A highly-personalized mentoring model and an innovative curriculum are hallmarks of the College of Charleston Honors College experience. The Faculty Fellows Program was established to provide each CofC Honors student with a four-year faculty advisor and to develop new Honors course options from a variety of disciplines. Starting with the 2019-2020 academic year, the Honors College will select a new cohort of faculty members to join the Faculty Fellows Program each year. Groups of three faculty fellows are selected based on a competitive application process in which they must propose a theme and relevant coursework centered on that theme.
This semester, a team of three faculty members from the Department of Health and Human Performance (HEHP) will join the Faculty Fellows Program. Brian Bossak, Morgan Hughey, and Kate Pfile submitted a successful proposal titled “Human Experience in a World of Change: The Potential of People, The Power of Place, and the Perilous Possibilities that Humanity May Face”. Each faculty fellow will teach one Honors course per year that is centered on the theme and will mentor and advise a group of Honors students. The cohort will teach Honors courses for three academic years and advise for four years so that they can see their group of advisees through to graduation.
Bryan Ganaway, Director of Advising for the Honors College, leads the Faculty Fellows Program. Ganaway believes that the program links three strategic goals of the Honors College: undergraduate research, effective professional mentoring, and interdisciplinary teaching and learning. When reviewing the proposals submitted by various teams of faculty members, what impressed Ganaway and committee members most about the Health and Human Performance cohort is that the faculty “wish to show students how interdisciplinary primary research can be applied to real-world problems to improve people’s lives.”
Humanity in the 21st century faces novel and complex existential questions that require critical thinking from well-educated scholar-citizens. The faculty fellows cohort will explore interdisciplinary themes related to the human condition that fuse health, medicine, sustainability, and technology. The overarching theme fits within the concept of the human condition. Within this theme, faculty and students will explore interdisciplinary perspectives on the dimensions of health, technology, and socioeconomics, as well as location, demographics, ambient environment, and concepts of physical activity, nutrition, and urban development.
Many faculty fellows pilot a course in the Honors College that they may like to teach within their department in the future. The incoming cohort of Health and Human Performance faculty members has developed the following courses related to their theme of Human Performance in a World of Change:
Brian Bossak will teach The Future of Humanity in a Technological Tomorrow, which centers on the entwinement of technological advances such as artificial intelligence and biotechnology into the life experience of current and future generations. In the course, students will examine the profound influence of technology, including biotechnology and artificial intelligence, on existing and future generations – for example, the potential for biotechnology to extend life spans while automation concomitantly affects labor-based wages and socioeconomic mobility. Bossak believes that the interdisciplinary nature of the coursework will not only come as a surprise, but also be appealing to CofC Honors students. “Fields that are considered to be disparate are actually more interdisciplinary than one might initially think,” says Bossak. “Artificial intelligence and genetic engineering, for example, are two exponentially-growing technological forces that illustrate the complexity of 21st century social, economic, scientific, and political disciplines”.
Morgan Hughey will teach a course titled Zip Code or Genetic Code: What decides our health? This course explores the intersection of place and health, and how research suggests growing importance of the characteristics of the places we live, work, and play for individual and population health. Students in this course will critically examine and discuss research that demonstrates how individuals living in neighboring zip codes can have 10 years difference in life expectancy, integrating concepts and ideas from public health, urban planning, and sociology. Hughey believes that students will be most interested in the complexity of various influences on health and well-being. Courses proposed by the cohort will “explore determinants and solutions to current issues in public health and healthcare approaches,” says Hughey, who thinks that many Honors students will develop an interest in the various research projects led by HEHP faculty.
Kate Pfile will teach Evidence-Based Medicine: Throwing Out the Cookbook in the 21st Century, which explores the evolution of medicine from a tradition-based field into one that combines scientific evidence, clinical expertise, and patient needs in the decision-making process. Students enrolled in the course will explore and evaluate approaches to evidence-based medicine (EBM) relevant to the health, wellness, and medical fields. Course content will focus on the application of EBM to prevention, clinical testing, and diagnosis, as well as management and treatment strategies. Pfile values the avenues to interact with students outside HEHP provided by the Faculty Fellows Program. “I am excited about the opportunity to enhance my teaching and mentoring skills by engaging with students from across campus and the unique perspectives each will bring to class,” says Pfile. Moreover, Pfile believes that this collaboration between the Honors College and HEHP will “improve student-faculty interaction and help to spark awareness and establish connections that are key to developing a research question.”
The Faculty Fellows Program is a key component of the revised Honors College curriculum, which, according to Honors College Dean Trisha Folds-Bennett, allows for a greater variety of academic departments and faculty members to propose Honors courses. “In the new curriculum, our aim was to create broader program goals that reflect the core values of the Honors College,” says Folds-Bennett. “Those goals are focused on mind, self, and society, and references to these constructs are woven into the general descriptions of the categories of courses we offer, particularly the Exploring Diversity and Complexity category.”
The Faculty Fellows Program also comes with developmental opportunities including speakers and seminars. The program is envisioned as a laboratory for innovative teaching and collaboration. Faculty Fellows not only implement what they have learned in their teaching and mentoring within Honors, but they can also bring it back to their respective departments. The Honors College will also provide faculty development seminars centered on topics such as curriculum design, course assessment, undergraduate research, and high-impact learning. “Although most faculty members teaching in the Honors College have their appointments in academic departments outside the Honors College, the Honors College takes seriously its role in faculty development, says Dean Folds-Bennett. “Not only will faculty fellows do work that is essential to the Honors College, but we will also support them by establishing workshops, collaborations, and other experiences that help them to achieve their professional goals.”