help of their professors, students form small groups of four or five members for a paper conference to plan, read, critique, and improve each other's papers. Each person typically read the papers of fellow group members and writes evaluations of each essay, as does the professor. Through this intensive writing process, which is repeated during each of the six terms of the program, students learn not only to find their own voice, but also to hone their skills for writing scholarly papers in a discipline as well as write in other genres for a variety of audiences.
At the end of each term, each Honors student takes an oral exam with all of his or her professors simultaneously. This oral exam set-up, a routine feature within many graduate programs throughout the United States, allows students to showcase their knowledge and demonstrate their ability to analyze and synthesize the course materials and ideas common to all three seminars in each term. The maturity and skills a student develops through the oral exam process carry far beyond the Honors Program into situations that involve interviews of all kinds for scholarships, internships, graduate schools or jobs.