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Human Situation: From Virgil to Virtual

The Human Situation has long been the portal to the Honors experience for students, but now that portal is going virtual. Professor Richard Armstrong and the Human Sit professors are expanding the course’s presence through a new website that will be targeted to a three-layered audience: prospective students, current students in the course, and Honors alumni. “I’d like this site to be a place people return to,” says Armstrong. “It’s not just a useful addition to the course; it’s a statement about the Honors experience and our community. We initiate new members to our community every year through the Human Situation, and the site should help us to develop a clearer image of who we are.”

With the help of a $23,000 Faculty Development Initiative Program (FDIP) grant, Armstrong has tried to distill the best parts of the Human Sit experience into a site that reflects the vibrant learning environment that emerges every year as new students work their ways through the course. Like any course website, this one houses some nuts and bolts information: lecture schedules, booklists, policy pages, and information about the final exams. But it also offers a growing collection of study aids, including writing resources, tips from both teachers and students on how to succeed, interactive quizzes on plagiarism and key terms, blogs by professors, and links to authoritative websites relevant to the syllabus.

Such a resource is bound to help current students, but it is also designed to reassure prospective students that the Human Sit is a challenge they will enjoy. “A key to humanizing the course and giving a sense of fun to it will be the use of current photographs from the actual classes,” says Armstrong. “I think young people will see these and think, ‘Wow, that looks like fun. I could see myself doing that.’”

A recent photo feature shows Human Sit professors getting hit by pies during a charity event. “Professors are professors, but they are also people. I hope this comes out more, because for a freshman, that’s the biggest worry: ‘Are these guys even human?’”

Beyond humanizing the faculty, Armstrong also plans to highlight their achievements on a section called Faculty Roundhouse. This features appearances by Honors faculty in the media, links to podcasts and other online media presentations, and news of faculty awards and events. It hosts a Letters from section, comprising news from retired and former faculty who wish to update the Honors community about their lives. It also houses the web directory for The Open Academy: Honors Professors in Conversation, a new iTunes University podcast that features faculty discussing topics of general interest. The podcast also highlights some of our visiting speakers, such as author Willard Spiegelman (see article) and poet James Armstrong. A Your Human Situation section provides links to Facebook groups as well as to other student-generated content. You can access the  web portal at