Defining: Transformation

Honors College revamps curriculum

Beginning fall 2018, students enrolled in the Honors College will have an educational experience that’s more collaborative, more experiential and more focused on making a difference in Richmond.

This new curriculum was created out of a desire to make honors education more outcomes-focused and attract students from disciplines throughout the university. What resulted is a program that takes advantage of VCU’s urban environment and prepares students to graduate with skills in communication, independence, critical thinking, creativity, social awareness, leadership, collaboration and a commitment to community engagement.

Incoming Honors students will be placed into cohorts of classmates designed to emphasize diversity of race, religion and gender, as well as diversity of thought, major and perspective. Over their time in the Honors College, students will take a series of new and existing courses focused on learning about and engaging with the Richmond community.

The program culminates with capstone projects that address real-world problems facing the city and surrounding localities.

“Today’s students come to VCU fully appreciating the importance of ‘learning by doing’ while working collaboratively and creatively in a multidisciplinary way to address real problems. This is the essence of our new curriculum.”

Barry Falk, Ph.D.
Dean

Humans of RVA and VCU

A new course called Humans of RVA and VCU will be a key part of our newly revamped curriculum.

Inspired by Humans of New York, Humans of RVA and VCU lets students step outside the classroom and study the nature of community, as well as community engagement and their role in it.

Incoming Honors students will work in small, diverse groups to interview Richmond residents and post their stories and photos to social media, with an eye toward gaining a better understanding of the many facets of the community.

Students who took a spring semester pilot of the course have already paved the way. Check out their stories on Facebook and Instagram.

Read more about the new Honors College curriculum and the Humans of RVA and VCU course on VCU News.

Capstone project

During their first year in the Honors College, students will be introduced to eight priority areas of the Richmond community identified by the Capital Regional Collaborative, a collaboration of local government, business and community stakeholders.

These eight pillars are:

  • Education
  • Job creation
  • Workforce preparation
  • Social stability
  • Healthy communities
  • Coordinated transportation
  • Quality of place
  • The James River

Students will begin to hone in on specific interests tied to the priority areas as they explore them in the Humans of RVA and VCU course. In a subsequent course called Investigative Inquiry, students will receive “engagement points” by participating in activities in the Richmond community.

Throughout the program, students will also take a number of electives that lead them toward, or inform, their capstone projects.

Prior to their senior year, students will begin making plans for their capstone project, tackling a problem within one of these priority areas. And in their senior year, they will implement the capstone and present it at the end of the year.

“Students like the chance to do things. They want to be involved. They want to make change. They want to feel that they've had an opportunity to make a difference.”

Faye Prichard
Instructor and director of writing

Course highlights

Additional courses and programs under the new curriculum include:

Diversity elective: Students will be required to select a course centered on diversity. This course can be about diversity directly, such as issues related to race, class and gender. But it could also explore diversity of thought. For example, a student majoring in biology might choose to take an Honors humanities course.  

Writing program: First-year students will take the Honors College signature writing program, which trains students to write for scholarly and general audiences.

Flourishing: In this first-year wellness course, students will learn techniques for self-care and creating an environment in which they can thrive.

Mocktail hours: In their second year, Honors students will further define their areas of interest. They will participate in “mocktail hours” with leaders from Richmond’s business, political and nonprofit sectors to learn more about the issues and problems facing the community.