Mastering the Human Event: Your Academic Goals

How did you do on your quiz? How is your research coming? You found Prof Ted Humphrey‘s article, yes? He’s the founding Dean of Barrett Honors College, so he’s got important insights about the purpose and culture that he sought to develop for you.

I encourage you to read his important essay, “The Genesis of an Idea” (pdf). It gives you much insight into not only the history and reasons Honors education developed in the U.S. during the 20th century, but what is unique about the approach taken at ASU. Understanding these founding principles and forces is like learning about your family history. You know better who you are a part of and how your personal history intersects and overlaps within this larger stream of history.


This lesson in the Honors Seminar tutorial is ultimately about your academic goals. Why did you apply to an Honors program or college like Barrett? Be honest. What do you hope to get out of your Honors education at Barrett? Do you know what opportunities are open to you at Barrett? Which ones would help you get the most out of your Honors education in line with your goals? Make a list. Include your personal as well as academic goals. Yes, I want you to do it now. We’ll wait.

The more thought you put into your goals early on, the better you can plan and prepare to reach them. Of course, after your first semester or year, those goals may change. That’s good! You will have gained some experience in University, and that experience will help you better understand and refine what you want out of your undergraduate education and where you want to be after it’s over.

Now here’s why I asked if you did your research and read Prof Humphrey’s essay: the better your goals align with those of the Honors College for you, the more prepared you will be to get the most out of your two semesters of the Human Event seminar.

So let’s look at some of those goals, shall we?

Prof Humphrey distinguishes the Barrett brand of Honors education from “Great Books” programs by defining and conceiving the Barrett approach as one which seeks to engender some specific “habits of mind” in its students. Namely, to develop

    • “specific intellectual dispositions” and
    • “the abilities to read, think, and discuss core issues of human experience analytically and disinterestedly”

You are obtaining your education at a public university. Such institutions have an inherent charge from the residents of the state: “to provide society with an educated citizenry and with leadership for it.” To actualize your full potential as far as possible is how the public university contributes to this mission and to the well-being of all. books-converted-to-signalsNote well: it is not through “training” you in specific technical skills or for a predefined career into which you neatly fit. Your education, if it is to push you toward your full potential, must not be constrained to force-feeding you prepackaged knowledge in a “major” or to only challenging you in the academic areas to which you are already predisposed.

You need to really think about the implications of this. As I liked to ask my Human Event students on the First Day™ of class, are you an intellectual omnivore? Or is your intellectual diet self-limited to a narrow range of subjects? Another way to look at it is to ask yourself what subjects and ideas you dislike and would want to avoid at all costs. In other words, what are your current habits of mind? If your habits of mind are limited only to a diet that suits your tastes and what you think are your strengths, are you willing to train yourself, to push yourself, and possibly develop new habits? If you’re not, then you will not only struggle in the Human Event, you will struggle with your entire Honors education. If you are willing and ready to develop new intellectual dispositions, however, and you take steps to unlearn unhealthy habits of mind and replace them with vigorous new habits, then your chances are greatly increased for not only succeeding in the Human Event, but thriving in it.

In the next post, I will briefly explain how the Human Event itself is designed by the administration and faculty of Barrett to help you develop and strengthen those habits of mind and how the content of the Human Event specifically furthers that aim.

Mastering the Human Event: Preparing for Honors College

In this lesson of the Honors Seminar tutorial, I will introduce you to an all-important skill and requirement for success in your college career: preparation.

To succeed in your Human Event and enjoy the experience, you must be prepared.

Success in the Human Event or preparing for Honors college largely depends on you and your getting your skubalon* together. What do I mean by that?

Hogwarts-LibraryFirst, do your research. What is the Human Event? Study the materials available on the Barrett website, Honors Faculty Fellow pages, Barrett social media, and from current Barrett students.

When should you do this? Now. As soon as you’ve committed to attending Barrett. And as the start of the semester approaches, review what you’ve learned and continue to research the course. The more you internalize about the Human Event before it even begins, the better prepared you will be.

At the time of this writing, there really isn’t much help on the Barrett website about the Human Event. I’m sure the Powers will change this oversight eventually, since the College and alumni consider it “the signature course” of the Barrett experience. It’s Barrett’s Nike Swoosh.


Hunter’s Fall 2013 Human Event syllabus

The Honors Faculty Fellow (HFF) pages, however, are FULL of information about the course. Browse lots of their syllabuses. You can check out the one I used in 2013:

Note well: just like you wouldn’t want to listen to only one student’s perspective on the Human Event, which is inevitably colored by their personal experience, more or less, you shouldn’t just look at one HFF Human Event syllabus. Look at all of them!

I’ll be talking a lot more about HFFs in due time, because one of the most important decisions you’ll make is whose course you’ll take. Stay tuned for more on that topic.

Lastly research the experiences and views of current students. Check out Barrett social media. Contact students you already know that are enrolled. If you visited the campus, you met some of the best there are: The Honors Devils. Contact your HD tour guide. You’re probably already connected to more Barrett students than you know.

Preparation involves a lot more than just researching the Human Event. I’ll cover more ways in which you can prepare yourself for success in the Human Event, including more research you’ll want to do to select your HFF. But the first step in preparing for Barrett is understanding what kind of course you’re getting yourself into your first year, because it isn’t like any class you’ve ever had or will have. The more you can internalize about the purpose, objectives, and desired outcomes of the Human Event, the better positioned you will be to succeed in any HFF’s sections of HON 171 and 272, and beyond.

How well are you prepared? Here’s a quiz for you, which, if you can ace after doing some of the research I’ve recommended in this post, will give you an idea of how well your skubalon is coming together:

» Why is the Human Event required of all Barrett students?

» Why should the Human Event be required of all Barrett students, even if it didn’t fulfill any General Studies requirements for you?

In the next post, we’re going to have a heart-to-heart about you; specifically, your goals. Much of what follows in this series depends on what goals you decide to have for yourself and your Human Event experience.

*The English language only has so many words, and they all deserve to be used at the right time. Unfortunately, some of those words run afoul of certain standards of decorum that might be expected or in play. So I’ll adopt this term from Koine Greek, the lingua franca around the Mediterranean after the time of Alexander the Great.

Mastering the Human Event: Prologue

Welcome to my multi-part tutorial to help you master the Socratic seminar in your Honors program or college. While the specific examples are drawn from my six years of teaching incoming Barrett freshman a year-long, two-semester interdisciplinary, Socratic seminar called the Human Event, the instruction, guidelines, and tips contained in this tutorial are applicable across just about any high school and undergraduate Honors education that features this type of course.


The Human Event at Barrett Honors College has been around a long time…

In this series of posts, I will give you an insider’s perspective on the course that strikes fear and dread into many incoming Honors College freshmen. What’s that, Skywalker? “I’m not afraid!” Well in the words of the Jedi master Yoda, “You will be…oh, you will be.”

But you don’t have to be if you prepare yourself. In fact, that is the key idea of mastering any difficult endeavor: prepare. That is one of the goals of this series: to help you prepare to succeed in the Human Event.

To borrow my good friend Dr. Dean Kohr’s phrase, this series is about hacking the Human Event. Which reminds me…before we dig into the nitty-gritty of this course, you should prepare yourself for the larger challenge of getting the most out of your entire college experience. And my buddy Dr. Dean has written an excellent resource to help you do just that: Hacking College. Go buy it. Tell your friends to buy it. Read it and follow his advice. Then keep track of Dr. Dean’s current thoughts and ideas by following his blog. I’ll be sharing a lot of material with you, but I’ll also be covering lots of secret insights and practical topics, including:

» how to select your Human Event instructor and section

» how to conduct yourself in a Socratic seminar

» how to communicate with your instructor

» how to participate in Socratic discussions fearlessly

» how to succeed on the argumentative essays

I don’t have a grand plan for this series; it will develop organically and dynamically. So stay tuned, check in often, and I’ll do my best to give you a boost toward mastering the Human Event!