FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS REGARDING AN HONORS COLLEGE AT MILLERSVILLE
Q: Why is Millersville considering the establishment of an "honors college" at this time?
A: Recently many colleges and universities with "honors programs" have renamed them "honors colleges." Even some institutions that did not previously have honors programs, including IUP, have used large donations to establish honors colleges as an aggressive way of attracting excellent students. An honors college would be perceived by students, applicants, donors, and alumni as an institutional commitment to excellence in education. 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.
Academic excellence does not mean catering only to talented students, but it does mean meeting the instructional needs of a diverse range of students. Some students will need particular forms of remediation; others require particular academic challenges. An "honors college" will allow us to meet the needs of the latter group. Academic excellence also requires that we provide faculty members with opportunities to stretch themselves in their teaching. An "honors college" can provide the context for pedagogical experimentation as well.
Dr. William Mech, an honors consultant who visited MIT in March indicated that we have a small window of opportunity for making the transition from "honors program" to "honors college" for the following reasons: 1) competition (especially from SSHE schools and others in the region); 2) potential donors to attract new money to the university; 3) maturity of the existing program; and 4) disturbing universitywide enrollment trends indicating a decline in the number of students from the top ten percent of their high school class who have chosen to attend Millersville.
Q: What is the difference between an "honors college" and an "honors program"?
A: The difference between an "honors college" and an "honors program" is one of scale and commitment rather than structure. The name "honors college" is NOT intended as an administrative unit at MU where "school" and "department" designations label administrative units. An "honors college" is an academic, programmatic designation. It 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 continue to attract a range of students, including the highly talented.
Q: What about resources? Will an "honors college" take money away from other programs/areas?
A: An "honors college" would not compete directly with existing programs for resources. Other universities that have made the transition from "honors program" to "honors college" have been able to attract new money which has benefited not only the "honors college" but other programs within the institution. While the Honors Program. has presently requested--at the strong suggestion of consultants-additional time and funding for program leadership, the switch to an "honors college" will not entail any new funding from the University.
Q: Will there be faculty oversight for "honors college" course offerings?
A. Yes. "Honors college" designation will not change the current practice for course approval. In developing the honors college curriculum, the director will work closely with the University Honors Program Committee or its successor. The University Honors Program Committee is an elected Faculty Senate committee, representing all facets of the University faculty. The director of an "honors college" would be a faculty member.
Q: Would an "honors college" be hopelessly elitist?
A: In the current honors program, invitations are sent to students meeting certain minimum criteria when they apply to MU or when they visit the campus. Exceptions have always been made for those interested students who do not meet these minimum criteria At present, honors courses are open to all students who have at least a 3 .3 5 QPA or permission of the instructor. An honors college would continue the openness of the program and would strive to deepen a commitment of diversity of membership in the community. It would include more opportunities for student research, providing service to the community, and other pre-professional activities.
Q. How would changes be made in facilitating the transition from "honors program" to "honors college" at MU?
A: The University administration is encouraging widespread discussion and input from faculty and students regarding how the transition to an honors college might best be made. An honors college can be whatever the MU community wants it to be.
University Honors Program Committee, September, 1999