Proposal to Establish an Honors College at MiIlersville University
the University Honors Program Committee
Steven M. Miller, Ph.D., Director of the University Honors Program
Proposal to establish an Honors College at Millersville University
Established in 1980, Millersville University's Honors Program is considered one of the strongest such programs in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education and has been nationally recognized for the quality of its academic program and for its provision of cultural opportunities and other extracurricular activities for students. In his 1988 publication How to Get an Ivy League Education at a State University, Martin Nemko singled out Millersville's Honors Program as one of the 43 outstanding honors programs in the country. Students in the University Honors Program have been accepted into highly competitive summer internship programs, have continued their studies at prestigious graduate schools, and have pursued interesting and challenging careers.
Thanks in large part to the unfailing commitment and energy of Program founder Dr. John Osborne over the course of 19 years, the Honors Program has developed from a small, experimental program to a well-respected program with. a structured and rigorous curriculum as well as many extracurricular opportunities for students. in the form of cultural programs and research grants. Nearly one third of Millersville's faculty have actively participated in the Honors Program, either through the development of honors courses, the teaching of honorscourses, or service on the University Honors Program Committee. At present, approximately 300 students are enrolled in the University Honors Program with about 80 freshmen admitted each year. Typically, fewer than 20 percent of students enrolled in honors programs nationwide graduate from those programs. At Millersville more. than 30 percent of those who join the Program complete its rigorous requirements which include demonstrating competence in calculus and writing a senior thesis. In tears of curriculum, research opportunities, and cultural activities, Millersville's Honors Program is already comparable to many institutions' honors colleges.
In November of 1597 the Director of the University Honors Program and the University Honors Program Committee prepared an Honors College concept paper which was presented to Faculty Senate. Attached as an appendix to this proposal, the concept paper explains the differences between an Honors Program and an Honors College and details some possible directions for an Honors College at Millersville. An Honors College will extend the mission of the Honors Program by incorporating meaningful opportunities for community service, by developing mechanisms for internships, by encouraging departments to design special Honors courses of study, and by providing institutional avenges for preparing students to compete successfully for national scholarships, fellowships, and positions in prestigious graduate schools. The difference between a College and a Program is one of scale. and commitment rather than structure.
During the spring semester of 1998, Deans' Council suggested that a consultant be brought to Millersville to make recommendations regarding the feasibility of establishing an Honors College. The University Honors Program Committee considered several individuals as possible consultants and in July of 1998 submitted two names to the Associate Provost for Academic Programs and Services. In January of 1999 Dr. William P. Mech, Dean of the Honors College at Florida Atlantic University and former Dean of the Honors College at Boise State University, was approved by Deans' Council. Dr. Mech visited Millersville in March of 1999, meeting with students, faculty, and members of the University administration in a variety of settings.
In his report, attached to this proposal, consultant Mech states, ."The successful implementation of an Honors College will give Honors education a more central, visible and coherent position within the university. It will improve the-recruitment efforts of the entire university... The presence of an Honors College is attractive for development proposes, too. This draws much-needed gifts into the university."
In May of 1999 a special report was submitted to Faculty Senate by the University Honors Program Committee. Discussed at the June 1999 meeting of Faculty Senate, the report encouraged all faculty to participate in future discussions about the establishment of an Honors College. In September of 1999 the University Honors Program Committee held four discussion sessions, inviting all members of the University community to share their views about the possibility of establishing an Honors College at Millersville. Prior to the discussions sessions, the University Honors Program Committee distributed to all faculty and all students in the University Honors Program a list of frequently asked questions that is attached to this proposal.
After careful consideration; after having conducted open meetings to share and gain information from faculty, administrators, and dents; and after conferring with an expert outside consultant, the Director of the University Honors Program and the University Honors Program Committee conclude that the University will benefit greatly from the transition to an Honors College. As a College, Honors curricula and programming would gain increased visibility and recognition, consistent with the achievements of recent University Honors graduates and Honors faculty. At present, the Millersville University Honors Program is favorably comparable to public university honors colleges elsewhere in Pennsylvania. and throughout the region; Honors curricular development, advising, faculty, and cultural activities have been cited by national surveys and evaluations that have ranked Millersville highly for its academic programs. Thus, such a transition is timely.
While continuing present Honors policies and curriculum, the Honors College will better serve students and faculty in several ways: by enhancing the academic climate of the University community; by providing improved recruitment, retention, and enrollment management for the University community as a whole; by encouraging pedagogical excellence and experimentation among faculty; and by attracting additional revenues in conjunction with the University Development Office. An Honors College aims to:
Without changing the present organizational structure of the Honors Program, Honors College designation will improve the visibility and recognition of academic excellence necessary to increase financial support from corporate and private donors. As a visible sign of commitment to excellence, the College will attract a greater number of talented students to the University and will contribute to retention and enrollment management initiatives across campus.
The University Honors Program Committee and the Honors Program Director propose the establishment of an Honors College to replace the current Honors Program. While continuing present Honors policies and curriculum, the Honors College will better serve students and faculty in several ways: by enhancing the academic climate of the University community; by providing improved recruitment, retention, and enrollment management for the University community as a whole; by encouraging pedagogical excellence-and experimentation among faculty; and by attracting additional revenues in conjunction with the University Development Office. Without changing the present organizational structure of the Honors Program, Honors College designation will improve the visibility and recognition of academic excellence necessary to increase financial support from corporate and private donors. As a visible sign of commitment to excellence, the College will attract a greater number of talented students to the University and will contribute to retention and enrollment management initiatives across campus.
An Honors College, like an Honors Program, is a carefully articulated opportunity for learning within the framework of the larger university. Both are designed to enhance the academic climate of the entire University community while providing for students with exceptional academic talents and motivation the especially challenging opportunities to develop skills essential to post-graduate leadership. The difference between a College and a Program is one of scale and commitment rather than numbers or structure. The proposed Honors College would preserve the Program's faculty leadership and supervision without adding administrative positions; the Director and College Committee would continue to be selected from the faculty exactly as in the past.
The presence of an Honors College is a clear sign that the University is committed to academic excellence and has committed substantial resources to achieving high academic goals. The Honors College would cultivate curricular and programmatic flexibility allowing it to serve as a crucible of curricular and pedagogical experimentation benefiting the whole University. Building a community of faculty and student interaction, the College guarantees a core of highly motivated students whose presence enhances the intellectual, creative, and cultural climate of the entire campus. Preparing students for graduate and professional. education beyond the baccalaureate, the College would provide an indication of the hihest quality undergraduate education the University offers and contribute to the acceptance of Millersville alumni/ae into graduate, professional, and other programs of advanced study. The College would be advantageous in efforts to attract greater numbers of talented students with more diverse backgrounds and would improve the academic and cultural community of the University as a whole. The Honors College would enhance both the quality and the reputation of Millersville University.
The Honors College aims to provide a unique model of academic community by offering curriculum, cultural enhancement, and supportive advisement designed to involve students in their own education while encouraging them to contribute actively to the University and wider community. The Honors College aims to mirror the highest goals of the university and to enable honors students to perceive more clearly their special responsibility in the continuous cycle of providing, receiving, and renewing the benefits of education within and beyond the community of learners at Millersville University.
As a College, Honors curricula and programming would- gain increased visibility and recognition, consistent with the achievements of recent University Honors graduates and Honors faculty. The current Honors Program has grown and succeeded in its present form to bring recognition to Millersville University since its formation in 1980. After careful consideration; after having conducted open meetings to share and gain information from faculty, administrators, and students; and after conferring with an expert outside consultant, the Director and Committee conclude that the University will benefit greatly from the transition to an Honors College. At present, the Millersville University Honors Program is favorably comparable to public university honors colleges elsewhere in Pennsylvania and throughout the region; Honors curricular development, advising, faculty, and cultural activities have been cited by national surveys and evaluations that have ranked Millersville highly for its academic programs. Thus, such a transition is timely.
In his exit interview in March 1999, outside consultant William F. Mech indicated that there are four compelling reasons for Millersville University to make the transition from Honors Program to Honors College:
Already offering students many of the services associated with Honors Colleges across the country, the University Honors Program functions much as an Honors College at the present time, with notable exceptions of visibility, facilities, and financial resources. Establishment as an Honors College would remedy these areas and assure continued success in meeting present goals. With the commitment represented by the College designation, Honors recruitment, advising, curriculum, cultural enhancement, and development would benefit from increased funding from private and corporate contributions. Improving visibility and availability of Honors housing, classroom space, staff, and records is unavoidably linked to increased financial support. Working with University Development Offices, the Director and Program Committee expect this support to come primarily from outside donors, contributing to the University's economic resources rather than drawing from present resources. The expectation is that new movies will enable the current programmatic goals to be met and Honors College growth in service to be realized.
Enhanced Academic Climate
The presence of an Honors College signals institutional commitment to academic goals and values, making academic excellence a central and highly visible feature of the University, attracting and supporting students with academic aspirations, and increasing the University's reputation for high-quality higher education.
Millersville University graduates are traditionally awarded Latin. accolades magna cum laude, summa cum laude, and cum laude for achievement measured by cumulative grade-point averages; Departmental Honors are awarded for achievements in graduates' major fields. Graduation from the Honors College will provide an indication of the high quality of students' overall achievement in a particularly challenging and rewarding curriculum that includes liberal arts and sciences, general education, and the major area of concentration. Honors education fosters and indicates high standards of quality, clarifying the context in which grades are earned.
For nearly twenty years the Honors Program has provided an important indicator of excellence by recognizing graduates who have completed the Program's and the University's requirements with distinctionmarking not only high grades but also the quality of curriculum on which the grades are based. University Honors Program graduates have excelled in demanding core requirements (calculus, laboratory science; literary and intellectual traditions) within general and additional educational areas, and they have demonstrated success in independent research and faculty collaboration represented by the honors thesis. Honors College designation is appropriate to distinguish these graduates as achieving excellence across the curriculum with emphasis on independence, creativity, active participation in the learning process, and service to the community.
The Honors College aims to build on the Honors Program's foundation in academic excellence and to provide an environment conducive to further achievement for individual students and for the University as a whole. All the goals that follow are connected to the core of academic excellence the Honors College embodies and represents. Campus culture, classroom pedagogy, curricular innovation, and pre-professional advising are elements of the academic environment the College seeks to enhance. In brief, the Honors College seeks to provide a unique model of the University, to be a source and resource for academic activity in the highest sense and for the deepest purposes. The Honors College can. become the core, the heart, of the University and a network to connect its diverse parts.
Enhanced CuItural Environment
Although not completely distinguishable from the academic climate, cultural elements have been supported by the Honors Program in the past and will have an increasingly positive impact on students across campus with the transition to an Honors College.
Field trips and activities that widen students' perspectives--attending performances and visiting museums and historic or scientific sites-will continue to hallmark Honors education at Millersville. Over the last 19 years, the Honors Program has broadened the scope of honors students' education with confidence-building ropes courses and white water rafting; honors students have been offered opportunities to attend operas, symphonic concerts, and performances in Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York City. The Honors College will be able to publicize and increase the availability of these extracurricular activities while offering more opportunities on campus for a University-wide audience and in the local area to expand students' perceptions of cultural diversity. Continuing the goal of expanding students' horizons, the Honors College will continue to provide transportation and guidance, taking students beyond the immediate region and into the culturally rich areas not far from Lancaster County. The College will also encourage students to see their near environment in more complex and appreciative ways, organizing visits and facilitating internships that encourage students to apply what they learn in the classroom to the world at hand. For example, the College will support interaction between University students and local museums and historic places-Wheatland, a Presidential home, and The Ephrata Cloister, the site of a religious community, are nearly destinations; the Lancaster County Historical Society, The Demuth Foundation, and the Lancaster Museum of Art are but a few of the local organizations that can widen students' perspectives and benefit from students' interest. The College will encourage significant volunteer, cooperative education, and internship experiences with local organizations and businesses. For example, this year the first Fulton Bank Scholars have met with mentors from the local financial. institution that funded their honors scholarships; possibilities for "town and gown" interaction are numerous and will be increasingly possible with the increased recognition and support expected from establishing the Honors College. Millersville University is uniquely positioned-geographically and historically-to foster interaction between students and the local community. The Honors College will contribute to that interaction.
Cultural growth will be additionally nurtured by excursions and activities linked to honors courses and made available to all students enrolled. For example, the fall 1999 dinner event for Afro-American Literature, sponsored by tire Honors Program, included students from honors and general sections of the course. The Honors College will make more opportunities available to more students by sponsoring on-campus events, discussion sessions coordinated with campus events, and off-campus trips open to interested faculty and students.
Supplements to campus life will include Honors College co-sponsorship and shared publicity for visiting scholars, artists, and public figures. With increased visibility and commitment, the Honors College will serve as a focal point and a point of contact for collaborative events. For spring 2000, a visiting poet sponsored by various campus groups will visit Honors classes, and co-sponsorship of events is being planned to link Honors with student and faculty groups across campus. Establishment of the Honors College will facilitate cooperative efforts to bereft the entire University.
With improved facilities, the Honors College will be able to host numerous small group discussions open to students, faculty, and staff across campus. The existence of ground-floor lounge and seminar areas would facilitate academic, cultural, and social gatherings to encourage the thoughtful exchange of ideas and diverse perspectives--creating an environment that validates and values the academic community.
Improved Recruitment and Retention
As consultant Dr. William Mech reported, "successful implementation of an Honors College will give Honors education a more central, visible and coherent position within the university. It will improve the recruitment efforts of the entire university..." Mech asserts that the Honors College will attract not only students seeking admission to the College but also students who perceive the value of a University committed to honors education. Honors College recruitment will preserve the Program's tradition of seeking and inviting students with notable academic potential as reflected in standardized test scores and high school class rank, and the College will also actively recruit creative and highly motivated students whose records show the desire to make the most of their University education. The Honors Program has an established practice of inviting and encouraging students to enter the Program by self-identification; current Admissions Standards and Academic Requirement handout states that "motivation, enthusiasm, and commitment to learning are often better predictors of success in the program than test scores" and "students who do not meet...formal criteria but who are seriously interested in participating in the program may apply to the Director for admission"; the Honors College will actively promote this policy and publicize the eligibility of all students (with minimum grade point average or permission) to register for honors courses and to join the Program.
Honors scholarships coordinated with financial aid awards have already begun to encourage motivated and accomplished students to attend Millersville University. The 1999-2000 academic year saw the initial award of seven Honors Program scholarships that will provide four-year support for students who remain eligible. These awards are an important step toward attracting a greater number of promising students to the University through honors education. The Honors College will make donors more willing to contribute funds that will assist more students. Coordinating efforts with offices of Admissions, Advancement, and Financial Aid, the current Program has laid the foundation upon which Honors College recruitment efforts will build through continued and expanded interaction and communication. The Honors College will improve recruitment of highly motivated and well prepared students; continuing current policies of seeking a diverse group of scholarship recipients, the College will actively recruit students from all groups of the regional and national population.
Retention of students is frequently linked to issues of community and to students' perceptions of belonging to groups associated with the larger institution. An active Honors College will offer many opportunities for students to form and join groups on campus and to establish connections with organizations and institutions in the local area. In addition to the environmental factors outlined above, the Honors College will vigorously encourage students to participate in and contribute to the internal working of the College itself. Lang reliant on student workers to do clerical tasks, the Honors Program experimented in 1997 with a Student Advisory Board now being revived. In fall semester 1999, students provided an information session in Harbold Residence Hall to share experiences in the overseas Stale System Summer Honors Program. An Honors College will expand and deepen such experiences to engage students in the University community by nurturing self-determination and voluntary service. Students gain vital experience while planning and coordinating programmatic events; honors students also have a history of contributing their skills to- electronic media communication. Students created the first Honors home page for the World -Wide Web, now being updated and expanded with support from Ms. Diane Duell of the University's Division of Information Technology. In addition to self-supporting contributions to honors programming, students will be encouraged to share their skills and talents in numerous arenas coordinated by the Honors College.
As proposed in 1997, the Honors College will nurture volunteer and cooperative experiences, reminding students of the importance to themselves and their community of sharing and thereby honing their particular talents and skills. At present, numerous offices contact the Honors Program seeking qualified students for paid campus employment. A College structure will make it more feasible to coordinate requests for peer tutoring and computer consulting, for connecting offices and agencies with students who can contribute to and benefit from practical experiences in the campus and wider communities. The College will provide a framework in which students will explore social needs and discover ways in which they may contribute to the world at large.
In addition, the Honors College aims to fund student research and student/faculty collaboration in research projects. The unique role of the College is not so much to disperse grant movies as to serve as a clearinghouse and to provide a network to connect researchers with funding sources. With contributions from donors attracted by a visible and active Honors College, research can be supported to benefit the academic and professional development of students and faculty in collaboration with industry and the public sector. Harrisburg Internships with the Legislature are an example of participatory interaction between the University and Commonwealth government now in place. Increasing the opportunities for students to become involved with such programs is a goal of the proposed Honors College and an important element in student retention through active participation in educational experiences.
Support for Excellent & Innovative Pedagogy
The proposed Honors College will serve as a "crucible for curricular and pedagogical experimentation" on a campus-wide interdisciplinary scale. The Honors Program has fostered innovation and course development involving more than 100 faculty members who have proposed and taught more than 130 new courses or honors sections of existing courses since 1980. Additionally, more than. 40 faculty members have supported the curricular goals of the Honors Program through service on the University Honors Program Committee; more than half of those committee members have not had the opportunity to teach honors courses. A College will continue to nurture pedagogical experimentation within the guidelines of current curricula, emphasizing independent inquiry, research, creativity, and the open exchange of ideas in facultystudent collaboration.
Coordinating efforts with the Center for Academic Excellence, the Center for Regional Studies, and with International Studies, Women's Studies, African-American Studies, and Latino Studies programs, the Honors College will promote experimental and timely course offerings for talented and motivated students. Committed to small class size and a high level of studentfaculty interaction, Honors courses have and will continue to encourage self-evaluation and intellectual growth among students and faculty alike. Notably challenging curricular opportunities for talented; motivated students have been and will be provided for honors students and for all students wining to explore honors courses.
Honors coursework presently requires and encourages independent and guided research, a high level of faculty-student interaction, meaningful exchange among creative and motivated students, and challenging subject areas (for example proficiency in calculus as part of the general education requirement). These characteristics will grow with Honors College status. Although the current Honors Program curriculum is appropriate to an Honors College, the transition will lead to reevaluation of existing curricula. Questions will be raised about proficiencies in foreign languages and exposure to world cultures; opportunities will to offered for course development in interdisciplinary and multicultural areas; possibilities will be explored to develop courses that meet Social Science, Humanities, and Science general education requirements while offering timely emphasis on current topics of significant interest. An Honors College model will encourage responsible curricular experimentation that fosters improved pedagogy throughout the University.
Pre-Professional Advising and Preparation
Coordinating efforts with Pre-Law and Pre-Medical groups on campus, the Honors College will sponsor information sessions, visits from recruiters, and networking with campus and community--e.g., The Office of Cooperative Education and Fulton Bank have recently provided information sessions for Honors Program students. Perhaps most important is the ability of an Honors College to connect students with faculty, professionals, and peers who share similar goals and life plans including continuing education, graduate or professional school plans, and life-long learning.
With plans to develop a Phi Beta Kappa chapter for Millersville and with responsibility for national scholarship applications, the Honors College will provide a network of internationally recognized quality indicators for Millersville graduates, assisting their pursuit of graduate and professional goals. Beginning in 1999, national Goldwater, Truman, and Udall scholarship applications are supervised by Honors, joining Madison scholarships as the responsibility of the Director, who also serves as liaison with additional programs. An Honors College designation will greatly facilitate visibility and publicity for these initiatives; with expanding services to students, as Dr. Mech has observed, "the next phase will ...require greater support and resources." The Honors College represents that next phase.
Improved Honors Facilities and Staffing
The Honors Program has served Millersville University students well for almost twenty years, providing academic advisement, counseling, referrals, anal administration for a very successful program. 'this year the Program .has reactivated membership in the National and Regional Collegiate Honors Councils and is renovating its University web page and working with State System Honors Programs to provide overseas study opportunities to Millersville University honors students.
Dr. John Osborne and an ever-changing student staff have created a recognized Program that functions as an Honors College without the financial or human resources one would expect The long service of Ms. Jane Strassle has been invaluable; she has assisted the Program and supervised student staff successfully on a half-time split appointment with obligations to International Affairs and International Studies balanced with duties for the Honors Program. The current facilities, while centrally located, are not easily accessible for students and visitors with physical disabilities. Space that was appropriate for a fledgling Honors Program is no longer adequate to meet the demands of a vibrant and multifaceted program that serves the needs of hundreds of students. With very limited resources the Honors Program has been serving students and delivering recruitment, retention, pedagogical, and pre-professional support. As Dr. Mech's report recommends, even "just to maintain the current level" of activity and services to the University, "greater support and resources" are needed.
With Honors College designation, a residential component for Honors is envisioned, a residence unit more identifiable and linked with Honors offices and meeting rooms. The goal is a facility in which student housing options, like those now available for honors students in Hull and Harbold Halls, could be combined with office, classroom, and social areas to allow honors programming to be shared with more students and to contribute more directly to the academic and cultural environment of the University. This may be a longterm goal, and Honors education may survive on campus without this vision being realized in the near future. However, to continue present service to students there are pressing needs for more clerical support, for more accessible classroom and social space, and for additional faculty involvement from an Assistant or Associate Director. Transformation to the Program into an Honors College will signal that these needs are anticipated and planning is under way to supply them. Building an Honors College will assure that academic goals, innovative pedagogy, and liberal arts education is valued and supported by Millersville University. The Honors College will carry the values of education, service, and intellectual vitality into the new millennium.
TARGETED AREAS TO BUILD AN HONORS COLLEGE
Since the University Honors Program is already functioning much as an Honors College, the transition from Program to College does not require many immediate changes. This proposal focuses on nine targeted areas which can be addressed in phases as resources become available. The lack of additional resources at present should not hinder the immediate transition
Curriculum- The current curriculum is appropriate for an Honors College and need not be changed for the immediate future.
Recruitment and Admissions- For the purposes of student recruitment and admissions, it is important that the transition be made as quickly as possible and certainly no later than the start of the Spring 2000 semester. Recruitment and admissions would be accomplished in coordination with the Admissions Office with the first class being admitted for Fall 2000.
Scholarships- The first specially-designated scholarships were awarded to students joining the Honors Program in fall of 1999. A total of $15,000 was awarded to seven students, the amounts renewable for four years. An additional $15,000 will be awarded each year so that eventually $60,000 in scholarships will be available for approximately 10% of the students in the Honors College.
Cultural and Other Activities- Coordinated with academic initiatives, cultural and other activities have a positive impact on students. With a limited budget ($7000 covers cultural activities as well as student employee budget and office supplies) the Honors Program has been able to provide students with a variety of cultural activities in support of their education. Trips to the symphony, opera, theatre, and museums in Lancaster, Baltimore, Washington, and New York have been staples of the Honors Program for many years. Participation in group activities have been enthusiastically supported by students in the Program. Several dinners each year are also scheduled for students in the Honors Program. Information about Honors Program activities has been communicated through periodic newsletters, e-mail distribution lists, and the Honors Program web page.
Student Research Grants- A small amount of money has been made available to support collaborative student/faculty research projects of students in the Honors Program. Since 1998, through a competitive application process, approximately five $1000 fellowships each year have been awarded to students for summer research.
Travel and Professional Development- In recent years, students and faculty of the Honors Program have not been able to take advantage of the many honors-specific professional development opportunities available. The National Collegiate Honors Council and its regional affiliate. sponsor conferences, workshops, and seminars on various topics of interest to students and faculty. The Director of the Honors College or his designee should regularly attend the annual conferences of the NCHC. Students in the Honors College should receive financial assistance to attend NCHC regional seminars and both students and faculty should be encouraged to present papers at both the national and regional meetings.
Facilities- The present Honors Program office is inadequate to meet the needs of the current Program. The Program has outgrown its current space and its location on the second floor of Cumberland House and is not easily accessible for those with physical disabilities. It becomes increasingly imperative to find more appropriate facilities so that the Honors College will be more visible and more attractive to students and donors.
Clerical Support- There has been inadequate clerical support to meet the demands of the Honors Program. These demands will continue to exist whether we make the transition to Honors College or not. The hiring of a half-time temporary clerical staff member has been approved for the 1999-2000 academic year, but it has proved difficult to find a qualified applicant willing to work half-time.
Staffing and Office Administration- In addition to the need for permanent clerical support, the Honors College needs to continue the halftime release for the Director and funding for student employees in the office. The current budget supports student employees and office supplies, as well as all cultural activities.