Honors College and Mason LIFE Program Collaborate

Posted: January 4, 2010 at 1:01 am, Last Updated: December 23, 2009 at 10:38 am

By Catherine Ferraro

Mason’s Honors College of high-achieving and talented students has plans to embark on a series of partnerships with other offices at Mason and the outside community. One of its most recent partnerships wrapped up this past semester when students in the Honors College worked with students in the Mason Learning in Future Environments (LIFE) Program to create a book club.

The Mason LIFE Program provides young adults who have intellectual and developmental disabilities with classes to help improve their literacy, as well as employment and independent living skills. It also supplies them with tools so they can successfully live on campus with college students.

Early in the semester, representatives from the Office of the Provost, Honors College and Mason LIFE Program met to discuss collaborating on a project. Everyone agreed that a book club would help serve the needs of students in both the Honors College and Mason LIFE Program.

“The purpose of the book club was to fulfill two very important goals for the students involved,” says David Anderson, coordinator for the Honors College Living Learning Community.

“First, it allowed students in the Mason LIFE Program to interact with other students and participate in extracurricular activities while practicing independent living skills. In addition, the book club allowed students in the Honors College to practice their leadership and teamwork skills, interact with a minority group of students and give back to the Mason community.”

Before the book club began, students in the Honors College participated in several training sessions. During these sessions, they learned about the Mason LIFE Program and its students, chose a book to read, created a reading timeline and planned weekly activities.

After searching for a book with a lighthearted tone, the students decided to read “Hoot” by Carl Hiaasen. “Hoot” is about a young boy and his two friends who try to stop construction of a pancake house, which would destroy a colony of burrowing owls that live on the site. The novel was also made into a movie in 2006.

Using facilities provided by the Office of Housing and Residence Life, the book club met every Monday; students were assigned to read three chapters each week. Although the meetings were facilitated by a staff member from the Mason LIFE Program, students in the Honors College were responsible for planning and running each meeting.

At the beginning of each meeting, the students introduced themselves and answered a different personal, yet fun question each week. After the introductions, the students discussed the chapters they had read and participated in an activity that corresponded to the reading.

One of the activities included a discussion about bullying, an issue that one of the characters in the novel faced. After discussing the situation in the novel, students in both the Honors College and Mason LIFE Program opened up about their own personal stories about bullying and how they overcame it.

In another activity, Honors College students wrote scripts and planned charades relating to different sections or characters in the book that the Mason LIFE students could act out and discuss.

The students also designed and shared with the group their own protest signs to correspond to the episode in the novel when the characters protest the destruction of the owls’ home.

To celebrate the end of the novel and the last meeting of the semester, students prepared and served pancakes, then watched the film version of “Hoot.” After the movie, the students discussed some of the differences and similarities between the novel and the book and which one they liked better.

Throughout the semester, students in the Honors College held a debriefing after each book club meeting to discuss how the book club was progressing and whether there were any issues or changes that needed to be addressed.

“I believe that the book club was a complete success and accomplished the goals of students in both the Honors College and Mason LIFE Program,” says Anderson. “When the students see each other on campus they always say hello, and they are eager to participate in another book club or other event next semester.”

The Honors College also has plans for other partnerships at Mason with such programs as

  • Peer Empowerment Program, a multicultural counseling center program that provides emotional support and outreach services for all students, especially those who represent underrepresented populations at Mason.
  • Robinson Professors, a group of outstanding scholars who are dedicated to undergraduate teaching and whose teaching and scholarship concern broad and fundamental intellectual issues.
  • Sino-American 1+2+1 dual degree program, an international education initiative that brings American and Chinese universities together to offer dual degrees to Chinese undergraduate students.

In addition, the Honors College plans to partner with Leadership Fairfax on a variety of community service initiatives. Leadership Fairfax is a nonprofit corporation dedicated to finding, training and growing leaders in Northern Virginia.

Write to gazette at gazette@gmu.edu