By: Kendra Housel
In the fall of 1998, Indiana Wesleyan University gained a new academic department, which this year celebrates 20 years of scholarship, growth and community: The John Wesley Honors College (JWHC).
Over the past 20 years, the JWHC has undergone many changes. What began as a program without an official building is now housed on the second floor of Goodman Hall, as well as in Epworth House near the University Court apartments.
The curriculum started as honors college sections of the general education courses, where all honor students could take these courses in any order.
Today, using the curriculum that was finalized in 2012, honors graduates participate in an ordered, supplemental curriculum which replaces almost all general education requirements with specialized classes that seek to form students into more aware, God-centered, people-loving individuals.
One of the founding students in the JWHC is Karen Eilers, who graduated in 2001 with a double major in political science and history.
Eilers, along with having two majors and being a member of the honors college during its genesis, also graduated in just three years instead of the traditional four.
Eilers said that she first heard about the JWHC through a mailing that invited her to apply for the JWHC after she had been accepted into IWU.
She valued the idea of smaller classes, and after taking multiple AP and honors classes as a high school student, she was eager to take on the challenge of collegiate honors. The honors college was largely why Eilers decided to attend IWU.
“Everyone was excited to be a part of beginning a new program,” Eilers said of the atmosphere in the budding JWHC.
“We weren’t sure what exactly we were getting into, but we were up for rolling with it,” she explained.
The collaborative effort between students and professors (like founding professors, Dr. Brown and Dr. Bartley, and current head, Dr. Riggs) to learn what would work and what could be accomplished brought a wonderful sense of community.
Eilers ended up serving as one of the honors college’s first student workers with a job helping to tend the office.
During each of her three years, the office of the JWHC moved locations, but according to Eilers, “Each office got a little better than the last.”
During her final year at the university, the third year of the Honors College, the program secured their own building, just north of campus, and Dr. Riggs took over for the two founding leaders.
The course also began expanding, and the actual degree plan became more solidified.
Eilers was one of the first two students to do the Honors Scholarship Project (then called the Honors Thesis), which was made manageable by communicating consistently with the honors professors and with her mentor in the history department.
Eilers looks back on her time in the JWHC as one offond memories, goofy fun and a worthy challenge. The community was invaluable to her and even helped her discover her passion for working with college students.
She went on to get her master’s degree in college student development, and she now works as a Career & College Counselor in the Twin Cities of Minnesota.
Eilers also owns her own company, Motivated Careers LLC, and also works with University Funding Professionals LLC to counsel high school and college students about possible career and education paths.
She also has a book which came out in December called Find Your Fit, which Eilers said is meant to help students understand how God made them so they can make wise decisions for their lives! Here is a link to view her book on Amazon: http://a.co/d/2PAhTce.
Written by Kendra Housel, writer for the IWU Alumni Center. Kendra is a junior Education and Honors Humanities double major at Indiana Wesleyan University in the John Wesley Honors College. She is also a member of the University Chorale. Kendra is passionate about serving Christ through writing, singing, and caring for others.