The merits of Elmhurst’s Honors Program have long been clear to people around the College, where students in the program are often campus leaders and innovators. Now that reputation for excellence has gone global.
Faculty, staff and a student from the Center for Professional Excellence and the Honors Program were among the presenters at an international conference in the Netherlands in October focusing on innovation in honors education. The group from Elmhurst told a multinational audience of educators at the University of Applied Sciences in Rotterdam how Elmhurst connects students with high-impact educational experiences outside the classroom.
The conference, titled “Evoking Professional Excellence in Higher Education,” drew attendees from the United States, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Latvia and other countries.
“When I saw the call for proposals for this conference with the title, ‘Evoking Professional Excellence in Higher Education,’ I immediately thought, ‘That’s what we do!’” said Mary Kay Mulvaney, director of Elmhurst’s Honors Program and professor of English. “It was an amazing opportunity to share our model of honors education, which involves the integration of challenging coursework and career education, international education and service-learning, with colleagues from across the globe.”
Mulvaney explained that Elmhurst’s Honors Program emphasizes not only classroom learning, but also experiential education. Elmhurst students move beyond campus boundaries to learn from internships, study abroad, Service-Learning experiences and collaborative research projects. As part of the CPE, she said, the Honors Program is positioned to provide students with “quality field experiences that are both academically challenging and highly personalized.” The CPE forges partnerships with businesses, government agencies and nonprofit groups to offer students opportunities to engage the world beyond campus.
To illustrate how Elmhurst Honors students learn through collaborations with the College’s partners, sophomore Jessica Mueller told conference-goers about the project she developed for Mercy Home for Boys and Girls, a Chicago charity serving at-risk children. Mueller worked with staff from Mercy Home to launch a support group for children of addicts or alcoholics.
Mueller said that her project was rooted in her personal experiences. “I wanted to use my experience and my personal background to share what I had learned about coming to terms with a parent’s addiction,” said Mueller. She thanked Elmhurst for helping to facilitate the project as a Service-Learning experience. The project was funded in part by donors to the Honors Program, Elmhurst’s Center for Professional Excellence and Illinois Campus Compact, a group that promotes civic engagement among college students.
Mueller, who hopes to one day manage a group home for troubled youths, said she has learned much from her collaboration with Mercy Home. “The therapists from Mercy Home have been a great example of how to interact with students,” she said. “They’ve helped me see what I’m doing well and what I can improve on.”
Larry Carroll, executive director of the CPE, said Mueller’s project was one example of how Elmhurst provides opportunities for students to reach their full potential.
“I was very proud of Jessica, and also proud of all the people at Elmhurst who helped her become so independent and innovative,” he said. “That’s what happens at Elmhurst. We help students go where they want to go in life.”
In addition to Carroll, Mulvaney and Mueller, the group representing Elmhurst at the conference included Peggy Killian, director of career education; Wally Lagerwey, director of international education; and Mick Savage, director of Service-Learning. They were joined by Katelyn Dollard of Mercy Home for Boys and Girls.
Carroll said that responses from conference attendees to the presentations made by the Elmhurst group were very positive. The conference confirmed his appreciation for the work the College does with students.
“So many people at the conference wanted to know more about how we do what we do,” Carroll said. “They let me know that we really have something good going here.”
That’s something people around the College have long known. Now, thanks to the International Honors conference in Rotterdam, that message is spreading worldwide.