After years of expansion and seclusion, the Honors Program is getting upgraded to a college.
The program was first established at the university 44 years ago to provide a high tier academic learning experience. Honors courses include stimulating replacements for basic classes and specific discipline topics. Each class is limited to 17 students in an attempt to establish a close-knit debate amongst students and instructors.
A recent approval from the Texas State University System Board of Regents will allow the program to transform into an independent honors college led by a dean. The board met Aug. 18 and Aug. 19 in Alpine to discuss financial, academic and legal matters concerning the university and seven other institutions within the system.
Heather Galloway, Honors Program director, said approximately 1,300 students are currently enrolled. Galloway said the college will inspire growth in honors courses, increase scholarship availability and developmental work.
She said there has been an ongoing effort to expand the program into a college for more than four years.
“It puts us at the top level of university administration rather than (being) tucked away,” Galloway said. “I think the visibility will help. So far the university has been helpful in providing additional support because offering more classes costs more money.”
Diann McCabe, Honors associate director, said 400 students are taking courses within the program this semester. McCabe said students might be more aware of the honors-level existence on campus when the college is formed.
“(Becoming a college) is not something that happens overnight and since Galloway’s been here, our enrollment has really increased,” McCabe said. “She’s worked very hard on that and made the difference.”
John Hood, senior lecturer in the Honors Program, said he spent 20 years as production head of Yale’s drama school, 12 years at the University of Texas and became a full-time professor in the Honors program last year. Hood said a newly created Student Undergraduate Research Fund will make $20,000 available for students across all disciplines who participate in innovative projects.
“Essentially, are hopes are to create diversity and get people to think outside of a narrow box,” Hood said. “Across the campus we need to get our chemists talking with our theatre students to figure out how they can work together. Indeed, interdisciplinary communication is very important.”
Hood said he advises students applying for top-level national, international and graduate scholarships. The honors scholarships are funded largely through donations and the student service fee. The Rhoades, Marshall, Mitchell and Gates scholarships are accessible for students who want to study in the United Kingdom at universities like Oxford and Cambridge.
“We have never had any of our students win a Rhoades scholarship because they are not applying or they are not aware of it,” Hood said. “One of my missions is to open student’s eyes to the possibilities that exist for students that excel.”
Galloway said the final approval for the college comes from the Higher Education Coordinating Board. She said her last request to find out when the item will reach the board was not answered by the administration. The board’s upcoming meetings are in October and January.
“I don’t know when we’ll have the college be official, but it might be as late as next fall,” Galloway said. “It’s easier to change the name of something at the beginning of the fall semester.”