By Anna Patrick, Editor
WLU’s Honors Program is in the process of becoming an Honors College.
Dr. Susan McGowan-Koyzis, who completed her doctoral work in Educational Policy, Planning and Leadership with an area of emphasis in Gifted Education Administration, has been appointed the Interim Dean for the Honors College. McGowan-Koyzis said “the work of building it and putting it together and working with the faculty” is currently underway to allow the first Honors College class to enter the University in the fall of 2012.
“Honors college students are going to be the incoming class, the freshman in the Fall of 2012,” McGowan-Koyzis added.
West Liberty’s current Honors Program has approximately 20 students and is under the advisement of Dr. Peter Staffel. The current requirements for honors students include four major areas. To currently graduate with honors, honors program students must take four honors seminars, participate in two mentorings with professors of their choice, complete a senior project worth two to three credit hours and attend an enrichment trip every semester.
“We don’t want to replace what is already there because what’s already there is good. We just want to make it more rigorous, maybe shift some of the focus,” McGowan-Koyzis said.
After looking at the Honors Program, McGowan-Koyzis concluded, “the level of expectation (for the current program) wasn’t where most honors colleges have it.”
“For me education isn’t one size fits all… every individual student is different.”
McGowan-Koyzis is working on designing Honors College requirements that meet the needs of honors students.
WLU’s Honors College will require 26 honors credit hours in order to graduate with honors. To enter the Honors College students will have to have a 3.5 high school G.P.A. and have received a 27 on the ACT or a 1250 on the SAT.
Honors College students will have to complete a three credit hour senior project.McGowan-Koyzis said she hopes to get the students’ capstone work published, as it would help them tremendously when applying for graduate school.
Honors College students will also be required to complete a study abroad experience worth three credit hours. McGowan-Koyzis said she currently has a faculty member working on designing a trip for honors students to take in the summer of 2013 to gain honors credit.
Like the regular first year experience class, a new first year experience class for honors students will be offered and mandatory for two honors credit hours.
Finally, Honors College students will have to gain an additional 18 honors credit hours to graduate with Honors. They will be able to do it in three ways. Honors seminars will continue to be offered for students. Seminars are classes proposed by faculty within the University to focus on subjects and areas that are currently not taught. They are similar to special topics courses, and University professors apply to teach them.
Regarding the honors seminars, Staffel said, “I think it’s important for kids who are academically gifted to be given an opportunity to work with other kids like themselves… to be put in a classroom that offers a kind of subject matter that they are not going to get in any other class. To challenge them that way, but potentially let them have a lot of fun as well.”
He added the honors seminars give students “an opportunity to have an educational experience that otherwise is perhaps not part of West Liberty.”
Honors college students will also be able to get honors credit by taking honors sections of regular courses. Honors sections of English 101 and 102 are being taught this semester. Staffel said honors sections are regular general education courses that are academically enriched. Only honors students can sign up for them, and “they are a way for our gifted students to work in an environment of enrichment,” Staffel said.
Honors students will also be able to receive honors credit by signing up for a course with honors enhancement. The honors enhancements would work in courses that do not have honors sections, but still have honors students who want their courses to be enriched.
McGowan-Koyzis said to make this occur, faculty will have to agree to develop honors courses within their already existing courses. “The professor can differentiate for those (honors) students, and the honors work can be done within the regular classroom.”
McGowan-Koyzis will be working with faculty within the colleges to develop the differentiated instruction to add honors enrichment. This will allow professors to meet honors students’ needs while not changing everything they are doing.
“If you are an honors student you should be able to get the education you could get for you, and if that means going further, that’s why you are here. For the student who is not an honors student, they should get everything they can get, and if it’s not honors work that’s fine.”
McGowan-Koyzis said another future goal is to add interdisciplinary or paired courses to course offerings. Interdisciplinary courses would combine two courses into one. For example Western Civilization and World Literature overlap in many ways; an interdisciplinary class would combine the two into one class.
“This has to be done in baby steps because part of it is taking an existing program and doing it in a way where the students aren’t threatened, the faculty isn’t threatened and they are invested in it,” McGowan-Koyzis said, “Part of my role is to make sure that everyone is comfortable with this.”
“I want to see it come together as a real learning community where honors students are living and working and learning together,” McGowan-Koyzis said.
“Going as far, as deep, as fast and as rich as they possibly can in whatever area they are passionate about.”