Honors office, more opportunities recommended

In its final report, the task force on Honors and Scholars recommended the creation of an office of Honors, Scholars and Awards, more fellowship opportunities, transcript recognition for non-honors students who take honors courses and an opportunity for students to apply to the Honors Program after completing one semester at the College.

The task force was comprised of faculty members from the different schools of the College who want to develop more honors opportunities to allow students to grow intellectually, artistically and professionally.

“The task force believes that the changes we are recommending will expand the number of students participating in honors at (the College) by providing more honors opportunities and more points of entry into the Honors Program,” Morton Winston, task force chair and professor of philosophy, said.

The recommendations made in the report were presented to students and faculty members at three open forum meetings last week.

Suzanne H. Pasch, vice provost and convenor of the task force, said the Honors Program needs to adapt with the transformation of the College.

“It is a different kind of institution now … so many students are worthy of honors,” she said.

Pasch said one of the biggest changes could be having the different aspects of honors at the College under one umbrella.

The proposed office of Honors, Scholars and Awards would be comprised of a full-time director, who would report to the provost’s office and two faculty members who would serve three-year terms.

One faculty member would preside over honors opportunities, while the other would focus on scholarships and awards.

The office would also act as a liaison with collegewide honor societies such as Phi Kappa Phi, a national honor society.

Dave Adams, freshman chemistry major, said that the creation of an office is a good idea because it would lead to clarification of the Honors Program.

“I think it would be helpful just because with the Honors Program now you kind of have to guess,” Adams said.

Jennifer Colgan, sophomore English major, also liked the recommendations.

“I would have been more likely to apply if I would have known what was going on with school in general,” she said.

Lee Harrod, professor of English and Honors Program coordinator, said that the possibility of an office of Honors, Scholars and Awards is up to the administration and would at least take up to a year to be created.

“I hope the entire campus community will pay more attention and devote more energy to these issues,” Harrod said. “The Honors Program has been starved of resources in recent years.”

The final report said that a process should be developed for preparing faculty to better attract, identify, coach and mentor students in competing for national fellowships, scholarships and awards.

“As the faculty and staff capacity to support and mentor (College) honors students increases, students will be better prepared to compete for prestigious national honors and scholarships,” Winston said.

The task force believes that non-Honors Program students should receive credit on their transcripts for completing honors courses.

“What I’ve seen online from course listings on T.E.S.S. (The Electronic Student Services) is some of them seem so inapplicable to anything,” Colgan said.

Colgan said that mentioning honors courses on transcripts would benefit students more if they were designed around departments.

The task force also said the Honors Program should continue to require five intensive and interdisciplinary courses, while also suggesting additional ways to enhance the students’ learning experience.

These suggestions included full-semester learning community experiences that would involve interdisciplinary courses or courses pertaining to certain learning communities.

The final report states that students should no longer apply for the Honors Program based on admission criteria, but after the first semester of their first year.

Doreen Nuzzolese, freshman elementary education and math major, said that although she is in the Honors Program, she wished she knew more of what the program entailed when applying.

She said the program would probably be more organized and that the applying students would better understand the process if it began after the first semester at the College.

Through these changes, the Honors Program aims to increase the variety of courses and the number of external fellowships and awards students earn.

College President R. Barbara Gitenstein said she is pleased with the task force’s draft report and that it will be the key to redefining programs.

“I think it will serve as an excellent vehicle for campus discussions about what should be the honors opportunities for students at (the College),” Gitenstein said.