Skip to main content
Skip to navigation

Feb. 2, 2012 Volume 33, No. 18

Honors College program brings faculty and students into collaboration


GETTING TOGETHER Sophomore Pari Jafari and French Professor Mary Jo Muratore collaborated on a literary paper as part of the Honors College’s Learning-by-Contract. Mary Fama photo


Collaboration leads to published article

Last spring, an MU biology sophomore co-wrote an article with a professor.

But that’s not the amazing part.

Pari Jafari’s article was not on biology but literature. And the article has been selected for publication in an important literary journal on Romance languages.

Jafari thanks the Learning-by-Contract program offered by MU’s Honors College for the feat, describing her experience as a way to “have my cake and eat it, too.”

Learning-by-Contract allows students to earn honors credit by taking on a more intensive exploration of course material.

In a classroom setting, instruction tends to offer a general overview of a subject. Learning-by-Contract allows students to do an in-depth exploration of a classroom topic that might be in the form of a research paper or an essay.

A contract is drawn up by the Honors College that explains the project in detail and is signed by the instructor and student, who work closely together to fulfill the contract. 

Jafari’s road to published co-author began about one year ago when she took Mary Jo Muratore’s course Survey of French Literature (19th and 20th centuries).

Muratore saw a talent in Jafari and approached her about their writing a literary article as part of Learning-by-Contract.

“She had turned in a paper, one of the first assignments for everyone in the class, and it was just so good,” said Muratore, a professor of French. “She had such a flair for writing that I proposed that she write an article and we would work together to get it published.”

Muratore cautioned Jafari to keep her expectations about publication low.

“It is difficult to get things published,” Muratore said. “I tell my students that the point is not to get it accepted. The point is to put it together, to send it out, to write the cover letter, to try it and to fail. That’s fine. You’re going to fail the first couple of times.”

Muratore outlined a plan for the article and Jafari went to work, putting together an essay examining the role that realism and Romanticism play in the text of Honoré de Balzac’s Facino Cane.

Once completed, Muratore took what Jafari had produced, honed down the thesis, added an introduction and a conclusion, and sent it to Romance Notes, a top-flight journal in the field of Romance languages and literatures.

Last fall, Muratore called Jafari into her office and delivered the news that their article, titled “The Perils of Plausibility in Balzac’s Facino Cane,” had been selected for publication.

“I was a bit incredulous at first,” Jafari said.

“For an undergraduate to do this is truly extraordinary,” said Nancy West, director of the Honors College. “This accomplishment is a testament to Pari’s talent, intelligence and industry, and to Mary Jo’s inspiring mentorship of undergraduates.”

Both student and professor found participation in the program worthwhile.

“It is very rewarding to watch students grow and see them come up with something that they are interested in,” Muratore said. “One advantage of the Honors Learning-by-Contract is the unlimited possibilities. There is so much that can be done.”

“I have such good memories of being both challenged and engaged” by the project, Jafari said.

For more information on Learning-by-Contract, visit the MU Honors College website.

 — Joshua Murray