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Honors Fellows

The Honors Fellows Program is a rigorous course of study designed to provide highly skilled, motivated students the opportunity to study, hone their research skills, and exchange ideas in a challenging and supportive academic environment. Honors Fellows work closely with Lyon faculty in small, specially-designed courses to extend their academic experience beyond the scope of the traditional undergraduate curriculum.

Honors Fellows have the opportunity to learn among their peers, customize their education through course contracts and points, connect with research opportunities, build long-lasting relationships with faculty members, travel domestically and internationally, and enjoy the benefits of living in Honors Fellows housing.


 

Meet the Faculty

  Dr. Wesley Beal
  Associate Professor of English, Director of Honors Fellows Program

  Contact information
  Office 211 in the Alphin Humanities Building 
  870.307.7174 | wesley.beal@lyon.edu | View bio

 


Hear about the program from the first class

 

After being accepted into the new program four years ago, Lyon College’s first class of Honors Fellows graduated on May 22, 2021.

“We have a great bond as a graduating class and have loved getting to grow the program and mentor new Fellows,” said Melissa Elliott, of Benton.

“It’s exciting and exhilarating to be able to move on in society,” said Riley Young, of West Memphis. “I know my education has prepared me well.”

Hannah Zang, of McKinney, Texas, enjoyed serving as an officer for the past four years, including as president of the program her senior year.

“I think it’s really exciting to have our first class of Fellows graduate,” she said. “It has been cool to watch the program grow.”

 

Capstone Course

The final step in the Honors Fellows program was completing the senior capstone course taught by W. Lewis McColgan Professor of Religion Dr. Paul Bube in fall of 2020.

“The idea behind the capstone class is for them to make use of their liberal arts background, as well as the area they focused on with their majors,” Bube said.

The Fellows used original research they had worked on while at Lyon to create a PechaKucha, a presentation style where students show 20 slides with 20 seconds of commentary each. PechaKuchas have a narrative quality to them, Bube said, telling a story about the topic.

You can watch the 2021 senior Fellows' presentations on Youtube: Playlist 1, Playlist 2

The challenge was to present something both technically sophisticated but also accessible for people not in that discipline.

Riley Young, of West Memphis, did her PechaKucha over whether cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or family-involved therapy was most beneficial for social phobia.

“The capstone class was about building upon skills we’d been learning and honing all four years at Lyon.”

To prepare, Young said the Fellows would meet regularly with their faculty mentors to get their input on the presentations as they progressed.

“Ironically enough, the biggest challenge for me was getting around my anxiety about presenting,” she said, laughing. “My research indicated that CBT had the best results.”

Melissa Elliott, of Benton, did her capstone project on Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, exploring if and how the work could be ethically taught in the classroom.

“I spent a good deal of time discussing the project with Dr. Tebbetts, who is a big fan of Twain, and Dr’ Crosby, who loves to discuss cross-cultural education and how to teach such classic works to diverse classes without inflicting the damage that racial epithets can do to students.”

Elliott said the most challenging part was being sure to include opinions from every side of the issue.

“Incorporating such vast and varying opinions into one cohesive short presentation was pretty hard,” she said. “I was most proud to have created something at that level that I could send to graduate programs as proof that I have completed worthy research.” 

Because the capstone course took place during the College’s period of remote instruction, Fellows had to overcome the added challenge of figuring out how to do the presentations virtually. Many used PowerPoint or Google Slides to compile their presentation, and Bube gave them the choice to do the presentations live over Zoom or to record the presentations beforehand.

At the end of the semester, the Fellows met for two nights to watch each other’s PechaKuchas and evaluate them.

“They chose to go with the recording, and they all figured out ways to move through the slides in their video and add a voiceover,” Bube said. “One student even added background music to her PechaKucha.”

He continued, “I was very impressed. I thought they all did a good job.”

“Even though our presentations were pre-recorded,” Young said, “we had to meet some stringent measures.”

The Fellows were even involved in the grading process. Bube divided them into interdisciplinary groups with a mix of different majors. The groups met weekly to work on assignments, evaluating the other members of their group and keeping journals to track their progress in the course.

The interdisciplinary groups were tasked with developing the final rubric to evaluate the PechaKuchas at the end of the semester. Bube took the rubrics created by each group and identified common criteria. He presented the Fellows with three possible rubrics, and they suggested how to narrow the criteria down further to form the final rubric.

“The rubric represented their own discipline with the recognition of people in other disciplines,” Bube said. “I found it very impressive how they worked together.”

In their evaluations of the capstone class, the majority of the students indicated that they had learned a lot from the PechaKucha process.

“It got them thinking outside of their normal disciplinary constraints,” Bube said. “They enjoyed working together with their classmates and felt that they learned a lot from each other.”

Students with complex topics realized they took a lot of subject knowledge for granted, he said, because they usually present to peers in their field and can use technical jargon.

“Probably one of the biggest pedagogical benefits of the capstone was the collaboration across disciplines,” Bube said. “This course gave them a taste of taking something more theoretical and bringing it to a general audience.”

This experience will be valuable in students’ careers when they apply for grants or present to review boards, he said.

“They need to be able to communicate with everybody that what they’re doing is worthwhile and significant.”

Elliott said the capstone course gave Fellows a unique experience that mirrors the professional workshopping format more than typical group work or individual research does.

 

Reflections on the Program

Zang said the program has expanded and changed a lot since the senior Fellows’ first year.

“Saying we were guinea pigs is a nice way to put it,” she said, laughing. “My class came in not really knowing the next few steps. Everything was a first for everyone, so there was really no one to ask.”

The senior Fellows developed a mentor program to facilitate relationships between the different classes of Fellows and give younger students someone to go to for advice. She said this year was the first time all four class years at Lyon were represented in the program.

“The younger Fellows’ experiences have differed so much from ours,” Zang said. “We’ve enjoyed having events where everyone gets to come out, meet each other and share their experiences.”

Elliott said the program’s original vision has changed a good deal, but having peers to turn to for help and advice has made all the difference.

Associate Professor of English Dr. Wesley Beal has served as the coordinator of the Honors Fellows program, helping to develop the initial framework with other faculty. He said the learning community that the Fellows have built has been critical to their studies and their personal development.

“Frankly, it has exceeded our hopes and expectations by far,” Beal said. “I am beyond proud of these students--what they've accomplished and who they are becoming.” 

Like many Lyon students who have come before them, he said they exemplify the ideals of the liberal arts. 

Beal continued, “As a group, they are funky and ambitious, and it's been a joy to watch them grow together over these past years.”

Bube credited Beal’s leadership for helping the program reach its current point.

“I can’t say enough about his leadership in developing the program,” Bube said. “It shows by the way students respond to him.”

Elliott said she cannot thank the Fellows enough for making her college experience, rocky as it was at times, one that she will cherish forever.

“For future Fellows, I would say go out in the commons and make friends. With your peers, you are stronger than you know and can work together to get what you need.”

Elliott concluded, “Leaving our mark on the honors program is a legacy we can all be proud of.”