Dear Alumni, Students, Parents, and Friends of the Honors College,
I hope you enjoy this inaugural issue of the Honors College newsletter, “Notes from Halfway There.” As any Honors Scholar could tell you, the Honors College motto is “sapere aude,” “dare to be wise,” which is taken from the Roman poet Horace. The first part of Horace’s line from which our motto is taken, however, is less well known: “Well begun is half done.” And if daring to be wise is a sign of being half done, well then any Honors Scholar who is faithful to the motto is at least halfway there, halfway to wisdom.
Now that there are over two hundred Honors College alumni, it is important that we find ways to keep in touch with each other. Every May, at each Honors College Commissioning Service, we say that our graduates are not leaving the Honors College—they are simply enlarging its boundaries. Many of our alumni, current students, faculty, and friends are concentrated in Houston, but others are spread over the world. (At some point in the future, perhaps we’ll send an Honors Scholar to the starry heavens, this being Houston and all.) I hope you enjoy reading in this issue about what is happening in the lives of some of our Honors Scholars. If you have any news of your own to share, please let us know.
Lastly, if you are an Honors College alumnus and haven’t heard about the alumni event we’re planning for the spring, please get in touch. We’d love to see you there!
All the Best,
Director, The Honors College
Houston Baptist University
Katrina (Kat) Bolman is a senior at Houston Baptist University and a fourth year student in the Honors College. She is a member of the Alpha Chi Honors Society as well as the Eta Sigma Phi Classical Honor Society. She has worked in the Academic Success Center and actively contributes to HBU’s student literary journal Writ in Water. She hails from Newport Beach, California, but has lived in Houston since 2007.
When asked how she first discovered the Honors College, Kat replied,
“I first heard about the Honors College when I was in the middle of the frantic, senior-year scramble to figure out oh-my-goodness-what-am-I-supposed-to-do-with-the-rest-of-my-life. I applied to two different schools, but when it came time to interview with the first school, I ended up talking about the HBU Honors College so much that the interviewer actually asked me, ‘Why aren’t you going to HBU?’ (true story).”
Kat came to study Classics as a way to share her passion for reading, thinking, and writing well with others. While Kat has always thought of herself as a voracious reader and creative individual, she believes her time in the Honors College has served her very well and helped shape her into the person she is today.
“When I got to the Honors College, the thing that really struck me was how close the community was. I really felt like Hermione walking into my own tiny Hogwarts. Even if discussions didn’t always go the way that I’d imagined they would, I was still surrounded by a community of people willing to help me take on and wrestle with these deep and challenging texts. When I read texts like the philosophy of creation in Plato’s Timaeus or the theology of Karl Barth’s Church Dogmatics or the problem of pain in Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov, I could rely on my fellow students (who I proudly call my friends) to help me start asking questions, and my professors to guide me toward better ones.”
Kat plans to work as a private tutor while she completes her teaching certificate and applications for graduate level studies. Her long term goal is to become a classical educator. We wish her much luck in her future endeavors and have been blessed by her insight both in and outside of the classroom.
Sophie Seehausen graduated from HBU in 2016 with a BBA and MACT. Since graduating, she has worked at LBB & Associates Ltd., LLP as an auditor. She was promoted to Senior Auditor in August 2018, ahead of schedule. In addition to her professional accomplishments, Sophie and her husband, Daniel Seehausen (also an Honors College graduate) have welcomed baby Andrew Eliot Seehausen (Ender for short) into their budding family. In her spare time, Sophie enjoys reading and traveling. She also enjoys helping her sister-in-law care for her foster children.
Since graduating, what have you come to appreciate about your time in the Honors College?
I really appreciate the dedicated reading time and having people around you who encourage you to read hard books and talk about them. The Honors College gave me a supportive community of friends who I still talk to all the time.
What was your favorite Honors College book and why?
My favorite Honors College book was Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. I loved how it explored sacramentology and how deeply personal it felt.
What do you hope current Honors College students embrace during their time at HBU?
I hope they embrace the friendships. The friendships I got out of Honors College were tried and tested and came out strong. Those are the kinds of friends you want in life. Friends who will challenge you, support you, and laugh with you.
What are your plans for the future?
I am currently studying for the CPA exam with the goal of getting a Ph.D. and teaching at the university level. During breaks, I would like to live in a van and travel the world.
We love seeing where our graduates are headed and how the Honors College has impacted their lives. We wish the Seehausen’s the best in their future endeavors, and we look forward to watching them accomplish great things!
“It is difficult to stand between the decay of an old civilization, with all of its uncertainties. But the way we meet it has much to do with what we leave for future generations. That is Boethius’ (477—524 AD) position as he faces the death throes of his beloved Rome, but working frantically to salvage as much of it as he can for a new people and a new era. A prolific philosopher and theologian, he wrote his last and most enduring work, the Consolation of Philosophy, from prison, awaiting a brutal execution. Little did he know that seven hundred years later, his prison classic, in addition to his other works, would be responsible for inspiring the foundation of universities. Boethius’ Consolation provides an organic point of union between the words of Greco-Roman antiquity and the Middle Ages.” —Dr. Robert Thomas Llizo, Honors College Professor
The Consolation of Philosophy is part of the second-semester reading list for first year Honors College students. The work is written in alternating poetry and prose, and details Boethius’ enlightenment prior to his execution. The book is separated into five chapters: The Sorrows of Boethius, The Vanity of Fortune’s Gifts, True Happiness and False, Good and Ill Fortune, and Free Will and God’s Foreknowledge. Thus, the reader is taken alongside Boethius as he wrestles with his misfortune and ultimately comes to accept his fate with humility and steadfastness.
The final paragraph of the work summarizes his resolution well,
“And all this being so, the freedom of man’s will stands unshaken, and laws are not unrighteous, since their rewards and punishments are held forth to wills unbound by any necessity. God, who foreknoweth all things, still looks down from above, and the ever-present eternity of his vision concurs with the future character of all our acts, and dispenseth to the good rewards, to the bad punishments. Our hopes and prayers also are not fixed on God in vain, and when they are rightly directed cannot fail of effect. Therefore, withstand vice, practise virtue, lift up your souls to right hopes, offer humble prayers to Heaven. Great is the necessity of righteousness laid upon you if ye will not hide it from yourselves, seeing that all your actions are done before the eyes of a Judge who seeth all things.”— Boethius, Consolation of Philosophy
Honors College students read this work alongside other Roman and early Christian literature including Virgil’s Aeneid and St. Gregory of Nazianzus’ On God and Christ. The study of this literature allows students an insight into these political and religious atmospheres from primary resources. Students discuss difficult philosophical questions regarding faith and truth, building on their previous semester’s studies of Plato and Aristotle and preparing to embark on their journey into the medieval and Renaissance worlds.
Dr. Philip Tallon is an Assistant Professor of Theology, Chair of the Department of Apologetics, and Director of Graduate Programs for the School of Christian Thought at HBU. He eared his BA in British and American Literature from the University of South Florida, his MA in Theology from Asbury Theological Seminary, and his PhD in Theology from the University of St. Andrews.
What are some aspects of the Honors College program that you find unique? What is your favorite thing about the Honors College curriculum?
“What follows is just a long-winded way of saying, ‘great books.’ And here goes. Even before I came here to the Honors College my educational philosophy centered around the idea that the best thing a teacher can do is press good books into the hands of students and then hold their feet to the fire until they read them. Maybe that sounds a bit harsh. The nicer way to put that would be that most of us need help to achieve our best, and one of the best things for us is to read big, important, challenging books that have stood the test of time.
“As for my favorite thing, I suppose ‘the students’ is the easy answer. But in this case it’s also conveniently the true answer. Each Honors instructor here is assigned mentees that will likely stay with them for 3 years. You really get to know students in that time. I enjoy seeing real growth from students that I don’t think I would observe if I just had them for a semester. I had a student recently who came in barely able to write at a college level, and at the end of his time here one of his essays was held up as a model essay. Without continual attention over a longer period of time (and not just from me, but from his Honors writing instructors as well), I don’t think that would have happened without continual attention. The standard college experience does some things well, but mentoring isn’t one of them. Unless a student intentionally builds a relationship with a professor, they can slinker through college basically unseen. The Honors College is designed in such a way so that doesn’t happen. Every student is important.”
You have authored and coauthored several books. What is your primary motivation for writing and publishing your work?
“Well, it’s certainly not the money. Most of my books have followed the typical academic pattern of ‘big words, small print, smaller sales.’ But it’s still rewarding to write. I don’t know how other people think of their work, but I tend to think about writing much like my father thinks about carpentry. When he sees the need for something and has some spare time that’s what he does, he makes things out of wood. I guess books are made of wood as well so maybe they count as a very nerdy form of carpentry. Anyway, the point of the analogy is that I typically just look around for some gap in the literature that I think I can fill. Sometimes this is more academic, as in the case of my book on theological aesthetics and the problem of evil or my recent essay on the theistic argument from beauty. In both cases it just seemed like there was an empty spot on the map that could be filled in. My work tends to be more constructive than anything else. Some scholars really focus on defending certain territory, but I’m probably more interested in exploring neglected areas.
“I suppose there’s one more thing that could be said about scholarly writing in general, which is connected to the educational philosophy of the Honors College. In our program, we really push students to explore the text alongside us, sometimes without resolving for them key questions raised by the text. This can be tough at first, because some students are used to teachers telling them what the right answer is, and then making sure that answer is on the final exam. But we prefer to allow the conversation in the classroom to struggle toward the truth so that when student arrive at their conclusion they have explored every step of the way toward that conclusion. Just knowing the right answer isn’t enough, you have to have good reasons for why your answer is right. And struggling toward understanding together helps with that. One thing that students sometimes don’t understand is that in almost every area of higher study there are unresolved questions or disputed positions. The scholarly literature itself is a kind of ongoing conversation where we wrestle with the truth. Teaching students how to have meaningful conversations and real dispute as they struggle with the text is actually good preparation for higher study.”
What have you written recently?
“I just had an essay appear in a book called Two Dozen (or so) Arguments for God, which was published by Oxford UP. It’s a great volume with a lot of big names in it, and a few little guys like me. The book explores a really wide range of arguments for God’s existence. Some of the arguments in the book are real classics, like the argument from design, but there are also some odd ones, like the argument from beauty and the argument from play, both of which I wrote about. These are more uncommon arguments that I think readers will find interesting at the very least, and perhaps even compelling! For anyone who is interested in theistic arguments, though, this book is a must-have.”
Of the current literature on the Honors College reading list, which text speaks to you the most? Which book are you most excited for students to engage with?
“Well, the most exciting books aren’t always the most important. I continue to find Aristotle to be the most observant man in the ancient world. He’s not always right, but he sees some things so clearly that it’s hard to improve on his insights. One of these things is the nature of virtue, which he spends a lot of time talking about in his book on ethics, which we read. Once you read Aristotle on virtue it rewires your brain in a helpful way and you can just see human nature a lot more clearly; not only what’s wrong with us, but also what it really looks like to be a well-formed person. I think it’s important for students to get a clear picture of what virtue is–a trained habit of being that’s in accordance with reason. Sometimes we foolishly think as if we had a finite amount of good and bad in us, and when we make bad choices we kind of get the bad ‘out of our system.’ But in reality the more we do something–good or bad– the more natural it becomes. So repeated actions are the way we get things ‘into’ our system. Our actions shape our habits, which shape our character, which shapes our destiny. Aristotle helps to show us that. Of course, Aristotle isn’t just floating out there on his own, much of his teaching has been picked up by Christian theology as well, so that if you read Aquinas or C. S. Lewis on virtue, you wind up hearing a lot of Aristotle’s influence.
“I also really like leading discussions on Chesterton’s The Man Who Was Thursday and also pretty much any book where somebody carries a sword.”