Mississippi State University’s Judy and Bobby Shackouls Honors College instituted a dual-credit program on campus for local high school seniors this fall. The Early Honors Academy program was conceived as a collaborative effort between the Honors College and the Starkville Oktibbeha School District to provide high-performing high school students with advanced educational opportunities.
Christopher Snyder, dean of the Shackouls Honors College, professor of history and one of the main proponents for the program, said he believes the collaboration between the school district and MSU is vital for the Starkville community and its students.
“To be a good partner with the public school district is something that is important for us. We have faculty and staff with students in the public-school system and we think it’s great to give as much aid and assistance and advice to make it the best it can be,” Snyder said. “We also really believe in our curriculum and we wanted our high school students to have a chance to be in a smaller class environment where they can have intense discussions in a seminar.”
The program seeks to provide an experience similar to that of the Honors College undergraduate program. After applying and being selected, students within the program will attend class on campus Monday through Thursday. The small size of the classes provides a focused environment for discussion and produces an authentic honors experience.
The Early Honors Academy offers six credit hours taught by honors faculty: Quest I and the Most Influential Scientists of the 20th Century. Quest I is a transdisciplinary study of art and literature taught by Eric Vivier and is similar to the Quest courses offered for university students. The Most Influential Scientists of the 20thCentury course was created specifically for the program and is a study of over 60 different scientists and how their discoveries have impacted the modern-day.
Angela Farmer, an assistant clinical professor in the Honors College, instructor of the Influential Scientists course and a proponent for the program, said she recognizes the value of education and the creativity of young people. Farmer believes this program will help instill a lifelong appreciation of learning in these students.
“It is important for us to realize that education is a lifelong pursuit and not something that we can encapsulate,” Farmer said. "It is important for these students to realize that it is passed on from generation to generation. We have to acknowledge the great deal of intellectual knowledge that these students bring to the conversation and make sure that we do not disrespect the value that those ideas and creative concepts bring to the table.”
This semester, 15 students from Starkville High School participated in the program. According to Snyder, the feedback has been excellent, and they hope to make this program into a regular part of the Honors College.
According to Eddie Peasant, superintendent of SOCSD, one of the main objectives of the program is to develop students’ thinking skills and further prepare them for college education and Peasant believes the program is doing just that.
“The main goal is for them to have experiences that will stretch their creative thinking and problem-solving skills,” Peasant said. “I hope it will allow them to think even more critically than they have had the opportunity to do at the high school level, and also to hopefully transition them into their next level, into college, before even getting there. We believe it is going to pay off for them and their college careers moving forward.”