Honors Program Problems

It will take some time until we will have a new study coordinator, and there are urgent organizational problems related to the master honors program than need to be addressed.

1. Semester Reports

The participants in the honors program have to submit a report at the end of each semester. Those reports were until now sent to the study coordinator (Mrs. Susanne Schneider) who made sure that everybody submitted one (she frequently sent reminders) and then forwarded each report to the corresponding mentor professors.

As spokesmen of the program, I already took care of reminding my colleagues about the report, however, this is not enough. There needs to be a person (probably temporarily Mrs. Ann Van de Veire) who collects all the reports and forwards them to the appropriate mentor. And well, every student needs to be assigned to a mentor, our next problem.

2. Mentors

Accorging to the web page of the CS department: “Each student in the program will have a professor who will guide her/him through the course of study and will function as a mentor and academic advisor.”

Well, the students that arrived here the last semester were not lucky enough to have a mentor. Things usually went like this: during the semester meeting of program the new students (or students that wanted to change their mentor) wrote their preference on a sheet of paper. As opposed to the bachelors program where students are automatically assigned to some mentor, for the master students it is very important to be able to express preference, since the mentor becomes quite often also the supervisor of the student’s thesis. For the ones that were undecided, however a mentor needes to be chosen.

So, once again there needs to be someone that gathers the students preferences, and then arranges that each student meets his/her mentor at least the beginning of each semester. Then at the end of each semester, this person should forward the semester reports to the appropriate mentor. The students that started here last semester and that don’t have a mentor, they could send their preferences right away by email so that they are assigned a mentor as soon as possible, otherwise there will be nobody to read and discuss their reports for this semester (which ends in 10 days).

3. Semester Meeting

At the beginning of each semester (more exactly on the Monday afternoon of the second or third week of lecture time) there is a meeting of the honors program in room 407. There we get to know the new students, discuss organizational issues and make plans for activities during the semester. For example, two semesters ago we had a Christmas party and a movie night, last semester we had a trip to Dagstuhl, a movie night and a grilling party together with the bachelors honors program.

Once again this meeting needs to be organized next semester too, and then it would be great if we could have some activities next semester too.

4. Tutoring

One last issue, probably not as urgent, but surely important is that (at least according to the web site of the department) students in the master honors program: “must gain at least 4 credits by tutoring a basic or core lecture in computer science”. This regulation is the same as in the bachelors honors program and fails to take into account the many differences between the two programs:

  • Most students in the master honors program are not German and consequently don’t have enough German knowledge to be able to tutor a basic lecture in German.
  • Also the students coming from a different university usually need some time to adapt here before they can tutor anything (different academic level, different books used, different formalisms).
  • The repetition rate for core, advanced and specialized lectures is very often two years (as opposed to basic lecture where it’s just one year)
  • Most students in the master honors program have an IMPRS scholarship and do their master in three semesters so there is almost no way they can hear the same lecture twice so that they can tutor it the second time (even for a lectures with a repetition rate of one year if the student arrived in the “wrong” semester).
  • Despite the mentioned difficulties, some master students tutored advanced and specialized lectures which should definitely also count for fulfilling this requirement.

So, my opinion is that the regulations should be changed to take these issues into account.

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