UK Lewis Honors College creates a holistic learning community


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Haley Hintz

As a high school senior, I remember applying to the University of Kentucky. At the bottom of the online application was an extra option that prompted students to apply to become a part of the Lewis Honors College. On a whim, I decided to write the extra required essay because I thought that graduating with honors would look impressive on a resume.

Now that I have completed a semester and a half of college as an honors student, I can honestly say that the program has exceeded in creating a positive learning community for students lead by outstanding faculty and professors.

Although it was newly founded in 2017, Lewis has already fulfilled its mission statement to “engage students holistically to learn and thrive.”

My first impression of the program was that intimate, seminar-style classes with specialized topics are an amazing way to gain knowledge about a subject that you wouldn’t have the chance to discuss within core major courses. For a feminist like me, classes such as “Gender, Sexuality and Popular Music” or “Performing Race in the 21st Century” are pure academia heaven.

Last semester, I took a course entitled “Addiction is a Chronic Disorder,” which focused on how substance-use impacts the community and how healthcare policies could be improved. Taught by Professors Amanda Fallin-Bennet and Alex Elswick, the class prompted a healthy and productive discussion.

It was clear that the students in the class were genuinely eager to learn and would even look ahead on the syllabus with excitement for upcoming scheduled class debates.

Within these classes, being lectured is not on the agenda. Students learn by being given the opportunity to form an educated opinion through nightly readings and then bring discussion points into the classroom. Guided by helpful professors, the respectful thoughts of students are valued and encouraged to be shared. Here, there is no raising your hand; instead, round-table discussions flow naturally and improve in quality throughout the semester.

As students start to form a classroom synergy and bond, they become willing to share personal information with the class that provides other students with an opportunity to see the diversity of their peers and develop an empathy for others. I catch myself thinking about comments that my friends made in class and being moved by their speeches for days after the class lets out.

When the semester ends, students leave with new friendships and a sense of community.

This is fostered by the professors in the Lewis department who care more about students on a much deeper level than could be expected. On the first day of class, my professors have asked students to write on a name tag their preferred pronouns because they wanted them to feel welcomed. Then, they frequently reassure students that their office doors are always open and follow through on their promises.

This personalized education can be hard to find in other giant freshman lecture halls. There is no greater feeling than being able to go to your professor’s office hours and talk not only about the subject of a class, but to also be openly given free college mentorship.

It is clear that this program is interested in investing in its students. Here, it is not all about receiving an A in an honors class or checking a box on an application.

Lewis Honors College is about preparing students to work in teams, conduct research and form a knowledgeable argument. At a large university like UK, it is comforting to have access to the small school feel with a college that goes the extra mile to ensure that students perform at their best.

To any incoming student who might be wondering if applying to Lewis Honors College is worth the extra essay— I am here to tell you that you will not regret it.