A CENTER FOR THE LIBERAL ARTS, PRE-GRADUATE AND
The Millersville University Honors Program has grown and prospered since its conception in 1980 to become the most successful Honors Program within the State System of Higher Education. The Honors Program has assisted the University to gain a reputation for excellence that extends beyond the state to the region and has attracted many outstanding students to the institution. Presently, the Millersville University Honors Program has more students, larger numbers of Honors course offerings and a more comprehensive and demanding curriculum than any other State System Honors Program. As early as 1988 the program was listed in Martin Nemko's How to Get an Ivy League Education at a State University as one of the 43 outstanding Honors Programs in the country. The high academic standards required in the program have greatly increased the number of the University's graduates who are being accepted to prestigious graduate and professional schools, thus enabling our Honors Program graduates to excel in competition with students from leading public and private colleges and universities. Successful completion of the program has also proved to be very advantageous for those Honors graduates competing for positions in primary and secondary teaching and in the business world
Eighty to 85 freshmen are admitted to the Honors Program each year, joining upper-class Honors students for a total enrollment of over 300. Thirty to 35 percent of those who join the program graduate in the program which is a noteworthy achievement because the graduation rate in most Honors Programs is normally 10 to 20 percent These statistics are the more remarkable given the requirements of the Honors Program. These requirements, which include demonstrating competence in calculus and the writing of a senior thesis, are much more demanding than those of most other programs nationwide. In achieving these successes the Honors Program has gained the maturity necessary to evolve into an Honors College. This transition will enable the University to make an excellent program even better, allowing it to offer unique educational opportunities to an even broader spectrum of students.
What is an Honors College?
An Honors College, like an Honors Program, is a carefully articulated opportunity for learning that exists within the framework of the larger university. Both are designed to enhance the academic climate of the entire university community while providing students possessing exceptional academic talents and motivation the most challenging opportunities to develop the skills essential to postgraduate leadership. The difference between a College and a Program is one of scale and commitment rather than structure.
The existence of an Honors College is a clear signal that substantial resources have been dedicated to the cultivation of academic excellence within the university. In addition, an Honors College incorporates a level of curricular and programmatic flexibility that allows it to serve as a crucible for curricular and pedagogical experimentation for the whole university, while meeting the challenging needs posed by honors students. An Honors College will guarantee a critical mass of highly motivated students whose presence will raise the intellectual and cultural atmosphere of the campus, thus enhancing the academic experiences of the entire student body. It. will also provide a recruiting advantage, enabling the University to attract more highly talented students, thereby raising the academic level of the University.
The considerable successes that the Honors Program has achieved can be greatly expanded with a well-financed Honors College. An Honors College brings greater academic prestige and credibility to a state university and, by extension, to all its graduates while fulfilling its mandate to provide an excellent education to all the state's citizens. A thriving Honors College would highlight the importance which the University places on academic excellence, thereby improving the notice we receive from such evaluators of universities as The Fiske Guide to Select Colleges and U.S. News and World Reports.
Goals of the Honors College
To achieve this transformation, it will be necessary to augment the Honors curriculum and mission: to provide institutional avenues for preparing students to compete successfully for national scholarships, fellowships, and positions in prestigious graduate schools; to incorporate meaningful opportunities for community service and other forms of volunteerism into the program; to develop opportunities for internships with local, regional and national companies and agencies; to raise a permanent scholarship fund to attract and support outstanding students; and to encourage department, especially those with large numbers of Honors majors, to design special Honors opportunities and courses of study. In addition, research and writing must be formally integrated throughout the Honors curriculum and Honors students must be provided with greater access to laboratory facilities and research opportunities. Ideally, the Honors College could have Honors housing in a building that would also accommodate an Honors student lounge, seminar rooms, faculty offices and the office of the Director of the College.
Pre-Professional Guidance and Training
If our most talented students are to compete successfully for places in graduate and professional schools, it is essential that the professional guidance provided by many individual faculty and department committees be supplemented by a more formal structure. Many opportunities exist for these pre-professional students including prestigious fellowships, scholarships, and internships, all with complex application criteria and procedures that can be administered most efficiently through a central office. The Honors Program is already a significant University-wide source of guidance for students considering going on to graduate and professional schools. An Honors College must have the resources to serve as the primary vehicle for encouraging the University's best students to, recognize their potential, encouraging them from the outset to consider graduate and professional school and guiding them through achieving credentials that will assist them to realize their professional goals. While individual departments at the University provide excellent direction for majors who aspire to graduate school, many of our outstanding students are middle class and first-generation college students who arrive on campus with little understanding of the career opportunities open to them. These students must be made aware of their potential to succeed in graduate school in order to benefit from this direction. In contrast, most students at prestigious private liberal arts colleges active already committed to going on to professional and graduate school and have selected the college because of its reputation for placing large numbers of its students in the graduate programs of their choice. Although the Honors Program has many talented students, few of them arrive on campus with such aspirations or with the knowledge and sophistication necessary to fulfill them.
Thus, a primary function of a well-funded Honors College would be to encourage the University's superior students to aspire to graduate and professional school while providing them with the sophistication and skills necessary to prosper once they get there. This would be accomplished through integrating individual guidance and specialized classes. Professional development seminars would prepare the students to take graduate and professional placement exams while guiding them in applying for prestigious national academic awards and scholarships. Internships and research experiences would be arranged to give the students the practical experience sought by professional schools. Research assistantships would help relieve financial burdens that can preclude students from devoting significant time to research activities, particularly during the summer. It is important to note that these services would not be restricted to Honors College students but would be available to all qualified students who requested them.
The development of such a pre-professional/pre-graduate school program would bring great benefits to the University. The Honors College will provide our public university students with the guidance, intellectual stimulation and personal attention usually associated with elite liberal arts colleges. This would attract to the University a growing core of highly talented, highly motivated students who would enrich the academic and cultural climate of the institution and who would also become active and generous supporters of the institution once they achieved success in their chosen profession. Providing our best students with such pre-professional training will enable them to compete successfully with the sons and daughters of the nation's elite and will gain them entrance into prestigious graduate schools formerly closed to them. In creating these opportunities, the University will be doing much more than guaranteeing the future success of the Honors College and its graduates. It will be educating the future leaders of the state and the nation and creating an academic and cultural environment that will enrich the entire University community.
The Honors College and Community Outreach
Another essential element of the Honors College should be a service component that enables Honors students to use their great gifts in fulfilling societal responsibilities as well as receiving privileges. The community service component within the Honors College could include working for charitable organizations such as Hospice or Habitat for Humanity. Honors students would also be encouraged to take leadership roles on campus and to tutor students experiencing academic difficulty. To achieve these goals it will be necessary to augment the Honors curriculum and to develop opportunities for internships and volunteer service with local, regional and national companies and agencies.
Visiting Scholars and an Honors Lecture Series
Independent funding would enable an Honors College to support a visiting scholars program that would allow students to study under distinguished faculty with international reputations. Such outstanding scholars could be brought in to teach for a semester, to participate in the teaching of an Honors course taught by University faculty, to teach a "short course," or to deliver a series of lectures on a topic designated by the Honors College. This program would have the added advantages of making these scholars aware of the talented nature of our students and the demanding nature of the Honors College curriculum, as well as bringing intellectual stimulation to the entire University community.
The Honors College and Professional Guidance
The academic excellence of an institution is often judged by the number of national awards its graduates have earned, the number of students it sends onto graduate and professional schools, and the quality of the graduate schools to which they go. Honors Program graduates have enjoyed some notable success in gaining admission to institutions such as Yale, Penn, Johns Hopkins, the University of Chicago and Carnegie Mellon. However, many more of our graduates could have been admitted to such institutions had they been given better instruction in how to excel on the Graduate Record Examination and given more guidance in how and where to apply. Furthermore, year after year, announcements of the availability of national prizes such as the Truman, Madison and Fulbright Scholarships to unheeded by our students. Successful competition for these prizes requires that applicants be identified early in their college careers and guided through the arduous application process. The Honors College can best serve the University by acting as a clearinghouse for specialized assistance for all students in preparing for scholarships and prizes, as well as providing coaching to improve student performance on national exertions. The Honors College and Phi Beta Kappa The honorary society Phi Beta Kappa enjoys an international reputation for the recognition of academic excellence, and the presence of a Phi Beta Kappa Chapter on campus enhances the academic reputation and prestige of any University. While Phi Beta 4771 27
Kappa has traditionally evaluated candidate universities with criteria that favor private liberal arts institutions such as entering class scores on national examinations such as the SAT or ACT, new standards are emerging that recognize the mandate of state institutions to serve a much wider student population. For such schools, institutional support for rigorous Honors education as reflected in the existence of the type of Honors College proposed here becomes the crucial factor in winning a Phi Beta Kappa Chapter. There are few clearer indications of the academic reputation of an institution than the presence of a Phi Beta Kappa Chapter; a Chapter Charter would bring national recognition for academic excellence to Millersville University and its graduates.
The Honors College and the Business Community
An Honors College will aid the University in creating stronger contacts with the regional business community. Honors students should be encouraged to seek internships and research assistantships. Such activities have the advantage of allowing students to discover whether they are truly interested in a profession before they commit themselves to pursuing graduate work in that field. Internships also have the added benefit of convincing graduate and professional schools of the seriousness of purpose of candidates and are a key factor in obtaining admission to the best professional programs. The Honors College can promote such an internship program by developing contacts with local and regional corporations as well as by providing stipends and research funding that would help to create more opportunities for Honors students and faculty from all departments to work together on research projects. The College would encourage departments to use their contacts with local firms and agencies to establish permanent intern positions, thus creating the possibility of requiring internships of all future Honors College graduates.
The Honors College will continue to increase the University's ability to attract and retain outstanding students. Its stress on pre-professional education can contribute significantly to bringing the ratio of the sexes at the University into balance. It will enable us to remain competitive with Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP) Penn State University and the University of Pittsburgh, all of which have recently created Honors Colleges. These new Honors Colleges have raised large amounts of money externally for scholarships to attract and retain outstanding students. The prestige and - high visibility of an Honors College would allow Millersville to pursue similar goals successfully.
While the Honors Program has enjoyed considerable success in attracting talented students to the University, experience has shown that up to twenty per cent of its best applicants each year are lost to other institutions because of its inability to offer any scholarship aid. In many cases the applicants go elsewhere not because they are paying less but because the financial aid offer indicates to them that the other institution appreciates them more. Honors scholarships would not only help the Honors College to retain many of these applicants but would enable it to attract and keep many more superior students.
Curricular and Degree Program Innovation
A fully-funded Honors College can provide the resources, the students, and the curricular flexibility to enable departments and schools to undertake experimental and innovative curricular changes. Support from the Honors College would enable departments with large numbers of Honors students to have more opportunities to offer Honors sections of required departmental courses, within which experimental curricular and teaching ideas could be developed. The success of graduates from these departments would then contribute to building national recognition for academic excellence at Millersville.
Private Sector Support for the University
Transforming the Honors Program into an Honors College will better position the University to raise funds from grants and gifts from the private sector in support of honors education. For example, Pennsylvania State University has just become the recipient of a $50,000,000 gift to fund its newly created Honors College and the University of Pittsburgh has had similar grants that help to finance its Honors College. A successful alumnus of Indiana University of Pennsylvania recently gave that university a gift of over $3,000,000 to create an Honors College. The I.U.P. Honors College has its own dormitory/classroom building containing administrative and faculty offices, its own admissions recruiter and is able to offer scholarships to all students admitted to the College. I.U.P.'s goal is to have a student population of 400 once the college becomes fully operational. The creation of an Honors College at Millersville will enable the University to raise funds with which to support the 300 Honors students already enrolled here with similar projects and activities. Publicity from gifts to Honors Colleges, whether to Millersville or to other institutions, will help our own fundraising efforts and will also increase the number of outstanding students we attract and keep. Unless the University moves to meet this challenge, we are likely to fall behind our sister institutions.
Funding for an Honors College
The success of the proposed Honors College is dependent upon major innovative proposals that would require funding from outside sources. The experiences of I.U.P., Penn State and Pitt demonstrate that the Honors College concept is uniquely attractive to potential donors capable of contributing millions of dollars for the implementation of such a proposal. Among the moneys that would have to be raised to insure the successful implementation of this Honors College proposal are the following:
The Honors College, focusing as it will on pre-professional training and the cultivation of outstanding students, will soon gain a reputation among graduate and professional schools for the excellence of its graduates. This reputation, and the opportunities that an Honors College will offer these students, will aid them greatly in gaining admission to outstanding graduate programs. This is an extraordinarily vital factor in enabling the University to overcome its relative obscurity and to increase its ability to compete for the limited pool of outstanding students.