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Honors Primetime expanding

BY SHIANNE GRUSS | AUGUST 29, 2013 5:00 AM

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Each fall, for some freshmen, the University of Iowa campus is virtually all theirs for three days.

Since 2009, the UI Honors Program has offered Honors Primetime to incoming Honors students. It is a three-and-a-half day workshop and an opportunity to meet others students and Honors faculty and staff during the early move-in period.

Although the number of participating students has varied in the past, this school year saw 314 first-year Honors students, the most ever — nearly half of the incoming Honors population.

“Primetime works to provide a common experience for incoming Honors students and to start building the smaller Honors community within the large UI community,” said Lindsay Marshall, assistant director of the Iowa Center for Research by Undergraduates.

In 2009, just 188 students participated. The second highest year was 2010, with 287 students.
The program added a portion this year to get students involved prior to arriving in Iowa City.

The Mentor Map, a preassignment to be completed during the summer, asked students to interview their personal mentor to learn about that person’s life path. Students then had to reflect on what they learned and how it could potentially affect their own future plans.

“Our goal was to get students thinking and increase their awareness about the kind of experiences college can offer them,” Marshall said.

Iain O’Connor, a student studying business, said the assignment was surprisingly beneficial. He interviewed his friend’s dad, a financial consultant in the Chicago area, where O’Connor is from.

“I thought it was really good because I got to learn more about someone I didn’t think there was so much more to learn about,” O’Connor said.

Andy Stoll, an Honors Program alumnus and Iowa City media producer, was this year’s Primetime speaker. He recently co-founded Seed Here Studio, a startup designed to help the grass-roots entrepreneurial and creative community in the Cedar Rapids and Iowa City areas.

“I think it’s a fantastic program for students who are in the middle of one of the most important transitions in their life,” Stoll said. “I think when students show up at college, it’s not always clear which direction to head.”

Throughout the three-daylong workshop, students work in groups of 12 to 25 students and earn one semester hour of credit.

Thomas Keegan, a UI Rhetoric lecturer, has taught classes for Primetime in the past, including a class to introduce new students to the area.

“In my Honors Primetime course, I like to help cultivate their desire to overcome fear through learning — whether it be the bus schedule, the city’s geography, social codes, academic subjects, anything,” Keegan said.

His students, after working in pairs to interview local business owners, employees and customers, presented their findings online.

“The object of the course is to get students used to the reality that they are not so much students at the University of Iowa as they are students in Iowa City,” Keegan said.

O’Connor, one of Keegan’s students, was assigned to interview the owner of the Haunted Bookshop, 203 N Linn St.

“Dr. Keegan was really great about having us all get out around Iowa City,” O’Connor said. “No pair of partners ended up with the same story. Everybody saw a different side of Iowa City.”

The Honors Program is currently reviewing the Mentor Map assignment and considering its continuation for next fall.

“It’s no surprise to me that the program enjoyed its largest ever enrollment this year,” Keegan said. “I think Honors Primetime gives interested students a wonderful opportunity to work closely with dedicated faculty and to see how alive, how human, academia can be.”


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