2013 Henry Ford Community College

Henry Ford II Honors Program
2013 LAND Institutional Excellence Award
Henry Ford Community College
Dr. Stanley Jensen, President

Team Participants

  • Michael Daher, Director, Henry Ford II Honors Program
  • Laura Yeakel, Assistant Director, Henry Ford II Honors Program
  • Jennifer Ernst, English Instructor, Great Works Seminar, Henry Ford II Honors Program
  • Paul Fisher, Economics Instructor, Honors Colloquium, Henry Ford II Honors Program
  • Peter Kim, English Instructor, Honors Directed Study, Henry Ford II Honors Program

Rationale for Nomination

I. Advancement of the Liberal Arts education through innovation and collaboration in the teaching/learning goals of any course or discipline primarily dedicated to the Liberal Arts.

The Henry Ford II Honors Program at HFCC offers students a structured liberal arts program consisting of core courses and requirements in humanities, English composition, science, math, and foreign language. The program is designed to teach students to think critically and to become lifelong learners, with a strong foundation in library research. First year students enroll in the Honors Colloquium. Second-year students also enroll in the capstone course, “Great Works”. Students have the option to enroll in Freshman Honors English and/or Sophomore Honors English, depending on ACT or placement scores.

The Henry Ford II Honors Program is coordinated by the Director, Dr. Michael Daher, from the Communications Division, and the Assistant Director, Dr. Laura Yeakel, from the Math and Sciences Division, and involves a wide range of faculty from diverse liberal arts and career and technical subject areas who are elected by each of the College’s Academic Affairs Divisions to the Honors Council. The Honors Program is also comprised of over twenty faculty, which includes both full-time and adjunct instructors, from the Academic Affairs Divisions who serve as mentors and directed study instructors. Every two years, faculty from all disciplines are encouraged by the College’s administration to teach the Honors Program interdisciplinary classes required of all Honors students: the Honors Colloquium and the Great Works seminar.

As stated in HFCC’s catalog description, the Great Works seminar is “an interdisciplinary humanities course structured around the reading and discussion of seminal works in philosophy, politics, religion, literature, history, and the fine arts. The course employs a method of shared inquiry that emphasizes student dialogue and fosters critical thinking skills required at four-year colleges and universities, in graduate programs, and in the work force.” A formal application process conducted by the Honors Council helps insure quality instruction. Once selected, the instructor is given guidelines on use of the Socratic method to facilitate student-led classroom dialogue, modeled after similar Great Works sophomore courses at the University of Chicago, Columbia, Notre Dame, and St. Johns, and initiated by scholars such as Robert Hutchins and Mortimer Adler. Seminar students can apply to the HFCC Foundation, based on financial need, for assistance with purchasing the twelve works that will be required. While many students are initially apprehensive about the size of the book list from which they must read on average 100 pages per week, they learn to manage their time very wisely, and to engage the works with a critical and analytical appreciation for the literature they are studying and its relevance to the world around them.

In conjunction with the Colloquium, English faculty are encouraged to apply to the Honors Committee in the Communications Division to teach Honors Freshman English or Honors Sophomore English. English applicants must connect the curriculum of the English Honors course thematically to the Colloquium. Through these four Honors Program classes, faculty are engaged in a robust liberal arts-based curriculum that helps inform their own teaching practices while helping to spread its liberal arts enhanced topics college-wide. For instance, instructors of the Honors Colloquium are required to host public speakers related to the Colloquium topic as part of the selection criteria. This year’s Honors Colloquium is on the especially timely subject of Health Care. Taught by Dr. Paul Fisher from HFCC’s Economics department, the Colloquium examines Health Care from a variety of disciplinary perspectives, including bio-ethics, economics, history, literature, and public policy.

II.Promotion of educational access to new populations of learners, including outreach to populations or groups currently underrepresented.

The Henry Ford II Honors Program recruits students from the metro-Detroit area, which includes African American and Hispanic students from Detroit as well as students from Dearborn’s significant Arab American population. International students from the Ivory Coast, China, Brazil, Mexico, Yemen, Lebanon, Egypt, Iraq, among dozens of other countries are also common among the Honors Program student body. Once in the Program, students become eligible based on merit and financial need for tuition scholarships from HFCC’s Foundation. For many students, particularly international students and low-income students, the Honors Program provides pivotal help, not only financially, but also in providing a very supportive learning community. Students are required to have regular meetings with their assigned Honors Program faculty mentor, where they work on their academic plan, and learn how to apply for scholarships and admission to top ranked four-year colleges and universities. The faculty mentor also helps students cope with juggling school, work, and family obligations and other common challenges for community college students. In addition to applying directly into the Program, existing HFCC students have the opportunity to also apply for the Program with the recommendation of a faculty member.

III. Enhancement of the quality and outcomes of student learning in the Liberal Arts.

Improving student learning by active engagement in enhancing the learning experience is a primary goal of The Henry Ford II Honors Program, where each Honors student must complete a minimum 15-hour community service requirement each semester. Students are encouraged to volunteer at local charities like Beyond Basics, a Detroit-based non-profit literacy program for Detroit’s poorest performing elementary schools. On-campus community service opportunities include an important partnership with HFCC’s Learning Lab to create a reliable pool of volunteer tutors in a variety of subjects every semester. The volunteer tutors often become paid tutors, and several have gone on to work at tutoring centers at four-year colleges and universities. In this capacity, Honors Program students not only learn the value of helping others to learn, but also help improve the learning outcomes for some of the most vulnerable students from low-income households, who are more likely to be placed into developmental classes. In addition to the intrinsic value students experience by performing community service, with a completion rate of over 90%, and dozens of graduates earning transfer scholarships every year, The Henry Ford II Honors Program proves that a community college liberal arts program can provide one of the most meaningful and effective pathways for student success.

IV. Collaborative models of course work, i.e. interdisciplinary teams, cross-disciplinary partnering, collaborative learning, and/or other forms of group productivity and may include outreach into occupational or career preparation.

In their second year, students work one-on-one with highly motivated Honors faculty members in the unique setting of Honors Directed Studies. In Directed Studies, students research subjects with strong emphasis on how the liberal arts can enhance career opportunities under the direct guidance and supervision of one of over twenty instructors from a variety of disciplines who participate every semester in The Henry Ford II Honors Program. Students are encouraged to work on projects that can be presented at academic and professional conferences or published. Those in the performing or creative arts are encouraged to work on projects that can be exhibited, performed, or broadcast. All directed study participants are required to present their work publicly. Most present at the end of the semester at an Honors Program hosted college-wide event, where the community is invited to watch the students present their projects. At the Honors Day Presentation, each student must share a formal one-page abstract, give a four-minute presentation, and be prepared to answer questions from the audience. In the lead up to Honors Presentation Day, the Honors instructors meet collectively three times during the semester in a healthy dialogue about each other’s students and their projects, often finding new ways to collaborate to help each student succeed.

V. Encouragement of the Liberal Arts for lifelong learning and enjoyment.

Countless testimonials from Honors Program alumni provide poignant evidence of the success of the program to develop a lifelong love for learning and appreciation for the liberal arts. Below are a few examples.

Dear Dr. Daher,

The Great Works class has been one of the greatest moments in my life. Reading the books, discussing them in class with my friends, thinking about them in moments of reflection helped me to advance my immature vision of the world and profoundly instigated my intellectual curiosity. . . . Invisible Man for me was in many ways a portrait of my own life, the struggle for an education, having to force open many doors.” Of course, it is unfair to mention Ellison’s book without mentioning Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own. Reading her book touched me deeply. Many times I felt so near to her that I had to put down the book and catch my breath, only to pick it up again and feel her guiding me through the beauty and perfection of her writing, and, at the same time, the darkness of her life.

— Cristina Jose Toledo Cornell

Dear Dr. Daher, The Odyssey was, or rather is, for now, my favorite book. But again, it is very hard to say, because my focus might change again in three months (for all I know, I might take a class in which I’ll read St. Augustine [again], and that will be my favorite then. Not to mention that last semester, when I took a class in Evolution [at U of M, Ann Arbor], for which I read some Darwin again, his was my favorite book. The beauty of the [HFCC Great Works] class and the books we read stands precisely in the fact that there was not any “favorite book,” but each was a dot, if you will, in the constellation of our knowledge, and that each dot has been expanding and will continue to expand, and sooner or later will connect with others.

— Ardeta Gjikola

Dr. Daher,

The Great Works course provided me with an opportunity to read books that many of us in the Honors Program had plans to read, but may not have ever found the time for. These books challenged me to think critically about modern society and the world I live in.” Feminism, religion, morality, education, racism, revolution-these topics and more constituted the focus of our class discussions. You directed but never dominated the dialogue, offering expertise within a strong atmosphere of the free exchange of ideas. Every student had a voice.