By: Ragan Love
As someone who always likes to push myself academically, I applied for the Urban Honors program. It was a way for me to challenge myself in something that didn’t involve music. Luckily, I have a friend who is a year ahead of me who answered my many questions. How the program worked, how they liked the courses, what they were learning? They were also able to tell me the differences between University Studies and the Urban Honors program.
If you are not familiar with University Studies or the Honors program, this is PSU’s general education pathway for all majors. Many traditional universities require a certain amount of math, science, and social studies credits even if they do not relate to your future career. With University Studies, you still get the basic general education, but in a more discussion friendly way. There are many different topics that you get to pick including power and imagination, the city of Portland, sustainability, and more. These discussions allow students to learn in the real world rather than a textbook.
Since I am not a University Studies student, I don’t have any personal thoughts on those classes but here is a resource to learn more about it!
The Urban Honors program has the same idea but is a little more tailored. At the end of your four years, you will write a thesis in your focus area and the three years prior to that give you the skills to prepare that thesis. You learn how to write different academic papers, how to analyze and research for a thesis, and you also have real life experience before you graduate.
This is what drew me to the honors program, the fact that I could have the opportunity to work in my discipline before diving into the real world. One of the ambassadors that I met from the program was an English major who was able to get an internship at a publishing company. I was very excited to see what I could do in these future classes and for the baccalaureate thesis.
University Honors has improved my writing skills so much. I have been able to write papers that are looked at as academic articles rather than regular assignments. As a freshman, the honors community was a fantastic way to meet new people. The ‘honors dorm’ is a smaller community so you are able to really get to know all of the students you live with. I have also been able to create an independent research study that would fill in as my junior credits. I have set up a project with my music advisor where I will spend my time analyzing different pieces from female composers.
One thing that I have struggled with is scheduling my music classes with honors classes because there is always a conflict. My first year, there was only one out of the ten honors classes I could take and it was with a professor that I knew I wouldn’t be that successful with. Their teaching style does not go with my learning style and it was hard for me to understand some of the comments he gave me because his thoughts were so complex. This second year, I have run into even more conflicts as every class I needed to take was at the same time as my required music classes. I asked an advisor if the classes would differ the next term and they told me that it was unlikely.
Luckily, with remote learning my band class was shifted to small ensembles, having Zoom meetings once a week so I was able to get around that. There was also a conflict with my required noon concert course, but again with COVID I was able to take that course asynchronously. I saw that for winter term I would have the same conflicts so I registered for the two other 200 level honors courses I needed. At this time I was not sure if we would be remote for this upcoming term so I didn’t want to take the chance of overlapping happening with on-campus classes. Adjusting to remote classes during COVID has been a challenge, but in the end it allowed me to balance the demands of being a music major with my honors classes.