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Why William Loves DCCCD: Honors English

I am William Kaseu, a former STEM and Muse Scholar and recent graduate at the DCCCD. I was born in Volksrust, a small and rural town in the southern outskirts of Mpumalanga, South Africa, and I came to America about three years ago as an international student. I came to America because I sought a rigorous STEM education which encapsulated critical thinking, innovation and the liberal arts. I am ecstatic to say that I’m one step closer to attaining that goal because of the Honors Academy at Richland College.

Being an international student, I — stereotypically — loathed the notion of having to take an English class when I started college at DCCCD. I thought my English requirements were waived after I scored a decent grade on my SAT test; however, to my surprise, they weren’t. So, I did what many other students would do and tried to postpone the inevitable by telling myself that I would register for the class “next semester.” Unsurprisingly, the next semester came and went and I was still telling myself that I would take an English class the following semester.

However, this all changed in the fall of 2014 when I heard that the Honors Academy at Richland College was offering an honors English class. I still remember the night I sat in my room with my door closed, light off, window open, pondering whether to take the class or not. My rationale was that taking an honors English class would enable me to attain a more profound knowledge of the subject compared to taking a normal class. I also knew that it was imperative for me to profoundly understand English because it would help me succeed in America. As I sat and pondered by my window, I decided to register for the class and before I knew it, it was the 26th of August — the first day of my English class.

I remember going into the class expecting to see a lecture similar to one you would encounter studying nuclear physics. However, I didn’t encounter such a lecture and began to realize that the students and the teacher in the class were all human-like. They were all imperfect in their own ways and some students were even more nervous than me.

William Kaseu, El Centro graduate, standing on the snowy campus at University of Rochester.
William Kaseu, El Centro graduate, standing on the snowy campus at the University of Rochester.

When the class ended, I began confabulating with multiple students and discovered that, although they were highly intelligent and diligent students, they were all aspiring to become better, more eloquent writers. This surprised me because I realized that these students were just like me (they weren’t all good in English and took this specific class to change that). Although the content in the class was rigorous, the class overall was not hard.

This was because the passion our professor exhibited instilled a level of confidence within each of us. Our professor, Mary Wood, not only effectively broke down the materials in class, but she also emphasized class discussions, which helped clarify the majority of our questions and concerns. I remember one scholarly discussion we had in the class where we debated the effective usage of rhetorical appeals. As a result of that vivid debate and class discussion, to this day, I can still explicitly remember the definitions and significance behind pathos, logos and ethos.

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Although the class discussions were incredible, what astonished me most of the honors class was the way it was structured; the class was structured in such a way that we, the students, took the initiative in our own learning and our professor simply helped facilitate that learning. As a result, I and many other students overcame our writer’s block and became more eloquent, confident and unequivocal writers.

I decided to take a further four honors classes at the Honors Academy and my experience with this English class exemplifies how my other classes went. The teachers in those other honors classes were really passionate about their subjects and really wanted the students to learn through critical thinking. These honors classes were not necessarily harder than normal classes, but they were vastly different — as they placed a greater emphasis on the understanding of concepts, instead of memorization.

I really had a great experience with the Honors Academy at Richland College. It really enhanced my academic experience and aided me in becoming a more well-rounded individual. The Honors Academy also enabled me to greatly augment my intellectual curiosity — by aiding me at becoming a more open-minded person. Today, I have overcome a negative stereotype associated with international students and I may have never overcome it, if it were not for taking honors classes at the Honors Academy. Even after transferring to the University of Rochester, I still remember my experience with the Honors Academy as a defining moment in my academic life.

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