Miami University announced last week that the University Honors Program will be transitioning into an honors college beginning fall 2021.
Zeb Baker, director of the university honors program, said the decision was made to provide more opportunities for students as the honors program continues to evolve.
“In recent years, the success of our honors students in competing for things like national fellowships, being placed in top graduate programs across the country or getting job placements has led the university to think about, ‘How can we amplify the work that we’re doing with honors students in general?’” Baker said.
He explained that the university also considered honors programs at similar colleges throughout the rest of the country in order to make a decision on how to attract “really good” students.
“The discussions landed on the idea of inaugurating an honors college because it provides us with a venue in which to build the kind of community of learners that ultimately can help the university to attract and retain students of the kind that would be going into an honors college,” Baker said.
The honors college will also provide opportunities for more collaborations between students and faculty, with the honors college acting as a venue for faculty to explore new ideas to benefit “the entire culture of undergraduate learning,” Baker said.
Students who are already involved in the honors program will transition to the honors college but will keep the same academic requirements as the previous program. They will not have to fulfill any new condition given to incoming first-years in the honors college.
Students who are joining the honors college as first-years will have new academic requirements, including a minimum GPA and thesis requirement.
“I honestly think it’s a great idea,” said junior Elizabeth Weber, who is part of the current honors program. “I think writing the thesis is a really interesting aspect and will help [propel] the honors college to new heights.”
Junior Marie Duke, who is also part of the honors program, agrees.
“From what I’ve read, it sounds like they’re going to be having more flexibility in what they can provide to honors students,” Duke said. “Which I think is great.”
In addition to more course opportunities, students joining the honors college will live in an honors community, or a “residential college,” which will likely be placed on Western campus, using Beechwoods, Hillcrest and Stonebridge residence halls.
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“It will be a place where there will be a more enhanced and enriched residential curriculum,” Baker said. “It will be a curriculum — or a community, I should say — that the students are really shaping and leading. We want this to be a student-driven community.”
Weber said she thinks the new community will provide an even better outlet for honors students to create a community than before.
“The more opportunities … and other programming will also help the honors college come together more,” she said. “Sometimes I think the program falls short in being a community, because I think some people are just going through the requirements.”
Duke agreed that a closer-knit community would be beneficial to the honors college. She said she more often connects with individuals within the honors program, rather than with the honors community as a whole.
“I think if I had been a freshman and, you know, living in that community where they were actively trying to get everyone to participate, it could have been influential in making the decision to be more active in that group,” she said.
Baker said the new residential college will provide more opportunities to engage students.
“There will be an opportunity for greater leadership amongst our honors students in really determining what is the nature of that community and how do we sustain the values of learning and living together throughout all four years the student participates in the honors college,” Baker said.
Students in the honors college will also have access to exclusive study abroad experiences beginning summer 2021.
The university is also working to evolve and further improve other programs, such as the Presidential Fellows and the University Academic Scholars Program, now called the Prodesse Scholars Program. This new name comes from Miami’s Motto, ”Prodesse Quam Conspici”, which translates to “to accomplish without being conspicuous”. Baker sees there being an eventual connection between all three communities as the university continues to advance.
“I certainly see there being synergies between the honors college and Prodesse scholars moving forward,” he said. “Likewise, the Presidential Fellows continue to exist, and that program is going to continue on just as it is right now. And I would imagine that there would be students that would be drawn out of both programs, the honors college and the Prodesse scholars, that would have the option to be in the Presidential Fellows.”
Applications for the class of 2021 opened Aug. 1, with the application for the honors college included. Baker said that while the application won’t change much with the transition from the honors program, “what will change is the opportunities for the university to offer to prospective students who are interested in coming here and being part of the honors college.”