As you might expect, high school students, trying to sort out college plans, are full of questions. Ask Lori Felker, an IUP Honors College student, now studying film in Berlin, for advice and she gives you another question.
Students often make lists about what they want from college, but the real question you might pose to yourself is this: 'What does a college – or honors program – want from you?' As soon as I walked into the Robert E. Cook Honors College, I felt the closeness, the personal attention and I understood right away that the Honors College wanted something from me…for me. A lot of big universities, what they want from you is that you go on into their graduate program or you write a lot or you make a name for yourself. These are not bad things, but what the Honors College wanted from me was just to prove myself, for their sake, of course – and for mine. Partly it's because the Honors College chose me, and they like to know that their choice, and what they do here really works, so they have a stake in your growth, and they pay attention to each one of us. They want us, simply, to grow.
And how was it that Lori Felker came to IUP in the first place?
The Honors College brochure drew me immediately. I like the fact that they place more emphasis on essays than on SAT sCores. As soon as I got there, I felt they were talking to me, not just another number. They paid attention to us as individuals. When I got to Whitmyre and talked to the Assistant Advisor, he said, 'I know the perfect roommate for you!' and paired me up with someone who became a truly close friend. They were right, and it's because at the Honors College they pay attention to details, and that's true of the Honors College as whole. Just the matter of talking about the papers you hand in – you can talk easily, comfortably, with your professor about the grade because you know they will encourage you to work on the assignment, improve it. They take the emphasis away from the letter grade and put it where it belongs – on the effort, on doing your best.
Of course, those weren't Lori's only reason for coming to the Honors College – and IUP.
It was affordable first of all, and it met my other criteria, which were important to me at the time. The Honors College offered an England study abroad program, and I knew IUP had a decent English program, and I knew Whitmyre, and the local community seemed comfortable to me -- and it had to be a certain distance from home. Comfortable seems the right word. It's a mix between being comfortable and being smart, using knowledge and not being elitist. If I had to think of one single event that typifies the Honors College and IUP it's this: two friends and I were walking across campus one day and we happened to see Dr. Begres and I jokingly said 'When are you going to have us over for spaghetti dinner?' and she immediately said 'How about Friday?' And we had dinner with her and spent the evening eating, talking about politics, art, music and it was just – fun – doing that, being there, and she made that happen.
The comfort level, the connection, the closeness is important, but Lori Felker soon found that the benefits and opportunities offered at the Honors College extended far beyond the campus.
My first study abroad, which I got thanks to a scholarship from the Honors College's Rhodes Scholar Program, was to Oxford University in England. Right now I'm on a Fulbright Fellowship in Berlin, Germany. And both times, I've been surrounded by all these Ivy League students -- and there's a lot of straight talk about what you get for your money. I have to tell you, a lot of these Ivy League students are very surprised at how much I got to do and how little money it actually cost me. Of course, one of the most important things for most undergrads is not racking up a huge bill that you (or your parents) will be paying off for years. And another is just -- wakening the senses, the intellect, giving you a perspective on the world. At IUP, you might be in the Honors College, but there are really good people, all kinds of skills-based people, people with their feet on the ground, around you, because IUP also has students preparing for jobs in hotel and restaurant management, culinary arts, elementary education – and that's a good mix, and it gives you a truer perspective on things -- for a good price. That's hard to beat.
Traveling and studying abroad is, obviously, a powerful force in gaining a clearer perspective, on the world, on your studies, on your own culture and on yourself. Now, as a Fulbright student at the Frei Universität in Berlin, Lori Felker is studying film and improving her language skills.
The United States pretty much dominates film culture, so it's interesting to see the discipline from another perspective. And I learn about up and coming people who aren't yet known in the United States, since our films go abroad readily, but very few foreign films, comparatively, are shown in the States. This has been a good resource for me. I've been majoring in English, but I also find German and Film Studies very satisfying. I always wanted to be a part of an art form that involved many other subjects. Literature was a great doorway to many other forms of art, history, psychology, sociology and so on – just as film is. As to German, it was a requirement, but I soon fell in love with the idea of being bilingual, and then I fell in love with German literature and film and history and wanted to learn about it the best way I could, so I stuck with the language -- and here I am today. I would definitely encourage learning a new language in the country where it's spoken.
As she did in high school, Lori Felker, finds herself once more full of questions and sorting out various plans. But four years at IUP and the Honors College have made all the difference….
I think one of the biggest accomplishments I got from being in the Honors College was building a good, strong sense of confidence. That's number one for me. The more I spoke in classes, and wrote more papers, and went to conferences on my own, the stronger I felt. I had the confidence to do what it took, to apply for scholarships, to reach that extra distance. I'm not exactly sure what's next. My dream job would be to become a film director, or film professor at NYU. I'm applying to grad school at NYU, but I might stay on a while in Berlin. My options are, happily, open. At first, I used to think that with an English major I could be a teacher or maybe an editor, but as soon as I started branching out and studying in different places and studying different, but related, subjects, I saw that there are so many more opportunities that you just have to find the paths to."
- Fulbright Fellowship, Berlin, Germany 2000-2001
- Outstanding English Major, IUP, 2000
- Scholarship to Medieval Institute, University of Notre Dame, Summer 1997
- Sigma Tau Delta (English Honors Society)
- Phi Kappa Phi (National Honors Society)
- Summa Cum Laude graduate
- WIUP, radio show host
- Member of band, REPENT
- New Growth Arts Review, Contributor and Art Editor
- Indiana Free Library
- Indiana Self Help Alliance
- St. Edmund Hall, Oxford University, England, 1998-99
- Fin de Siecle, Vienna, Austria, 1999
- Frei Universität Berlin, Germany, 2000-01
- Pennsylvania College English Association Conference