Bantz welcomes Early Honors students: ‘Call me Don’

Advanced high schoolers enrolled in APU’s Early Honors program gained an up-close view of active learning when President Don Bantz strode into the classroom for a student-led interview and handed out his business card. The first slightly nervous question: How should high school seniors address the university president? “Call me Don,” he said. And they did:


‘I’m looking forward to an enriching year’

By Katie Parker, Chugiak High
APU Early Honors ’13

Our interview with President Bantz was not what I expected: We prepared by gathering information about and developing questions for someone who would be the equivalent of our new principal.

It sounds stuffy and pretty awkward, but it absolutely was not.

When President Bantz started speaking, what had been a roomful of slightly frightened teenagers became more comfortable: Don shared his take on Early Honors and the type of active learning we’ll be doing during our senior year of high school at Alaska Pacific University.

He told about his own high school and college experiences and developed connections with us through his judgment-less responses and personal stories.

What struck me most was his passion for APU, us students and learning: Don said that at APU, we’d “learn to learn” within a team culture that’s challenging and supportive. Our interview with Don was a pleasure and has me looking forward to an enriching year.


‘Active learning is the best way to really learn’

By Tatyana Benko, Frontier Charter School
APU Early Honors ’13

“Why is there an Early Honors program at APU?”

That’s what EH students who interviewed President Bantz wanted to know during our interview with him. He explained that Early Honors is a way for high school students to prepare for college and jumpstart careers. Don told us that only 50 percent of U.S. high school graduates are ready for college – a very unsettling statistic.

Don believes that the best and brightest deserve to be challenged and this is what the Early Honors program does. He told us that one of the main differences between EH and high school is size; because APU has one of the smallest class sizes in the United States, students gain personalized attention and a chance to learn from peers as well as teachers.

APU is a place where students solve problems by discussing and trying solutions together, Don said. Another main feature of Early Honors program is active learning; APU teaches through hands-on methods, which are the best way to really learn.

When we asked about his own high school years, Don said he had senioritis, became bored and goofed off. His daughter had a similar experience and that inspired him to help other high school seniors.


‘Cool, unique classes expand our minds’

By Frankie Dunbar, Polaris K-12
APU Early Honors ’13

My fellow students and I had a very relevant question for President Bantz: Why would we pay for an education that we could get for free with AP classes at a regular high school?

Don’s answers were pretty simple and they struck home.

Learning is a process that should be done on a deep level, he said. When students are learning, we sort out the process of acquiring knowledge by applying critical thinking to help us better understand what we’re doing. We understand how to apply knowledge through hands-on experiences presented in a small-classroom environment.

My question to Don was, “How should we use Early Honors at APU to help discover our passions, so that we can pursue them and make life interesting?”

Don explained that while we’re enrolled at APU, we’ll have access to many cool and unique classes to expand our minds and potentially take us out of our comfort zones.

He told us that when we do these things, we grow at a much faster rate than doing what we know that’s comfortable. I think of all the things we heard from Don, this insight was what stood out most for me.


Students learn from peers as well as faculty

By Anastasia Keogh,
APU Early Honors ’13

At Early Honors student orientation, everyone was a bit uncomfortable at the thought of meeting the university president and asking him questions. But once Dr. Bantz walked through the door with an easy-going smile, worries were put at ease.

His first words – “Please call me Don’ – set the tone for a stress-free interview. We wanted to know why APU developed the Early Honors program, why mix high school students with college students, and how Early Honors is different from taking AP classes in high school.

One recurring word that brought laughter from us was “size.” Don explained that when dealing with education, size does matter. He said that size is one of the most obvious differences when moving from high school to college and at APU, classes have a low student-faculty ratio.

“APU students learn not only from the faculty but from each other,” he said. Don said that learning to apply APU’s team approach to problem solving is what students gain when they join APU’s community of learning, where students and faculty are on a first-name basis.

Education is like a journey, he said, and every journey needs a guide. Don said to consider him and other faculty at APU as our guides. He gave each of us his business card and said to stop by, email or call anytime we have a question.


‘I can only imagine that learning will be fun’

By Nik Butler, Service High
APU Early Honors ’13

Don Bantz’s views on “deep learning” are very beneficial for us Early Honors students. He helped us see that we can become more passionate about what we are learning because we will enjoy working together to figure things out. I can only imagine that it will be fun too.

Another great perk Don described is APU’s small class sizes. This is very good for us students because we will have a lot more one-on-one time with teachers, including time after class to ask questions.

I believe that Don aspires to bring out the best in students and is not satisfied unless we are given the greatest opportunity to learn and succeed. I appreciate that quality.


‘We can take charge of our education’

By Peyton Johnson, Dimond High
APU Early Honors ’13

At the start, it seemed to me there was a bit of anxiety – even dread – about conducting our Early Honors group interview with APU President Don Bantz.

But as Don spoke about his youth and his experiences at different schools as a student and a leader, the tone that student interviewers took changed; we as a group became more invested in our questions. We observed that he was committed to providing a place where we can learn and take charge of our own education. We wanted to warrant his interest.

Don told us about a college class he was able to pass by showing up on the first and last days only: “I figured out how to get lost in that bureaucracy.” He recalled a youthful journey, backpacking and hitchhiking through Europe, and it made me long for a time I’ve never known.


‘APU has a very different approach’

By Alea Robinson, Chugiak High
APU Early Honors ’13

This summer I toured a couple of colleges and at each one, nothing was mentioned about the campus president. I would think colleges would want new students to know who the president is and what he or she has done for the school.

APU has a very different approach: It wants students to know who their university president is, what his background is like, and why he is at APU.

Without having to wait for a speech by the president at freshman orientation, I’m among Early Honors high school seniors who recently interviewed APU President Don Bantz. We learned
why APU offers Early Honors as well as more about Don himself, including why he loves his job and what his plans are for APU.

Don told us that hands-on learning is one of the best ways to teach. I feel this is true because I am a visual learner and must have an example in front of me to understand the concept.

He also explained the benefit of smaller classes and value of learning from your classmates as well as from the professor. He told us that Early Honors immerses students in a college atmosphere while we’re still able to participate in high school activities and have our parents close by for support.

Before leaving, Don wanted to make sure we knew it was OK to talk to him. He handed out his business cards and told us to visit whenever we are free.

Housed in the Liberal Studies Department, Early Honors at Alaska Pacific University is the only dual-enrollment program of its kind in Alaska for academically advanced high school juniors and seniors. APU is a student-centered private university founded in 1959 and committed to experiential learning for personal, moral and spiritual growth.