HONORS, MCNAIR AND OTHER FELLOWS

The guidelines for how many students to take on for honors projects and for directing McNair and other fellows are similar to those for independent study (see previous section on Independent Study).

McNair fellows are chosen by a college selection committee. Part of their fellowship is a summer of fully-funded independent research under the guidance of a faculty member (who receives a stipend). It would be unusual to take on more than one or two such fellows in a summer.

Involvement in an honors project is in two categories: directing and being a member of the committee. Directing an honors project is probably the most intense and time-consuming commitment to a student there is. It can be some of the most rewarding teaching that one does. (And, alas, occasionally some of the most frustrating.) Directing involves a commitment of regular meetings with the honors student throughout the year (probably once a week for much of it), coaching them through the demands of a large-scale project, setting up arrangements with the outside examiner, reading multiple drafts, and chairing the oral exam. Figure this as part of your independent study "load" for the year. If you don't know the student well, be sure to inquire about their level of preparation and GPA, and ask for the name of a faculty member or two with whom you can talk about their previous work. (Honors applicants are expected to have a cumulative grade index of 3.2 or above.) A significant number of Knox seniors do honors projects (something like 20%), and there's a tendency for some students to see it as something they're entitled to do just because they're here. So there will be some students you'll want to gently discourage from the idea of pursuing honors. On the other hand, there are some very talented students who would never think of honors on their own, and such students should be given positive encouragement--a word from you that you think they should consider doing honors will mean a lot to them, even if they end up not pursuing it.

Being a member of an honors committee, rather than the director, is less taxing. It involves at least a couple of meetings with the student and/or the full committee during the year, reading the final draft of the essay, and participating in the exam. It may involve a good bit more, though, if you are in a position to give the student help because of your particular expertise or perspective on the project. Think about the probable level of your involvement when you consider how many honors committees you are able to serve on, with three or four a reasonable maximum. Don't hesitate to say no where you really have no special contribution to make; think if there's someone else you can suggest. (Students need to find one faculty member outside their department as well as two within it, and they sometimes ask a favorite teacher in a field totally unrelated to their project. You may want to advise them to find someone who could give them substantive help with the project.) If the project is related to your own expertise, but you just have too many commitments to take on another, you can offer to talk with them a couple of times to help get the project going, even if you can't be on the committee.