May 18, 2005

Campus to add honors program

A new honors program targeting incoming freshmen is scheduled to launch in fall 2006.

Ric Brown, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, says the program is very much in line with the campus' Destination 2010 initiative. "One of the tenets of 2010 is to enhance the excellence of the academic program to meet needs of all students. An honors program serves a segment of that."

Though the specifics are still being ironed out, Brown says it will be a two-year honors program feature a series of courses designed for high-achieving, highly motivated first-time students. Planning for the program will begin this fall to determine the coursework and eligibility requirements.

The Faculty Senate proposal for the program calls for admissions to be open to all freshman applicants with a high school GPA of 3.5 or higher or a 1200 or higher SAT score. Other students of exceptional ability, enthusiasm and commitment may also apply. They must also have passed or be exempt from the EPT and ELM tests.

The initial group will be a cohort of about 60, Brown says.

Efforts to ensure a diverse program include plans for scholarship support such as a potential Provost Honors Scholarship, Brown says. "We want to be sure funds are available for those who may need assistance." President Alexander Gonzalez, at his recent town hall meeting with the students, also indicated that he plans to seek private funds to endow the program.

The goal of the general education honors program is to provide a challenging liberal arts education in a small class setting-no more than 30 students per course.

The program will be composed of a broad spectrum of courses, most with an honors designation-either enhanced sections of established GE courses or specially created courses. They will focus on critical thinking and analysis, an interdisciplinary approach, and require active participation, discussion or research. Students in the program will complete 36 lower-division and nine upper-division units.

A faculty Honors Committee, made up of faculty teaching in the program with representation from other Colleges and departments that are not participating directly, will set the curriculum. A program director will supervises student recruitment and administration, faculty recruitment and program development.

While the new program is specifically designed as general education honors program, Brown says it could lead to additional honors programs or even an honors major.

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