Welcome Letter for Incoming Honors Families

Dear Honors Families,

We are getting ready to welcome your student to the University of Wisconsin-Madison and to the Letters & Science Honors Program this September, and are sending this letter to all families of students who were admitted to the L&S Honors Program. We seek to offer students individual guidance and special opportunities, and to provide a sense of community that will shape their experience during their time here.

Students have the choice of a full array of classes with our outstanding UW-Madison faculty researchers, including small-group Honors courses that allow personal contact; students can meet with Honors advisors to talk in depth about questions and choices; the Honors Program will offer a number of events connecting Honors students with each other and with faculty; Honors grants for research projects are available; and there will be an opportunity for Honors families to learn more about the Honors Program and to meet Honors Program team members.

Honors team members and faculty are working hard to adjust and modify what we do: in everything that we are planning, student safety will come first. The large majority of Honors events and meetings—advising appointments, discussions, gatherings, conversations with faculty, resource workshops—will happen remotely, via live video connection (this has worked well over the past months). We will offer small-group events throughout the semester. “Personal” is not limited to “in-person”: whether in a small class, an advising meeting or any other limited-size gathering, individual connections can happen via remote media connections just as well as (and sometimes better than) in an in-person meeting. While the large majority of UW classes this fall will be offered remotely, please do not equate this with “online content only”. UW-Madison faculty are combining the best teaching strategies and teaching technology in their courses; many of them will meet in real time, in a virtual classroom (many courses will have such a “synchronous remote” component); in small classes and in the small discussion sections or labs that are a part of most large lecture courses, instructors are eager to connect with students, and students will be able to discuss and work with fellow students and with instructors. (I speak from my own experience as a faculty member, having had to convert—of all things—a theater course to remote format this spring: students embraced the alternative performance mode and displayed much creativity as we embarked on the adventure together.)

Here’s what your Honors student can expect in fall semester (most likely, in virtual formats):

  • During the first week of the semester, the Advising Team will offer small-group advising workshops for all Honors Freshmen, welcoming them and providing an opportunity to ask questions.
  • Students will receive regular information about Honors events and useful resources via our weekly “Honors On-Line” electronic newsletter.
  • In a weekly series of “Honors Student-Faculty Connection” meetings throughout the semester, students can hear from and talk to faculty in a small group; students will be invited to sign up for one or more of these HSFC events
  • During a special get-together with Dave Cullen, author of this year’s Go Big Read book Parkland, he will discuss his book with Honors students and invite them to ask questions. (All first-year students on campus will receive a copy of the book.)
  • Social events will be organized by the Honors Student Organization, which invites all Honors students to participate and to become actively engaged in the organization.
  • There will be additional Honors community events such as workshops about research opportunities, study-abroad grants, and other topics
  • Students are able to schedule individual appointments with our Honors Advisors throughout the semester.

You’ve likely been inundated with information and updates as you and all of us are figuring out strategies and making decision. For up-to-date information and resources—from health and safety information to advice for online learning for students—the campus “Smart Restart” page is the best starting point: https://smartrestart.wisc.edu/. It includes a link to “information for students” here: https://smartrestart.wisc.edu/students/. More about the campus response to Covid-19 can be found here: https://news.wisc.edu/covid-19-campus-response/.

On July 15, we held a virtual live information session about the Honors Program in the “Ask me Anything” series for parents; you can watch the recording here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=674-KhtMh2U.

Finally, we hope you’ll join us for a virtual “Family Weekend” event in fall, where you can learn more about the opportunities available to students in the Honors Program. We will answer questions and we hope to offer this in a format that will also allow you to engage in informal discussion with upper-class Honors students and with myself and members of the Honors team.  The university has not set a date yet for the 2020 Fall Family Weekend – please check https://parent.wisc.edu/parent-events/family-weekend/ for general information and then find details about this event and how to attend it on the Honors website; we will list it on the Honors events calendar (https://honors.ls.wisc.edu/events/) and will also let students know ahead of time. If you have specific topics you would like us to cover, or have any other questions, please feel free to e-mail us at honors@honors.ls.wisc.edu.

Our Honors Advising Team members have already met many new Honors students as they have come through the SOAR Program and have enjoyed getting to know them and learn about their academic interests and questions (including their trepidations) as they prepare to transition to college. The Honors Program Advising Team is available to help students navigate the challenges of their first semester and to encourage them as they explore their options and define their goals. Throughout the rest of summer, the best way to reach the Advising Team is by emailing advisor@honors.ls.wisc.edu.

On behalf of the staff of the L&S Honors team, our very best wishes – we are happy to hear from you and hope to meet you virtually in fall!


Sabine Gross

Faculty Director, L&S Honors Program

Griebsch Bascom Professor of German