How I Used the Honors Competencies to My Advantage

by Rachael Igo, ’16 (Creative Writing; Mendota Heights, Minn.)

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When I first started out in the Honors Program I found it difficult to relate to the competencies. I learned that being an honors student at MSU meant that I had to fully develop my leadership, research, and global citizenship skills. I was required to grow as a leader, learn a second language, immerse myself in another culture, and do a research project. However, through my experience in the program, I have discovered how to use these competencies to my advantage and integrate them with my interests, career goals, and field of study.  As a junior in the program I want to share how the competencies can help students. I hope I can provide encouragement to those who are beginners in the program and who are trying to wrap their minds around leadership, research, and global citizenship.

I first learned how to personalize the leadership competency. As a first-year student when I saw the program’s Honors Beacon newsletter was looking for writers, I naturally volunteered. It was a great way for me to get my writing published and gain experience for that magazine job I want to have between graduation and becoming a world famous children’s author.  I got more involved with the process of the newsletter and my sophomore year I became the Editor-in-Chief of the Honors Beacon. At first I didn’t realize it, but I had walked right into a leadership competency building experience. This was the first time I realized how developing leadership skills could help me to achieve my career goals.

I had no problem with fulfilling the earlier stages of the research competency because I had to write multiple research papers in my English and Honors gen-ed classes. However, I struggled with finding a research project. I found inspiration for a project in one of my honors classes, Global Perspectives on Women and Change taught by Dr. Laura Harrison from the Gender and Women’s Studies Department.  This class was one of my favorite honors classes. I enjoyed learning about feminism and it became something that I cared about and wanted to explore more. I knew my schedule did not have the room to fit another minor, so I searched for other ways to be involved. At a research brainstorming event, one of my classmates from the GWS class and I came up with the great idea of doing a research project that related to our class. We asked Dr. Harrison to be our advisor, started doing background research last semester, and are currently seeking IRB approval on our survey. Through our research we will discover if MSU students who do not identify as feminists actually agree with feminist values. I am really excited about this project because it is a way for me to find the answer to a pressing question of mine and explore a topic in which I have a high interest. On top of that, I am getting the last two honors seminar credits that I need.

Global Citizenship is the competency I have struggled with the most. At first I did not know where to start so I focused on my language competency by taking Spanish courses until I completed the writing intensive level.  I found it difficult to fulfill my cultural competency because I am not studying abroad. I started by attending culture nights on campus. Attending these events was an experience I thoroughly enjoyed and most likely would not have attended if it were not for the global citizenship competency.  I also found myself befriending the international students in our Honors Program. I decided I wanted to develop my cultural competency by becoming further involved with international students. When I learned the Intensive English Language Institute (IELI) was looking for volunteers to tutor international students who needed help with their English skills, I signed up. This is a process I just started this week and I am already enjoying it. I get to spend two one hour sessions a week with the same student from South Korea.  I am so excited to build a bond with her and learn about her culture as she learns about mine.

Looking back at my experiences, I am very grateful for the competencies.  They have provided me with opportunities I would not have otherwise. Once I started to relate to them as ways to develop my own interests and achieve my goals, I enjoyed them. I recommend students look for what they are passionate about, and then be creative with how the competencies can help them become more engaged with their passions.

New Beginnings, What Are You Looking Forward To?

Introduction by Rachael Igo (Mendota Heights, MN)

Isn’t it wonderful when life cleans our slate for a fresh start? Spring semester has always been one of my favorite new beginnings. Unlike the work place, the school system instills within us the security of being able to start again after reflecting on our successes and failures. I find it so refreshing to get a month long break and come back with new classes, new schedules, and a new year.

Last semester we started our blog with a post written by upper class students who gave advice to first-year students. Now we want to hear from the first-year students and learn about what they look forward to as this new semester begins. Here are their responses.

“Now that I know more about the Honors Program I am excited to make better use of its benefits by exploring academic opportunities and networking by meeting more professors.” –Courtney Sill (Wabasha, MN)

“I am looking forward to spending more time with my friends and meeting new people.” –Kate Anderson (Lacrescent, MN)

“I am excited about new learning opportunities.” –Kellie Wong (Ankeny, IA)

“I am looking forward to my Honors leadership course, Exploring Leadership in the Context of Conference Development and to begin learning my second language.” –Spencer Sulflow (Montevideo, MN)

“I cannot wait for the Spring Concert.” –Lexi Cummings (Brook Park, MN)

“I am really looking forward to Caryn Lindsay’s Becoming Global Citizens Honors Seminar.” –Katherine Albers (Sheldon, IA)

“I want to try new things.” –Jaci Ullrich (Clear Lake, IA)

“I am looking forward to improving my Spanish fluency for my minor and also my global citizenship competency.” –Sarah Aldrich (Jordan, MN)