UC Davis to Combine Davis Honors Challenge and ISHP Honors Program

Editor’s note: The following post, written by Melissa Dittrich, appeared in The California Aggie on March 6, 2014.

The two bodies of the UC Davis University Honors Program (UHP) on campus have developed a plan to become one program in Fall Quarter 2014. The Davis Honors Challenge (DHC) and the Integrated Studies Honors Program (ISHP) will combine into one singular UHP.

Current students enrolled in UHP will have the option to remain in their respective program, but students admitted this fall will be accepted into the new UHP.

Ari Kelman, the University Honors Program Director, said that after becoming the director, he checked in with students and faculty of both DHC and ISHP to evaluate the status of the programs. Although both were running fairly effectively, Kelman said that those involved with the programs were concerned about the UHP being divided.

“Having two distinct honors programs includes a lot of inter-program rivalry,” Kelman said. “DHC students thought students in ISHP are getting more opportunities, and students in ISHP thought the DHC students had more flexibility.”

According to Kelman, students who were recruited into one honors program would question why they were not in the other, and he said the combination of the two programs will reduce confusion and create more interaction between all UHP students.

Janet Sandoval-Reynoso, a first year international relations and linguistics double major and DHC student, said students in their respective programs feel somewhat isolated from others in the program.

“We haven’t really had contact with the other students,” Sandoval-Reynoso said. “Anything that keeps students connected is a good idea.”

According to Gideon Cohn-Postar, a DHC Research Analyst and previous DHC student, students in each program had different access to academic opportunities. He said this issue was due to honors students from different programs not being able to take the same seminars.

“Great students aren’t interacting with each other,” Cohn-Postar said. “We want to make sure students have access to all faculty members.”

Another difference between the two programs is the admittance procedures. Students can join ISHP solely by invitation, while any freshman, second-year or transfer student who earns and maintains a 3.25 GPA can apply to DHC. With the new UHP, any first-year, second-year or transfer student can apply, and the same amount of incoming students will be admitted to the program as were let into both programs previously.

The curriculum for the honors program will also be changed. Kelman said that many students struggle with taking honors seminars because these classes do not count for general education (GE) credits and can be used to fulfill requirements for students’ majors.

“It was really challenging for students to be told that time they could normally be using for required classes had to be used for Honors requirements,” Kelman said. “Students would suggest to faculty members that the classes shouldn’t be as challenging for this reason.”

The new plan involves classes that will count towards honors students’ GE or major requirements, which will allow the classes to be challenging and also contribute to UHP students’ degrees. By the end of their second year, students are expected to complete a total of 26 units in required honors courses. By the end of their third year, students will complete a community service project that can include helping out a cause they believe in or become a peer advisor or tutor. By the end of their fourth year, students will have completed a Capstone project that can be lab research, an honors thesis or a community service project.

Kalvin Zee, a second-year neurobiology, physiology and behavior major and DHC student, said that the change in courses is a good idea.

“Right now, the classes are skewed towards hard sciences, which makes it difficult for students who want to take classes in the softer sciences,” Zee said.

The plan still needs approval from the academic senate, which is currently reviewing it. If approved, the plan will go into effect this fall, and incoming freshman will be accepted into the University Honors Program, rather than the DHC or ISHP specifically.