Honors to phase out

Replace: Broader initiative to open for more students

By Scott Dykowski
On April 14, 2011

  • Administrators plan to replace the Honors Program with a broader research initiative. Graphic by Tim Lester

The university is phasing out the Honors Program to replace it with a broader research initiative.

President Joseph C. Rallo said the university is phasing the Honors Program out because, since it only required two Honors classes, it is not a true Honors Program. For that reason, the program is simply an undergraduate research program, Rallo said, and he wants to open that to a broader range of students.  

"If you look at the actual transcript those are undergraduate research classes for most degrees; some such as chemistry have a few more courses," Rallo said.  "The curriculum and requirements are confusing as written and as practiced."

The Honors program required a minimum of 18 Honors credit hours for all majors, including upper level Honors courses, to graduate with Honors and receive the Carr Honors Scholarship. Students were to also attend at least four meetings a semester, do a community service project and write a reflection paper over that experience. The program required students to attend at least one Honors social event.

"It's indeed a good idea to extend the research initiative that the division of Academic Affairs has proposed," Student Body President and Honors student Hector Romo said. "[However,] they fail to notice that the Honors Program is much more – and goes much further – than academia. For example, Honors students are required to do community service, participate in a culture-enriching and social activities. We are also encouraged to participate in city-wide boards and committees. All of these experiences provide for bonding between these talented and intellectual students, and this is what creates the family that we are fighting for."

Administrators plan to replace the program with a broader research initiative.

"We encourage research on a department-by-department basis," Provost of Academic Affairs Dr. Anthony Blose said. "That's always been true.  We will be configuring a more cohesive plan for undergrad research as we move forward, but details are not available just yet."

The university will charge students $1 per semester credit hour, to total $180,000. Out of this money, students interested in doing undergraduate research may obtain funding, Rallo said.

The entirety of the Carr Honors Scholarship will continue to fund the current Honors students, as long as they maintain a 3.25 average, commit to community service, and participate in culture-enriching programs and social activities, Rallo said.

Mayor Alvin New, who made a $250,000 donation to the Honors Program in 2008, will have to decide how he wants the remaining money, $100,000, to be spent once the program is phased out.

Rallo said if external funding sources gave $4 million to $6 million, he would consider creating a true Honors Program and curriculum.

"[A true Honors Program] would start with a defined curriculum for all four years, an honors degree (major or minor), and a signature capstone experience to tie the pieces together," Rallo said. "Additionally, external enriching experiences such as internships, study abroad, job shadowing, professional mentors, guest lecturers, etc."

The university provides funding for Honors in a variety of ways.

"The university funds two and 1/2 staff positions, a maintenance and operation account, and an additional $20,000 in enrichment funding to support such things as class trips, cultural enrichment activities (symphony and theater tickets), receptions and awards banquets, and graduation stoles and medallions," Honors Director Dr. Shirley Eoff said.

These funds will help support the Honors professional staff and current Honors students until they graduate. Once they have graduated, the funds will support the broader undergraduate research initiative.

The program director receives relief from teaching two classes, but does not receive additional salary or incentives.

Academic Affairs plans to renovate the Honors Lounge as a part of the tutoring center and the advising center for predeclared students.

"The fact that we will no longer have an Honors Lounge will definitely add to the difficulties that we're now facing in trying to save the Honors Program," Romo said.

Honors housing in Texan Hall will continue to house Honors students if the current students choose to live there, Communications and Marketing Director Preston Lewis said, but the hall itself will be designated for general use once the program is completely phased out.

 Honors employs three staff members, an Honors officer, an Honors adviser and an Honors secretary, that the university plans to utilize as advisers for undergraduate research, Rallo said.  

The Honors Program did over 400 hours of community service last fall, Honors Program Vice President Brenna Smith said. The program volunteered at organizations around town, including Sadie's Rescue, Concho Valley Food Bank, HEB Feast of Sharing, Galilee Community Development board, Ft. Concho, Children's Miracle Network, San Angelo Cultural Affairs Council, and the San Angelo Symphony.

Rallo said the Quality Enhancement Plan will possibly initiate community enhancement programs soon that will help replace the Honors community service.

The Honors program plans to attend the Great Plains Honors Council and the National Collegiate Honors Council this year, because dues have already been paid. Once the program formally ends, no one will represent ASU at those councils, Eoff said.

The Honors Program consisted of 130 students this semester, consisting of 20 freshmen, 37 sophomores,  32 juniors and 41 seniors. The program informed nine incoming freshmen, who were accepted into the Honors Program, that the program can no longer accept them, Honors Program Officer Nancy Larson said.

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