The Honors College Forum | Frequently Asked Questions

The Honors College stands for Curiosity, Knowledge, and Purpose. The Forum in turn is structured around three modules: drawing on the curiosity of students to identify global issues; challenging students to propose socially innovative solutions to these issues by harnessing the full body of their knowledge through active research; and having student teams present well-researched, innovatively designed, and socially purposeful ideas for the betterment of society. 

Academic specialization at the beginning of higher education is not sustainable given the global challenges that students face. By being exposed to multiple disciplines and complex, multi-dimensional problems (political, social, cultural, economic, technological, ethical, legal, scientific), entering Honors College students receive an immediate, intensive training in higher-order problem solving, gain critical professional skills, and are more quickly prepared to make informed decisions about their respective majors and research plans.

The Forum is designed to develop cognitive and non-cognitive skills which advance student readiness for study at Rutgers as well as internships and beyond graduation. All work in the Forum is designed to provide formative learning across three broad domains of competence.

The Cognitive Domain, which includes critical thinking, reasoning, and logical problem solving.

The Intrapersonal Domain, which involves self-management, including the ability to regulate one’s own behavior and emotions to reach goals.

The Interpersonal Domain, which involves the ability to express information to others, as well as interpret others’ messages and provide appropriate responses.

At the beginning of their college careers, students may not understand the importance of skills—they are focused on classes and grades. But employers and graduate and professional programs definitely care. Detailed, repeated studies show that the learning outcomes and competencies currently being called for by both employers and institutions of higher education include written and oral communication skills, teamwork skills, ethical decision making, critical thinking, and the ability to apply knowledge in real-world settings. The Forum is an integrative educational experience that can play a pivotal role in student learning as well as student career outcomes.

The Forum develops students in the cognitive, intrapersonal, and interpersonal domains by specifically engaging the following skills during semester-long individual and group-based assignments:

Interdisciplinarity: Forum teams are composed of students from varied majors, schools, and perspectives, and they are required to produce a novel and socially innovative idea connecting two or more United Nations-Sustainable Development Goals. 

Critical Thinking and Creative Problem Solving: Central to the Forum's purpose and team-based projects is the charge to identify and propose creative, socially innovative solutions to complex global issues.

Logical Reasoning and Communication: Forum students tackle global problems and produce effective responses and plans within local contexts, requiring them to utilize logical reasoning and refined communication skills (both written and oral).

Team Based Collaboration: Working together demands that diverse student teams engage in modeling collaborative and constructive behavior.

Systems and Design Thinking: Students have to innovate new solutions based on "bottom-up" human-centered approaches to major issues, while also being mindful of overall systemic and theoretical thinking. 
 

None of those, but each is important for the core goal of the Forum, which is skills engagement. The Forum’s curriculum is singularly designed to allow students to fine-tune their cognitive skills and develop their core of non-cognitive skills. This combination will help students advance toward higher-level academic coursework, internships, and be effectively prepared for future employers and graduate programs. 

As skills engagement is the core goal of the Forum, social innovation is the vehicle for learning these skills through experience. Student teams propose ideas that are practical and well researched. Only a limited number of students will immediately be interested in social innovation per se, so social projects are vehicles for students to develop key skills and mindsets around integrating academic knowledge and social impact. The UN-SDGs act as a framework for interdisciplinary and critical thinking allowing students to address the challenges that cut across multiple dimensions of human life--material, economic, environmental, social, cultural, technical, political, medical, aesthetic, and moral. 

All Honors College students are trained in the Forum, and then employ their experience and knowledge in advanced research and fellowship programs, start-up incubators like the Honors College Innovation Lab, in global humanitarian entrepreneurship commitments, in dedicated service work, and in preparation for their own Honors College Capstone projects.