12/06/2019 | News release | Distributed by Public on 12/06/2019 17:42
MINOT, N.D. - Jessica Smestad has always been interested in student leadership development.
A Minot native, she earned her undergraduate degree in English from the University of North Dakota, then moved to Storrs, Connecticut for her Master of Arts degree in Education from the University of Connecticut. She returned to her hometown in 2010 to work in the Minot State Center for Engaged Teaching and Learning as the peer mentoring & peer tutoring coordinator.
Then, in the summer of 2016, she took on the role of the Honors Program director, where she currently teaches and advises 124 honors students and the Honors Society.
The Honors Program at Minot State offers two types of classes: advanced general education classes as well as classes towards earning a minor or concentration in honors.
'The general education courses are an opportunity for high-achieving students to be in a room with other high-achieving students,' Smestad said. 'It really helps to elevate the dynamic of the class in terms of the intellectualism, the work ethic, the conversations that happen about those topics. It provides a bit more challenge for the students who want that experience.'
At the same time, those high-achieving students will develop skills that translate into any career field they choose to pursue.
'Honors courses focus on things like leadership, civic engagement and service, enhancing communication skills, and hopefully developing a more global perspective,' she said. 'Academic content is part of it and is important, but also those life skills, those soft skills that are going to help you be a scholar citizen.'
On top of promoting diverse skills, the Honors Program brings diverse students of all disciplines together.
'There are students coming into our classroom from a variety of different backgrounds and perspectives, you know, science, art, English, business. It really runs the gamut,' she said. 'In every major that we have available on campus, students can participate in our program. Then the topics that we talk about are usually interdisciplinary in nature. You can make connections between disciplines.'
This is what elevates the Honors Program to challenge the high-achieving students of Minot State. Students' passion for doing more than what is expected of them will translate into their lives both inside and outside their academic careers.
'One of the biggest goals of the Honors Program is to generate scholar citizens,' she said, 'so people who are both intellectual but also understand what it means to be a citizen and help out in the community.'
Since Smestad is the director of the program, she gets to spend time with these students in many ways.
'I get to teach a lot of classes. It's fun because I typically see the same students over and over again throughout their time at the University,' she said. 'Then I'm really able to build relationships with them instead of just, I'm your teacher from one semester and then I might never see you again. I also love advising Honors Program students. It's a lot of fun for me to sit down one on one and talk about not just honors, but other things that are happening in their lives and just building relationships.'
Her close relationship with her students has given them a voice to enact change in the program. Currently, the Honors Center is in Model Hall, the farthest hall from the center of campus. However, after listening to many requests from students for several years, Smestad took action to make the Honors Center a more convenient facility for her students. Come fall 2020, the new center will be in Old Main 101 and 103, previously the Center for Engaged Teaching and Learning.
'We will have a more centralized location so it's not so far all the way over to Model to use this facility and to have classes' she said.
To learn more about the perks of the Honors Program, like being the first undergraduate students to walk the stage at graduation, visit the program's website.
About Minot State University
Minot State University is a public university dedicated to excellence in education, scholarship, and community engagement achieved through rigorous academic experiences, active learning environments, commitment to public service, and a vibrant campus life.