How a small honors college offers a great books program

Belmont Abbey College's honor program may appeal to home school and parochial school students

Five students in the honors college at Belmont Abbey College in North Carolina don’t have a single textbook in their classes. They have chosen to take all their courses in a great books-style program where they read primary sources such as the writings of Euclid in their math classes.

Belmont Abbey’s honors students can also choose a traditional major and take a portion of their courses as a great books program, says Joseph Wysocki, assistant Vice-Provost of Academic Affairs and dean of the honors college.

“You can buy better students with higher discounts and full-ride scholarships,” Wysocki says. “We thought we needed to find something that would appeal to a specific audience that wouldn’t cost a lot of money to reach and where there would be a higher yield.”

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Belmont Abbey’s program should appeal to home school and parochial school students, many of whom have had received great books-style instruction with a heavy classical focus.

These students also are taking the new Classic Learning Test, or CLT, instead of the SAT or ACT. “We have a natural connection to students who’d be interested in this type of education,” he says.

Most of the courses are designed as seminars rather than lectures. Students are expected to have done the reading so faculty can lead classes in discussions of the texts.

“The teacher, in a sense, is not the faculty,” Wysocki says. “The teacher is Shakespeare, John Locke or Jane Aausten.”

Read our full honors college feature: Innovative honors college programs to model

Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick is a life-long journalist. Prior to writing for District Administration he worked in daily news all over the country, from the NYC suburbs to the Rocky Mountains, Silicon Valley and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He's also in a band.

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