Honors Learning By Contract

By Sam Ennis

Despite a wide variety of classes, covering topics from beer to childcare, finding the right honors course at Mizzou can be a challenge. Honors Learning-by-Contract (HLBC) is an option that allows students the flexibility to turn a non-Honors course into a unique Honors learning experience.

Graphic displaying central college with satellite departments circling the central school name.
Honors Students have taken HLBC courses in many different departments within A & S

Now graduated geography student Sarah Frost is a student who has recently completed an HLBC. Sarah and her classmate, senior biology student Grace Martinez worked with Mizzou professor Dr. Mark Palmer to analyze a 19th century Kiowa map, culminating in a presentation of their findings at a colloquium for the geology department.

“That was a very good presentation on the one hand because it made me present,” said Frost. “I get ridiculously incredibly nervous when I give presentations, so it was nice to just beat that out of me.”

The group found that their hard work ultimately led them to success. “We had a really good turnout,” Frost stated. “We had so much content we had to discuss… the map really was a rich historical resource.”

Even after their HLBC ended, Frost and Martinez continued to advance their project. With some help from Dr. Palmer and other mentors, the duo was able to write and publish a paper depicting their findings and the practical applications of their research.

“After the semester is when we started looking if there was a way we could write a paper on this that was publishable,” said Frost. “Dr. Palmer went to a conference and found a journal that was interested in the project, and it was published [in the International Journal of Geo-Information].”

Not all Honors Learning-by-Contracts must end in a peer-reviewed research paper. Many students, including senior animal sciences major Kamryn Hunter, take a more traditional approach with their HLBC.

Hunter used her HLBC to further her own understanding of animal sciences and zoology. She worked with Mizzou professor Dr. Trista Strauch-Safranski to learn about proper captive animal management.

Graphic displaying central college with satellite departments circling the central school name.
Graphic showing the many departments that have participated in HLBC

“I mainly focused on how to keep captive wild animals in a humane, scientifically researched area,” said Hunter. “I focused on roadside zoos, including the G.W. Zoo that’s in ‘Tiger King.’”

Hunter’s HLBC was capped off with an end-of-semester presentation about her findings. During her presentation, Hunter addressed “the basis of what’s accredited, what is scientifically backed, and what is the most humane option in zoological like facilities.”

“Understanding [what’s accredited] and what that means… is extremely important,” said Hunter. “I want to know that if I get a job researching, or being a part of a zoological facility, they are accredited and up to scientific and welfare standards.”

Beyond her professional life, the HLBC has been beneficial to Hunter as well. “I think it was a really amazing experience for me,” she said. “Getting to build a meaningful relationship with my professor, that’s really really helpful.”

More detailed information about Honors Learning-by-Contract, including how to submit your own HLBC proposal, can be found here.