The Honors College Orientation is held twice a year: once in late August for students
joining the Honors College for the fall term and again in late January for new Honors
students for the spring term. Honors Orientation is a required program designed to
introduce incoming students to the foundations of undergraduate honors education at
Towson University. Honors Orientation provides new students and students transferring
from other institutions opportunities to:
Learn about important requirements and specialized Honors resources
Fall Orientation for Honors students admitted for the fall is typically held on the
Wednesday and Thursday prior to the start of the fall term. Spring Orientation for
students admitted for the spring term is typically held during the first week of classes.
Honors Orientation is free and separate from campus-wide Orientation overseen by the office of New Student and Family Programs. That orientation is mandatory
for all students and incurs a fee. Please contact New Student and Family Programs with any questions regarding Orientation.
Fall 2018 Orientation
Fall Honors Orientation is required for incoming freshmen and students transferring
from other institutions. There is no cost to attend. Enrolled incoming students are
required to register online to confirm their attendance at Honors Orientation.
Honors Orientation was the evening of Wednesday, August 22 and all day on Thursday,
August 23. Confirmed dates and times, schedule details, and additional information
regarding Honors Orientation was provided to incoming students overthe summer.
Incoming Honors students who elect to live on-campus were scheduled to move in early
to their assignments on Wednesday, August 22, one day earlier than incoming TU students
who are not members of the Honors College. Details on move in were provided to students
in August. Returning Honors students, and all incoming students living in Douglass
House but admitted to the Honors College, have separate move-in dates and times. All
students must follow the move-in timeline provided to them by Housing & Residence Life.
HONORS COLLEGE READ
A common read is a required part of the Honors Orientation experience in August. This
program provides an opportunity for Honors students to read and explore issues that
contribute to broad intellectual development while also fostering intellectual ties
between Honors students, faculty and staff. Incoming students can purchase this book
on Amazon or other online resellers, at local retail stores, or borrow it from the
The 2018 Honors College Read is Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy by Cathy O'Neil.
Incoming students must prepare a written, typed response to the a series of question
prompts provided after the Honors College read is announced. Please write as much
as you'd like. Some questions may only require a sentence or two while others may
need a longer response. Responses will be collected, so be sure to include your full
The goals of the Honors College Read are:
Provide incoming students a chance to connect with other students
Provide incoming students simulated classroom discussion experience led by faculty
Provide students with a learning opportunity that relates to the academic expectations
of the Honors College
Create an opportunity for critical thinking and ethical engagement
Honors Read Questions
Consider the author’s use of the phrases “WMD” and “Weapons of Math Destruction” as
rhetorical devices. By selectively applying these pejoratives, the author is trying
to establish her point of view. Can you identify other examples of this rhetorical
technique in current use?
The author writes “As insurance companies learn more about us, they’ll be able to
pinpoint those who appear to be the riskiest customers and then either drive their
rates to the stratosphere or, where legal, deny them coverage. This is a far cry from
insurance’s original purpose, which is to help society balance its risk. In a targeted
world, we no longer pay the average.” (p. 171) Should the riskiest customers be charged
more for insurance than the safest customers? Suppose that the difference in risk
between customers is due to decisions and behavior, e.g. buying a house in a flood plain or smoking. Suppose that the difference in risk between customers is out
of the customer’s control, e.g. pre-existing medical conditions. What would be the
fairest approach to pricing insurance?
The author writes: “Forget, at least for the next decade or two, about building tools
to measure the effectiveness of a teacher. It’s too complex to model, and the only
available data are crude proxies. The model is simply not good enough yet to inform
important decisions about the people we trust to teach our children. That’s a job
that requires subtlety and context.” (pp. 208-209) How would you identify the best
and worst teachers that you had as a student in high school? How would you identify
the best and worst teachers in your entire high school? How would you identify the
best and worst teachers in all of the high schools in your county? Would we be better
off as a country if we waited a decade or two to build tools that measure the effectiveness
of a teacher?
The author describes the use of mathematical models for political messaging and microtargeting
(Chapter 10). Do you think that these models played a role in the 2016 election? Why/why
The author provides an oath from Emanuel Derman and Paul Wilmott for mathematical
modelers (pp. 205-206). What would you add or subtract from that oath? The author
provides several examples of problematic mathematical models, but in many cases the
problems stem from unscrupulous users of the model rather than inherent characteristics
of the model. Consider the story of Sarah Wysocki (Introduction), where the problem
may have been artificially inflated starting scores for her student. What moral obligations,
if any, do the users of a mathematical model have? Questions prepared by Professor Michael O’Leary, Towson University, Dept. of Mathematics
If you have any questions about Honors Orientation programs, please feel free to contact
us at 410-704-4677 or at honors AT_TOWSON.