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Honors Learning Experience Spotlight: Honors Explorations

Eric Wesselmann, professor of Psychology and Honors Exploration instructor

Eric Wesselmann, professor of Psychology and Honors Exploration instructor

“I wish these existed when I was an Honors student,” said Associate Professor of Psychology Eric Wesselmann ’03, M.A. ’05. Wesselmann, an Illinois State Honors alumnus, taught a Fall 2018 Honors Exploration titled Hollywood Evolution: Society, Sensationalism, & Censorship. He and the students had a great time investigating films, culture, and precisely how film both shapes and reflects sociopolitical events and attitudes. The students learned about trends in cinema, film advertisements, and controversial content in an exciting five-week, discussion-based learning experience.

“Facilitating this Exploration was a blast!” Wesselmann said. “It afforded me the opportunity to combine my expertise in psychology with my passion for film history and scholarship. I was able to talk about these topics I find so exciting with a group of intelligent, insightful, and intrinsically motivated young people.”

Young people who enjoyed every minute. “I cannot think of anything I would change,” said one student who participated in the noncredit class. “It was a fascinating Honors Exploration, and I loved learning about a new subject I knew nothing about.” Another student chimed in, “There was never a week where I didn’t look forward to attending the session.”

Honors Explorations began in 2014 as an option for students to complete their required Honors Learning Experience for the semester. The Honors Program now offers four Exploration options each semester, capped at 25 students each to facilitate student engagement and discussion. The Explorations are provided at no cost to the students.

The idea of learning for learning’s sake, without the pressure of achieving the almighty A, really resonates with Honors students. One of Wesselmann’s students said, “I enjoyed being able to learn something new and exciting without the pressures of getting a certain grade. Since I wasn’t focused on the numbers, I was able to able to sit back and absorb information during the Exploration, which I am rarely able to do in my normal classes.”

Honors Explorations are arguably the Honors Program’s most innovative and unique Honors Learning Experience, and have proved wildly popular. Next semester’s offerings include topics such as curiosity, game design/virtual reality, and music of the Holocaust. Each semester Honors Explorations fill quickly with high-caliber students who truly enjoy learning, a fact of which we are #HonorsProud.