An Inside Look on Chapman’s Elite

by Haylee Barber

There’s a place at Chapman where a bit of magic happens. No, it’s not the oven where the cafeteria cookies are made. It’s the honors commons.

In a small corner in the sometimes-overlooked Demille Hall is a place where Chapman’s honors students come to study, to chat, and to build their future selves.

At Chapman, the honors program is a highly selective group of students who participate in seminar style classes that fulfill credits for general education and major and minor requirements.

But for students, it means so much more.

“Honors classes challenge you not only to learn the material but to explore yourself by learning the material,” said Chapman junior Shannen Mosqueda. “You look at yourself and how you understand life, it requires you to search yourself, and that’s what makes it special.”

Honors courses are capped at 15 students and all are conducted using the Socratic method. For those not familiar, this learning method is characterized by open discussion and was started by Socrates, a philosopher most honors students are quite familiar with.

What makes honors special, aside from the unique course offerings (such as Disney: Gender, Race and Religion) is the community that can be found within the program itself.

Carmichael Peters, the program’s director and philosophical ringleader, emphasizes again and again to honors students both in his courses and in the program itself that honors is “an intellectual community of friends.” He has worked hard to make sure that this is so.

“There is an intellectual community but the social dimension is also so important,” Peters said.

Outside of the realm of coursework, honors students enjoy perks as members of the program.  

The honors commons, a room equipped with philosophy books, board games, snacks, tea and coffee (which Peters calls the “drugs for study”) provides an ideal space for honor students to foster the community Peters has worked hard to create.

Chancellor Danielle Struppa has also played an instrumental role in fostering the intellectual-social environment that characterizes the honors program, Peters said.

Once every spring, Struppa invites honors students into his home for an evening of dinner and conversation. He has also worked to ensure that there are grants available to students conducting research in the honors program, as well as opportunities for them to travel to conferences and present their research.

For honors students, the perks of the program extend far beyond unique courses and coffee in the honors commons.

“The honors program has given me the chance to see how my worldview interacts with other disciplines and other perspectives,” said Chapman senior Jared Celniker. “I get to further develop my world as opposed to: this is a job skill, I’ll have this on my resume.”

Honors students make up nearly 5% of the student population, about 270 students. Students are selected for the program in two ways.  

Each year, the admissions office evaluates students based on merit and invites selected students to apply to the honors program.

Last year, the honors program received more than 300 applications; 65 students were admitted.

The second way students can become involved in the honors program is through application once they become a student at the university. Most of these students are recommended to honors by a professor but some choose to apply on their own accord.

For many honors students, the explorative nature of the coursework and friendships formed within honors are extremely meaningful parts of their Chapman experience.

“I’ve learned a lot about myself through the program,” Mosqueda said. “My best friends at Chapman have come from the honors program.”

And the honors legacy of intellectual community exploration carries into the post-grad life, too.

“Now that I’m doing graduate work, I realize I’ve taken for granted that we need to transcend disciplines in order to solve problems or construct new knowledge,” said Rick Wysocki, who graduated in 2013 and is now pursuing a masters in English at University of Louisville in Kentucky.

“I’m incredibly thankful to have had these sorts of experiences early on.”

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