alt.Honors Project

ACAF AltHonors Poster 2018

Criteria for acceptance into the program:

  • A portfolio of work samples
  • A CV
  • An essay or presentation about the idea(s) the student has for a project
  • (GPA will not be a criterion).

Apply now!

Applications are due December 1, 2018 so that the pilot team can be formed for the following semester.

For more information email: John Toenjes

National Center for Supercomputing Applications
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
1205 W. Clark St. Room 1008 Urbana, IL 61801
Campus Mail Code: MC-257


During the Fall 2018 semester, Professor John Toenjes, Associate Professor in the Department of Dance, College of Fine and Applied Arts, and eDream faculty affiliate, will collaborate and develop a plan for a new alternative honors course that will be taught in Spring 2019.

Because of the nature of this alternative approach to supporting interdisciplinary, student-driven project- based research, the “alt.Honors program” program would be developed with undergraduate students, faculty and staff from the College of FAA and across campus.

The goals of this pilot course are

  1. Encourage and support students with a range of creative talents who are expansive in their thinking, but who don’t necessarily flourish within the strictures of the traditional discipline-contained university educational system.
  2. More concretely impact campus curriculum in the area of art and technology.

The initial approach with the “alt.Honors” program is to help freshmen, sophomores, and juniors form teams around grand challenge issues, cross-disciplinary, and out-of-the-box creative ideas, and work cooperatively and entrepreneurially to enact their visions. Professor Toenjes will lead the research phase of the pilot project in the Fall 2018 and engage with motivated students, faculty, and staff to develop a course that will be taught in Spring 2019 under the FAA rubric, but open to all majors.

In this process, students would learn to apply their unique talents to problem solving, and acquire skills to utilize their creativity in pursuit of excellence after graduation. We expect that this approach will enable those students and faculty with a cross-disciplinary vision to work on interesting and urgent problems and opportunities, both in the hope of finding solutions outside of existing categories and with the benefit of opening up their own lives and careers to new directions ripe for exploration.

Research and Planning

The first stage of this project would be to evaluate the means by which the programs and educational initiatives that have historically been tried would be able to mesh with the course and credit-granting structures of the university and its colleges. This is in order to best provide desired outcomes for students, and to deepen the relationships between and among these various educational and research units. Stakeholders involved in these programs will be interviewed for ideas, and will be queried for interest in participating in the program.

Pilot Project: FAA 399

After this period of study, a method to establish this program so that it has staying power within the organizational structures of the university will be vetted by the various stakeholders. After any revisions needed, the pilot program will be started. Mentors will be found, and an awareness campaign and call for applications will begin.

Criteria for acceptance into the program:

  • A portfolio of work samples
  • A CV
  • An essay or presentation about the idea(s) the student has for a project
  • (GPA will not be a criterion).

The application will be due December 1, 2018 so that the pilot team can be formed for the following semester.

An initial cohort of students will be chosen, based upon their portfolios and the creativity shown in the problems or issues proposed by them during the application period. A committee of faculty/staff mentors will decide who is accepted into the program, and will be assigned to the pilot group. Then the pilot group with their mentors will fashion a plan and enact it. Students will be able to access campus facilities such as the FabLab, Illinois Maker Lab, NCSA, etc. The group will give periodic progress reports, and a presentation at the end of the year.

Evaluation

If this pilot program works, we envision the program continuing into a second year. More student groups would be organized. Students continuing the program in their second year will continue working on projects, but will become leaders for other teams. These student leaders would be offered seminars in design thinking, entrepreneurship, leadership, and project planning in order to help them take their “alt creativity” out into the world and make a career of it. Thereafter, the program would run in a two-year cycle, with incoming students providing a steady stream of thinkers and leaders for the life of the program.