Honors Orientation and Student Development

One substantial benefit to being a student in The Honors College is participating in our comprehensive orientation and development program. Through this program, honors students learn many of the skills that will make them successful students and developing scholars at UAlbany. It also provides the initial opportunity for honors students to begin forming a community with their roommates, suitemates, and hallmates in honors housing.

Our comprehensive orientation program is made up of six components, each of which is designed to teach specific skills while providing honors students the opportunity to get to know each other. None are required, but all are offered to all honors students - including commuter honors students.

Summer Planning Conferences

Special programs for honors students and their parents are held at four of the two-day Summer Planning Conferences that are held each summer at UAlbany for incoming freshmen and their parents.  Incoming honors freshmen are housed together during these Summer Planning Conferences, giving them the opportunity to start making friends with other honors students.  At the end of the first day of each conference, Professor Halpern hosts a reception for the parents of the honors students and holds a question-and-answer session.  This gives parents a chance to get to know each other and helps to relieve their anxiety - all questions will be answered!

August Orientation

Incoming honors students move into their residence halls two days before other first-year students arrive on campus. Students are assigned to orientation groups, with each group led by a third-year honors student (a Person of Extraordinary Talent (POET)).  POETs help the new honors students learn about UAlbany and the Honors College, and many POETs have ongoing contact with the honors students in their group throughout the academic year. 

After students move into their residence halls the first day, and parents and students attend the inaugural honors lecture, delivered by the Professor Halpern, in the afternoon. The orientation groups gather for the first time after the lecture. Students and parents have dinner together and parents leave at 8:00PM. Each orientation group meets with their POET for “ice breaker” activities during the evening.

The second day involves a series of activities designed to introduce the new honors students to each other, to the UAlbany campus, and the the city of Albany. During a scavenger hunt in the morning, groups are given pictures of locations around campus and a hint to help them identify each place.

They then wander around campus looking for these places. POETs are stationed at each location and each has a question about the UAlbany campus (more bonus points) and some have snacks. After lunch, groups rotate through three activities: a low-ropes course, a session on using technology at UAlbany, and a session with Professor Halpern. Students eat dinner with their suitemates and are on their own after dinner.

The third day involves two activities, led by the POETs, that students can join on their own or in small groups: a bus tour of Albany, a walking tour of the Academic Podium (where the classrooms are located), walking to a shopping center near campus.

Organizing Your Life - Working Hard

During the first few weeks of the fall semester, Professor Halpern meets with the honors students in small groups to describe the value of using calendars to keep organized and about study skills that can help students excel.

First-Year One-credit Course During the Fall Semester: Introduction to University Life

Professor Halpern teaches a one-credit honors course for all incoming honors students during the first half of the fall semester. The goals of the course are to help students understand more clearly the university environment and to help them begin to develop the library and writing skills they will use to excel in their courses.

Each class session involves a short lecture Professor Halpern or Jean McLaughlin, the Honors Librarian. The topics of these lectures include (a) an introduction to the library, (b) the structure of the university, (c) appreciating individual differences, (d) academic integrity, and (e) writing college papers. Students work individually with Ms. McLaughlin to create a paper outline on a topic of their choice and identify and evaluate several sources for writing the paper.

Second-Year credit Course During the Fall Semester

Professor Halpern teaches a one-credit course for sophomores that focuses on careers and development. Speakers come to the class to describe their lives and careers, and the, sometimes unusual, experiences that have helped to create who they are today. Speakers have come from the fields of medicine, social welfare, business, politics, religion, and the legal profession. Academic pathways to different careers are explored, and pre-health and pre-law advisors speak to the students. The value of and opportunities for applied learning experiences are also discussed. 

Second-Year One-credit Course During the Spring Semester

Professor Halpern teaches a one-credit honors course for all second-year honors students during the second half of the spring semester that focuses on honors research. Many honors students are anxious about participating in research and writing a senior thesis. Most have not participated in research and many have inaccurate beliefs about the honors thesis (e.g., it has to be at least 150 pages long). The goals of this course are to help students understand the types of research and scholarly work done by scholars in various disciplines and how a thesis is conceptualized and written. The course involves lectures on topics related to honors research (e.g., using human subjects). Part of this course includes several graduating honors seniors presenting their theses (about 20 minutes each). Each student spends some time talking about the process he or she went through - from identifying a topic to writing their thesis - and then presents the results of his or her thesis.