Last week I formally announced two new opportunities in the Honors Program, both of which have been in the works for a while. I’m excited about both: one will offer tangible support to our Honors students who need a little help in getting important projects off the ground, and the other should help to foster greater equity between “traditional” Honors students who enter the program on Day One of their college studies and those (like transfer students) who come to the program a bit later on.

The former is a program offering modest grants to Honors students for scholarly and creative activities: students may submit proposals for support for travel to conferences, materials for creative projects, attendance of events relevant to their research, etc. The Great Ideas Grants (GIGs) will offer a small amount of funding for such activities, to the tune of $150 per awardee. It’s not much, but it’s a start: until now I’ve had literally no funding for such opportunities, so even this small bit is an improvement.

The latter is a new “certificate” to be awarded to Honors students who show continued and continual engagement with the Honors Program but who for one reason or another are unable to complete the somewhat stringent requirements of Distinction as a University Scholar, the recognition conferred upon students who bank 21 hours or more of Honors credits, maintain a 3.5 GPA in Honors and a 3.25 GPA overall, and finish at least two of our interdisciplinary special topics courses and an Honors section of LA 478. The new acknowledgement of achievement, Recognition as an Honors Scholar, will still require the student to take an Honors section of 478 but will require only 12 hours of Honors coursework, which must include only a single special topics course. I hope that this small measure of acknowledgement will encourage late bloomers to stay active in the program, even when they’ve no hope of meeting the requirements for Distinction. It should help to induce greater participation on the part of transfer students, as well.

Time will tell, time will tell. Meanwhile, I’ve got to get cracking on further equity-increasing adjustments to our admissions procedure. I hope to have these in place by this coming spring, when we’ll court a brand new class of outstanding students.

Coming soon: a long-promised guest post from an amazing former student and a discussion of an electoral exercise I tried out on my colleague Amanda’s political rhetoric class last night!



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