On the North side of the lawn between Welch and Desmet, sandwiched between the two CCASL buildings, there is a house that seems to be invisible to the rest of campus.
Like all of the repurposed houses that line the edge of campus, it’s only identifying marker is a blue sign in the lawn. This one says “Hopkins House: Honors Program.”
The first weekend of my freshman year, I sat in line for a GUTS show and eavesdropped on the conversation behind me: “They asked me to be in the Honors Program,” a swaggering 18-year-old said, trying to impress his new friends, “But no way I was going to. That’s for nerds, and I’m totally not into that.” He was right. It is for nerds, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
It takes a special kind of nerd to thrive in the Honors Program. We’re the kind of nerds who bake an apple pie for our philosophy professor entirely out of “reorganized” COG ingredients. We march into a classroom, rearrange the desks and start tossing a stuffed moose – our unofficial mascot – across the room as a sort of “talking stick” to facilitate discussion. And after our colloquium ends at 9 p.m., we head to Hopkins to keep on discussing what was brought up in class for another two hours.
Our classes together have a special spark that I don’t feel in my other courses. In our first two years, my class, the 23 of us, has taken eleven classes together. We’ve read the same books, had the same discussions, written the same papers, taken the same tests. Sitting in English class, we can discuss how the horrendous consequences of the solitary ambition seen in “Frankenstein” repudiates the philosophies of existentialists Nietzche and Kierkegaard, not to mention the similar attitudes Socrates and the monster have toward exile, or how the monster’s drive to kill and lack of guilt seems similar to the attitude of Lantier in “La Bête Humaine.”
This shared intellectual background means that every lecture is woven together with earlier semesters in a way that doesn’t happen elsewhere. Every class is interesting on its own, but the best moments involve that spark of recognition of the religious symbolism and ancient philosophical ideas playing out in a French novel, and knowing that the whole class understands the reference and can help to dissect exactly what it means, using a frame of reference that I share.
The Honors Program had made my Gonzaga experience a bit of an anomaly. The 22 classmates I met the day before classes started freshman year are the same 22 people I’ll be sitting next to at graduation. I’ve taken every single core class with them, and arranged my schedule to take a lot of my other classes with them, too. They’re my housemates, my intramural teammates and my best friends. You get to know people pretty well when you spend that much time with them.
I expected college to be like high school, where all of my friends were a lot like me: a type-A, liberal, non-religious, homework-on-a-Friday-night business major with a penchant for journalism. I certainly didn’t expect to be friends with a devout Catholic boy who can bake a batch of cookies like nobody’s business, or a girl majoring in computer science who enjoys nothing more than a good rap song, or a guy whose love of Ke$ha is outshone only by his obsession with mountain biking. Corny as it is, these people, whom I didn’t expect to have anything in common with, have changed me. They’re the ones I’ll sit with vehemently disagreeing about the existence of God and the benefits of the Obama tax plan, then bring home with me for Thanksgiving break.
Gonzaga is beloved for its feeling of community, tradition and spirit. The Honors Program, for me, has embodied that. There are professors teaching here who, as students, started Honors traditions that we still carry on. The moose mascot shows up on all of our shirts and I can’t travel anywhere without buying something moose-related to bring back. The 80 people in the program are my family. I applied to Honors for the resume booster, but I realized pretty quickly that the selling point isn’t the word on my diploma. It’s the time I spend in the old house that has become my home.
Lauren Campbell of Shoreline, Wash., is a junior majoring in marketing and international studies. She is a Gonzaga Bulletin editor, plays mellophone in Pep Band and admits to an unhealthy love of calculus.