Sept. 5, 2007
By Katie Quaranta
Photos by Rachel O'Hara
Ohio University's Honors Tutorial College lit the way Tuesday evening for 58 incoming freshmen who have joined its vibrant, scholarly community. The candlelight convocation in Galbreath Chapel, solemn and emotional, ushered students into the unique experiences that await them in the only college of its kind in the United States.
Ann Fidler, dean of the Honors Tutorial College, conceived the ceremony to inspire incoming students and to provide a link to similar ceremonies at Oxford and Cambridge universities, the schools upon which much of the Honors Tutorial College approach is modeled.
"It is important for me to help the students understand not only the traditions we have here, but also the long academic traditions we share with these institutions in Great Britain," she said in explaining the significance of Tuesday's ceremony.
The ceremony began in silence, with not even a whisper as students filled the chapel. Fidler, dressed in academic robes, began by highlighting the Honors Tutorial College's many impressive alumni and encouraging the freshmen to connect with their colleagues and classmates.
"Despite our many differences, we try to keep a deep sense of community," she said. "It is one of our sources of strength, and we look to you as our newest members to carry it forward."
That sense of community was palpable as seven Honors Tutorial College upperclassmen and one recent graduate shared memories of unforgettable conversations and late-night study sessions. They also gave advice about how to thrive in the college and encouraged the students to see the next few years as a journey of self-discovery.
Jeffery St. John, an associate professor of communication studies and Honors Tutorial College faculty fellow, likewise challenged students to search constantly for knowledge and to never stop questioning their basic assumptions about the world around them.
"We are here to encourage you to be restless and dissatisfied with your ignorance," he said.
Amidst the soft glow of candelight, the first-year students came forward one by one to sign a book commemorating their entrance into the Honors Tutorial College. Fidler also presented them with blank journals, or commonplace books, in which they can record their thoughts, scholarly ambitions, successes and failures.
Joseph Zielinski, a freshman history major, left inspired.
"I thought they were filled with energy and great advice," he said of the evening's speakers. "It just gave us hope for the rest of the year."
He also appreciated the significance of being welcomed into such an esteemed group.
"Once you sign your name in the book, you are really a part of the HTC family," he said.
The uniqueness of the college stems from the fact that students take at least one tutorial with a professor per quarter, a class that is one-on-one or in a very small group. To graduate, students also must complete a thesis that makes a significant contribution to their discipline. Ohio University is the only institution in the United States with a degree-granting college incorporating all the essential features of the traditional tutorial system.
The incoming class certainly has big shoes to fill. Last spring, all 40 members of the Honors Tutorial College graduating class earned cum laude, magna cum laude or summa cum laude honors.