Why To Consider DHC at CWU
Last week I sat down and talked to some students who are enrolled in the William O. Douglas Honors College (DHC) at Central Washington University. With the help of the program’s assistant director, Chris, they helped me answer some questions about their experiences as students. I was impressed with the students who where enrolled because they were extremely well spoken and passionate about their own educational experiences. Although they were all different, and ultimately pursuing drastically different careers, their thoughts about aspects of their learning were very similar.
The DHC Overview
The program itself has some very unique attributes. First, admission to the program is based entirely on an essay that is written, not on grades or test scores. The ability to express oneself through written communication is highly valued by the admissions team, though when asked they said that some leniency is given when they can tell that a student may not be a native English speaker. However for everyone, they expect an essay that has been well written with clear intentions. Chris stated that the admissions group could tell when essays have not been edited or reviewed. Even when students are not admitted initially they are given feedback and offered the opportunity to rewrite the essay, with more intention and resubmit it. This is just one of the personal qualities the program provides. Additionally, class size is kept very intimate with the class cap being 24 students. All of the students mentioned that this intimacy increased their ability to learn from and engage in material, and have conversations with professors and fellow classmates. They even mentioned that with the inability to hide in a small class, and the familiarity it offers, many classroom conversations continued after class while classmates were interacting socially. Other benefits of the limited class sized mentioned were: the ability to easily focus with limited distraction, the ability to learn more from conversation and less from lecture, and the sense of knowing everyone in the class both in name and personality.
I asked them what the profile of student who benefits most from this program looked like. They each answered differently, but the common qualities were curiosity, innovation, engagement, open-mindedness, and a willingness to see things from alternative perspectives. Civic engagement is both encouraged and occasionally required. The University 101 class that Chris teaches requires students to come up with and execute a project that emphasizes a need in their community. Chris stated that they are trying to produce students who are “citizen scholars”. One student also mentioned that being driven and competitive helped her and her fellow classmates to be successful.
Campus Life and Engagement
From our conversation it was obvious that students in this honors program engage in all aspects of campus life. One student that I spoke with is part of the honors program, takes management classes, attends cheer practice, and is thriving. Overall it seems that the DHC provides an interactive form of study that allows students to explore a plethora of interests.
Long Term Impacts
What types of careers does this program prepare students for? All careers. I was currently talking to students who were pre-med, studying anthropology, and one who was studying business. All of these students said that the honors program was helping equip them for their future careers. Many of the skills being honed were based around interpersonal relationships. The students said that they were more able to hold conversations with people of all demographics. They could communicate amongst multiple generations and were skilled in critical thinking. They were creative and view problems with more than one approach. All of the students I spoke with displace exemplary verbal communication.
All in all, I had a really lovely conversation with both the students and with Chris. Everyone was not only clear about the intentions of the program, but also persuasively spoke about the impacts it was having on the educational environment at the University. I asked if anyone in the room had a favorite educational story that they wanted to share. They each said something different, but the core to all the stories was the same: students here had meaningful interactions with their professors that forced them to view issues differently when they left the class, then when they entered.