Rachel Young embraces Honors community

Rachel Young

Studying within a university’s honors program may prove intimidating at first glance.  After all, honors level study is generally associated with promoting a more critical way of thinking than most students might be used to.  But for all who join its ranks, there is much short-term and long-term success to be realized.

At least that’s how Rachel Young feels.  Young, a junior psychology major, started her studies within NAU’s University Honors Program her freshman year.  Though she has taken a variety of courses both in and out of the program, Young says different types of courses provide different types learning, all of which have contributed to her own personal success.

“Being in a bigger class provides the opportunity to gain a lot of different opinions and perspective on the course material,” Young says.  “Then again, I like taking the smaller classes within Honors that focus on more in-depth study.”

Young, who came from Mesa, Arizona, says the smaller campus life and close proximity to her home made NAU an easy decision after high school.  The University Honors Program does its part to create a smooth transition to college through Guides to University Retention and Undergraduate Success, or GURUS, who are upperclassmen designed to help incoming freshman honors students.

Young, who is a GURU herself, believes GURUS help create a tight-knit relationship with their students, providing insight to freshmen and Honors students in need of that experience from a relatable, and reliable, source. 

Rachel Young with Student

“Every Honors student has these upper class mentors in our first year class, so the sense of community is established quickly,” Young says.  “A lot of times, freshmen will be shy to talk to their instructors, so it’s really nice to have that transitional person.”

GURUS typically sit in on Honors classes, help lead discussions, and plan social activities for their students, including coffee breaks and trips to the First Friday Art Walks, which occur each month and showcase local artists.

Young also works as an Honors Ambassador, which requires her to lead prospective students on tours of Cowden Hall (where the University Honors Program offices are located) while informing them of the Honors Program and its benefits.  If that weren’t enough, Young also teaches Honors 100 classes as a facilitator.

In Honors 100, students are typically introduced to NAU through projects designed to get them out and about in the Flagstaff community.  For example, one of Young’s projects involved sending students to San Francisco Street – a rich and diverse street connecting NAU’s campus to the city’s central hub – and having them come back with coursework designed to teach their peers.

“It’s all about getting them acclimatized to being away from home and getting them incorporated into the Flagstaff community,” Young says.  “It’s a very fun class for all involved.”

Though her jobs and classes create long work hours, Young says the goal is to manage time and look at the positive experiences.

Young’s long-term goal is to attend graduate school and eventually work in an admissions office on a college campus.  Though she is keeping her options open, Young admits NAU is on the top of her list due to the wealth of knowledge and experience gained through the university.

“NAU has definitely helped me to advance my goals,” Young says.  “I’ve been involved in leadership, which helps prepare me for grad school and be a competitive candidate. With the coursework, I’ve learned to look at things from more of a critical perspective.  “Graduate classes are typically seminar-style, which is the same format as honors classes.  I’ll be used to that going forward, which is really nice.”