Rose Hill Honors Attends AJCU Conference in Philadelphia


Sarah Sullivan Honors students from all over the nation convened at Saint Joseph’s University last weekend for the AJCU Conference.



The Fordham University Rose Hill Honors Program attended the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU) Honors Conference on Feb. 14, 15 and 16 at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia.

Last year, Fordham played host to the conference for the second time since the conference was founded in 2006.

The conference is an opportunity for Jesuit honors programs to gather together, share ideas and solve problems. It had presentations and forums for both students and administrators.

This year, much of the conference was spent in discussion of undergraduate research and using technology in the classroom. The programs were especially interested in comparing notes on how to approach the honors thesis, a major component of most honors programs.

Dr. Mindy Walker of Rockhurst University led an interesting discussion on the concept of a “hybrid learning environment,” also referred to as a “flipped classroom.”

A flipped classroom is a style of teaching that was developed at the elementary through high school level where the focus of class time is hands-on activities; this idea is beginning to expand to the college level. In a flipped class, a professor will place his or her lectures online in the form of a podcast or YouTube video and then use class time to do an activity, supervise small group work or have more active discussion.

Walker also discussed taking advantage of iTunes U, TED Talks and other online resources as an occasional substitution for traditional lectures. Since college students are so fluent in technology that they are considered “digital natives,” the challenge for professors is to find a way to integrate technology into the classroom in an appropriate and helpful way for students.

As Dr. Walker pointed out, this is important for honors programs because they are often considered the “labs” of their respective universities, meaning honors programs can try new ideas on a small scale and lead in educational innovation.

“It was both refreshing and reassuring to see such a large commitment across such a diversity of schools and disciplines to scholarship and innovation in both research and a dissemination of knowledge in the classroom,” Dominic Dongilli of Creighton University in Omaha said of the discussion.

The conference also fostered discussions about problems at the university level and the honors program level.

As college costs get more expensive, universities are increasingly looking for ways to cut budgets and raise class sizes. Students and administrators discussed challenges for the future. How do honors programs navigate a changing financial landscape while keeping true to the tradition of enrichment and small, discussion-based classes? How do honors programs have a positive effect on their universities at large?

The student representatives from the different universities spent time comparing their respective colleges.

Although the colleges and honors programs at the schools were very diverse, the Jesuit educational values behind the schools quickly became apparent as the driving force at each university.

For example, Saint Joseph’s is covered in red banners that display the word “Magis,” a principle developed by St. Ignatius that is a core of both Fordham’s and Saint Joseph’s educational philosophy.

Katherine Bercovitz spoke about her decision to attend Santa Clara University.

She said she heard a professor say at an admissions event, “You can go many places for the sake of being excellent, but here you will be excellent for the sake of something else.”

She said that after hearing this, “I knew I would go here.”

“I think this conference was a great celebration of one of the things I like most about Jesuit education, which is respectful inquiry and thoughtful discussion across a great diversity of people,” John McCoy, student body president of Creighton University, said.

Next year, the AJCU Honors Conference will be held in Canisius College in Buffalo, NY.

The conference will continue to build on the foundations of Jesuit identity as the honors programs gather together to improve their programs and learn from each other.

Sarah Sullivan Honors students from all over the nation convened at Saint Joseph’s University last weekend for the AJCU Conference.
Sarah Sullivan Honors students from all over the nation convened at Saint Joseph’s University last weekend for the AJCU Conference.