Deaf Studies; minor: History
What prompted you to join Honors when you came to Gallaudet?
I originally joined Honors because I thought it sounded cool. I received an invitation to have an interview for the program, which was done in person because I was already on campus. During the interview, Honors was described as a place where like-minded students could have discussions and share an intellectual community. I was a little nervous, but it sounded cool, so I figured I would give it a try. Through the summer reading discussion board, I got a taste of the academic rigors of college, and I got to experience making new friends and participate in my first group discussion on the Honors retreat. I knew I had made the right decision and I determined right away that I would stay in Honors!
What benefits did you get from Honors during your freshman year?
I would say I got two chief benefits my freshman year. First, I got a group of friends: this is no small gift! Because I was older and returning to college, I was afraid I would have a hard time making friends. I also knew that although many students knew each other from their old schools, I wouldn't know anybody at all. I was delighted to find that Honors gave me a great set of friends from the very first day - people whose intellectual abilities and curiosity matched my own. Indeed, I have remained friends with nearly everyone I met those first days in Honors; even those who are no longer in Honors themselves have remained my dearest friends because we were able to find similarities and get to know each other through Honors.
The second benefit I got from Honors was an understanding of academic expectations. Again, I was returning to college after several years away, and I wasn't sure exactly what was required of me as a student. The discussions we had in my Honors classes showed me what academics should be, and our intense study was exactly what I needed to get back into the swing of things. I remember the first week of classes, I was originally in a standard history course. I went to one class and I was bored to tears - I was the only one raising my hand, and everyone else just sat there while I knew all the answers. Fortunately, I learned that an Honors section of the same history class was being offered, and I immediately transferred into it. To my delight, everyone in class was as eager to contribute to discussions as I was. That's what Honors is about: learning together, not just sitting in a classroom while the professor lectures.
How did your participation in Honors help you through your core classes and major classes? Because staying in Honors requires you to complete at least one class with Honors credit per semester, I took many Honors option contracts during my time at Gallaudet. These allowed me to take GSR and major classes for Honors credit, a valuable tool when no Honors courses that fit my interests or needs were offered. Taking Honors option contracts made me feel special: the extra work I did was tailored to my interests, I got to collaborate one-on-one with my professor, and I got to give something back to the class as a whole by sharing what I had learned in my additional work.
Being in Honors also helped me deal with conflicts that arose in my other classes. Any time I had a problem with a professor or assignment, I could seek help from the Honors director and program coordinator. More than once, they were able to either reassure me about the situation, direct me to a source of help, or even intervene on my behalf. Participating in Honors and being an attentive student means you have the Honors staff on your side no matter what you need at the university.
Why did you want to do a Capstone project?
I'll start with the obvious: I wanted the blue gown! It's no joke - everybody wants to be special and stand out, right? With only a small handful of undergraduates dressed in blue every year, those students make a big impression on everyone else. I was disappointed during graduation events to find out that no one knew why we were singled out - only a few people knew about the Capstone program - but it felt good to get the extra attention just the same!
I also wanted to do a Capstone because I felt had something I wanted to accomplish, and I knew doing it as a Capstone would provide a valuable framework. Without the guidance of the Capstone project, I would have floundered, not even knowing where to begin my research. Thanks to the Capstone coordinator, I was able to start my project in a controlled manner, and carry it through to its conclusion.
What was the best part of doing a Capstone project, and what was the hardest? How did the hardest part of Capstone help you grow?
The best part of doing my Capstone was the research. I could have spent hours and hours in the Gallaudet archives, poring over every minute bit of Gallaudetiana! I learned so much that I didn't have a chance to fit into my Capstone. Because the scope of my project was limited to 1864-1880, I didn't get to include anything about the Miss Gallaudet pageant, Playboy Night, the swimming pool that used to be in Fowler Hall, or any of the fun things that came after those years. In fact, that was also the hardest part: having the discipline to focus my research. That was something that the Capstone coordinator could not guide me to do, because an important part of Capstone is self-reliance. Learning to set my own goals was by far the hardest part of my Capstone project, and even my college career.
What was your favorite thing about being an Honors student, overall?
The best part of being an Honors student was the friendships and relationships. I made incredibly close friends through Honors, even though not all of them stayed in the program; these are people who are as fascinated by intellectual discourse and academics as I am, and I'm so thrilled to have met them. I also developed peer mentoring relationships through Honors, by helping with incoming freshmen each year. I enjoy working with students who have just arrived at Gallaudet and introducing them to all that Honors has to offer. I also enjoy working with the Honors staff - really, for me, the people make Honors what it is!
How did Honors help prepare you for life beyond Gallaudet?
Honors helped me to hone an essential skill: critical thinking. I remember my very first days of Honors First Year Seminar, and realizing that there were multiple approaches to every problem. This was something I knew subconciously beforehand, but I had never analyzed my own thought processes. Learning to think critically is an important tool for independent living and functioning in the workplace.
I also learned to work in groups, something I had always avoided beforehand - I very much preferred solitary work. But working with Honors classmates showed me that group work didn't have to be negative, that there are intelligent people out there with whom I can share work, and together we can create something far greater than what I could have done alone.
What is your favorite Gallaudet memory, in general?
I have to say my favorite memory is of the Homecoming College Bowl matches. As a member of the team, I participated in four matches - every year we competed against alumni. These were a special, smaller subset of the full Homecoming events, and it was very exciting to be surrounded by so many Gallaudet graduates of all ages - remember, I'm interested in history! - and observe their interactions with us as students. Of course, I might not have such a rosy perspective if we had lost, but we won every year and I really enjoyed getting to play against alumni almost 25 and 50 years older than myself! These hour-long matches were some of the greatest fun I had at Gallaudet, and I look forward to coming back in 25 years to play on the other side of the stage.