Goldwater Scholars 2017: Alabama, Iowa State Lead Publics, but Regional Publics Do Well

Each year, we provide an update of Goldwater scholarships won by public university students, and public universities did extraordinarily well in 2017, winning 128 out of 240  scholarships awarded this year. The percentage of scholars is down slightly from 2016, when 136 out of 252 scholars were from state universities. This year, there were also 307 honorable mentions.

The total number of scholarships has declined from 260 awarded in 2015, to 252 in 2016, and now to the 240 awarded in 2017.

The University of Alabama and Iowa State led publics with four scholars each, the maximum for any one school.

The following universities had three winners each: UAB, College of Charleston, Cincinnati, Ohio State, South Carolina, Tennessee, UT Dallas, Washington State, and UW Madison.

And those with two winners each are: Clemson, George Mason, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Miami Ohio, Michigan, UN Omaha, UN Reno, New College Florida, New Mexico, UNC Chapel Hill, UNC Charlotte, Oregon State, Stony Brook, SUNY Buffalo, SUNY Geneseo, UC Santa Barbara, Utah State, and West Virginia.

It is notable that more publics that are not flagships are seeing success with Goldwater awards. Two thoughts on this development: (1) honors colleges, emphasizing undergrad research, are growing in these colleges and (2) the faculties at these schools often have credentials than, in past decades, would have earned them an appointment at an elite university. These are reasons that New York Times columnist Frank Bruni can write an important book titled Where You Go Is Not Who You Will Be. It helps to explain why Rhodes Scholars can now come from schools such as UW Eau Claire and UT Chattanooga.

The 2017 list of multiple winners above does include schools that are Goldwater leaders over time, with more than 40 awards total as of 2017: Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, Georgia, Indiana, UNC Chapel Hill, South Carolina, and Alabama.

We provide this update each year because Goldwater scholars are all still undergraduates, and their selection is an indication of the undergraduate research opportunities at their universities. The Goldwater Scholarship is and amazing predictor of postgraduate success. 

Here’s evidence provided by the Goldwater Foundation: “Recent Goldwater Scholars have been awarded 89 Rhodes Scholarships, 127 Marshall Awards, 145 Churchill Scholarships, 96 Hertz Fellowships and numerous other distinguished awards like the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships.”

“The Goldwater Scholars were selected based on academic merit from a field of 1,286 natural sciences, mathematics, and engineering students nominated by the campus representatives from among 2,000 colleges and universities nationwide. Of those reporting, 133 of the Scholars are men, 103 are women, and virtually all intend to obtain a Ph.D. as their highest degree objective. Twenty-two Scholars are mathematics majors, 153 are science and related majors, 51 are majoring in engineering, and 14 are computer science majors. Many of the Scholars have dual majors in a variety of mathematics, science, engineering, and computer science.”

The one and two year scholarships will cover the cost of tuition, fees, books, and room and board up to a maximum of $7,500 per year.

 

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Inside Honors: What 9,000 Class Sections Can Tell You

By John Willingham
Editor, Public University Honors

When parents and prospective students (not to mention college junkies) want to “know” about a college, what they want most is to get a sense of what it’s “really like,” the inside story so to speak.

Most college rankings focus only on what can be measured: test scores, class sizes, financial resources, selectivity, grad and retention rates, the salaries graduates can receive. Some non-numerical ratings–the famous Fiske guide, for example–focus less on formal measures and do offer narratives that provide impressionistic glimpses of campus life. Taken together, rankings and good rating guidebooks provide much excellent information.

But surely a big part of the “what’s it really like” story has to be not only the graduation requirements but also the actual classes and coursework required for graduation. How many courses are available in your student’s proposed major? Are there interdisciplinary seminars? How about access to mentors and support for undergraduate research, both more likely if small classes are offered.

Yes, you can read about courses if you work your way through undergraduate catalogues. In some cases there will be course descriptions. But what you probably won’t find in catalogues are the number of sections and the actual enrollment in each one. What I have found during five years of analyzing public honors programs and colleges is that one cannot come close to understanding the real nature of these programs without poring over the actual class sections–and course descriptions.

When the first edition of A Review of Fifty Public University Honors Programs appeared in April 2012, I realized that it was a tentative step in the process of trying to analyze and report on the most important characteristics of honors programs in prominent state universities.

What I failed to understand was just how “tentative” that first effort was.

The original emphasis was on honors curriculum and completion requirements, and the overriding idea was that the more honors classes a student had to take, the more that student would benefit from what I called “honors contacts” at the time.  Honors students would have more contact with professors in smaller honors classes; they would find a ready cohort of serious students like themselves; they would have far more research opportunities, again allowing more contact with professors.

If honors programs sought to provide an Ivy or liberal arts education in the midst of a large public university setting, then the extent of honors contacts within that larger context would measure how well the program was meeting its mission.

I continue to believe the curriculum completion requirements are at the heart of an honors program or college. But those requirements only quantify the total number of credits a student must earn to graduate; they do not speak to the range of honors courses offered in each academic discipline, or to how small the classes really are, or to the type of class experiences that are available (seminars, lectures, labs).  The credit requirements do not yield an impression of how creative a program is or how interesting its courses may be.

In other words, the emphasis on the bare curriculum completion requirements does not get at the heart (some might say guts) of an honors program.

Now, with more than 90 percent of our data for the new 2016 edition in house, we have begun to explore the inside of honors education at 60 public universities, which means a somewhat tedious analysis of data for approximately 9,000 honors class sections.

Here are examples of what we learn from this work:

  1. How to develop basic classifications for the honors programs and colleges. The courses tell us whether a given program is a “core” program, a “blended program,” or a “department-based” program. A relatively small program with small, honors-only seminars along with relatively few set science and math requirements is a core program. Generally larger programs (some with more than 6,000 students) can be “blended” or “department-based.” If blended, they will have a large number of all-honors seminars, perhaps one-third to one-half of the total honors courses available, and the remainder of courses will be more narrowly defined by the academic departments. Department-based programs might offer a few seminars but offer most honors sections through the academic departments. If a blended or department-based program has a lot of “mixed” class sections (honors students plus non-honors students in the same sections), we can then pass along this information to readers, who may or may not care that many sections are mixed.
  2. How to asses the size of class sections. We have actual enrollment levels for the 9,000 class sections we review. This will allow us to tell readers about the overall average class size for all honors sections, including mixed sections which tend to be larger. From this, readers will gain an idea of how much close interaction with “honors contacts” is likely.
  3. How many honors classes are “contract” or “add-on” sections. Contract sections require an honors student to sign an agreement with the instructor specifying the extra work the student will do to earn honors credit. Most contract sections have only a very few honors students. The same is generally true of “add-on” sections, but these are somewhat more formal in that they are regularly offered term after term and have more established requirements that honors students have to meet to earn honors credit in a regular section. Readers may or may not like the idea of this type of section. Are they less rigorous? Is the flexibility they allow worth it? Our data indicate that in our data set of 60 programs, these types of classes may be about 25 percent of total honors sections. Please note that about two-thirds of programs offer contract or add-on sections for credit, but only five or six offer them on a large scale.

So…to know what “it’s really like really like” in honors program A or honors college B, you have to put yourself in the classroom, so to speak, and get a feel for the characteristics and subject matter of those class sections. Do you want the feel of a small, closely-knit program with a well-defined curriculum and rigorous seminars? Do you want the intimacy of seminars but also the nuts and bolts offered by a broad range of departmental honors classes? Or, are you mainly interested in having as many class choices in as many disciplines as possible, even if some of your classes will be mixed and relatively larger than the all-honors sections.

Once we have finished our “classroom work,” we should be able to give you a better sense of what 60 prominent honors programs and colleges are, in fact, like.

UT Austin and Online Learning: Faculty Should Own Copyrights for Content They Create

The president of the University of Texas at Austin has developed five guiding principles for blended and online education, two of which bear directly on the critical question about the nature and extent of faculty ownership of the curriculum and faculty rewards for contributing to online learning.

The concerns of faculty are that online learning might have an adverse impact on the residential college experience, thereby affecting employment prospects, and that faculty involvement in developing content for online learning might not serve career aspirations as well as, say, book authorship, patents, or the publication of articles.

“Virtually all innovations in society are made by those doing the daily work,” said UT Austin President Bill Powers. “Put another way, they can be supported from the top, but they are developed from the bottom up. In our case, that means by the faculty. Our incentive structures need to encourage faculty innovation in this area. Just as faculty members who write textbooks or create devices benefit from their work, we should ensure that faculty who create online content can benefit, as well as their departments, colleges, and the University. Even when the University sponsors the creation of these resources, our general position should be that faculty own the copyrights for the content they create and grant licenses to the University to use and adapt their content, consistent with Regents’ Rules and the law.”

Powers endorses faculty and academic departmental control of the curriculum.  “Our faculty and academic units are responsible for ensuring that online resources, courses, certificates, and degrees reflect the content and rigor appropriate for a leading national university. Without compromising our deep commitment to the academic freedom of a world-class faculty, we should recognize that these technologies amplify the visibility and impact of individual faculty and staff as representatives of the University on a global scale. Our online curriculum should mirror the rigor of our traditional curriculum, and our online courses should feature the same high-caliber faculty.”

The other guiding principles include implementing online learning in a way that is financially sustainable; sharing content with university partners; and continuing to be innovative amid the rapid changes affecting pedagogy.

 

 

 


 


Decline of the Residential College Experience: A Risk to ‘Emerging Adulthood’?

Amid rising college costs and sharply reduced state funding, many actual and would-be reformers view the dramatic expansion of online instruction as the best way to save money and improve access to higher education.  While online classes are a great advantage for non-traditional students and perhaps for traditional students who can take them in place of some large lecture courses, their overuse may have a negative impact on the personal development of students in the 18-29 age group.

Thus far, the arguments for online instruction have been so influenced by the current financial angst that the impact of true “distance learning” on the personal development of college-aged students has not been at the forefront of the debate.  Yet with generations of highly successful residential college students standing as testament to the value of the traditional college experience, both in the U.S. and abroad, we should take care not to permit the perceived financial advantages of distance learning to overwhelm the developmental advantages of residential learning.

Instead of focusing exclusively on whether cheaper online instruction can impart knowledge as effectively as a college instructor in a lecture hall, we should also take equal care to understand the impact of online instruction on the personal development of students.  This is increasingly true now that Massive Open Online Courses are being considered for college credit.  If we continue to speak in developmental terms, we could say that the atomization of the college experience may only be in its infancy, and we are far from certain about the impact of its growth.

The online revolution is not the only factor that has reduced the proportion of students who participate in the residential college experience.  According to “The American Freshman 2012,” the fascinating work of the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA, fewer college-aged students are living in dorms now and more are living at home with parents.  The UCLA report also shows that more students are acceding to the wishes of their parents now when it comes to which college to attend and whether to live at home, largely because of financial reasons.

While it is understandable that the economic crisis has forced parents and students alike to be more realistic, we are still left with the question whether, in the long term, we want to see further declines in residential college life.

At least since 2004, when Oxford University Press published Emerging Adulthood: The Winding Road from the Late Teens through the Twenties, by Jeffrey Arnett, psychologists have recognized a distinct development phase between adolescence and adulthood

Arnett convincingly argues that this phase, emerging adulthood, has come about because of the “rise in the ages of entering marriage and parenthood, the lengthening
of higher education, and prolonged job instability during the twenties…. This period is not simply an ‘extended adolescence,’ because it is much different from adolescence, much freer from parental control, much more a period of independent exploration.”

Well before Arnett’s influential work, eminent scholars such as A.W. Astin, founding director of the influential Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA, had written in the 1970s about the importance of the college years to the development of personal identity.  Other scholars who have contributed to our understanding of the college years as a time of critical personal development include Arthur W. Chickering (Education and Identity, 1969), among many publications.

Chickering identified seven “vectors” of development during the college years:

1. Developing intellectual, social, and physical competence.
2. Learning to manage emotions.
3. Moving through autonomy toward interdependence.
4. Developing mature interpersonal relationships.
5. Establishing identity.
6. Developing purpose.
7. Developing integrity.

The list begs the question: Can’t these “vectors” be followed outside of the residential college experience?  The answer is yes, but at what levels of interdependence, with what high or low purpose in mind?  The context of the development is critical.  Other researchers have also pointed to a phenomenon called the “environmental press,” which is a nice way of describing how our peers can push and challenge us.  Will some of our old high school friends challenge us in the same way as our smartest friends and classmates in college, not to mention our professors?

Although the UCLA study tells us that more students are arriving at college feeling “overwhelmed,” it also reports that students with such feelings are more likely than others to find positive support in college that reduces this kind of pressure and enables them to succeed amid the “environmental press” of classwork.  Students living at home may experience only the classroom “press” while lacking the support of student groups and counselors.  These students, in turn, are more likely to turn to their parents at just the time in the students’ lives when they should be pursuing the “vectors” described by Chickering.

Other recent research on college peer relationships, by Lisa M. Swenson, Alicia Nordstrom, and Marnie Hiester, looks at the relationship of college freshmen with their former high school classmates.

“Peer relationships are an integral part of adolescents’ and emerging adults’ lives,” the authors conclude. “In this study, we identified specific ways in which close peer relationships are associated with adjustment to college. Maintaining ties with high school friends can help a new college student adjust during the initial transition period, but it is also important for these college students to make new friends in their new environment if they want to improve their chances of success. Given the serious implica­tions of failure in college, this study provides empirical evidence for the importance of friendships in the transition to college.”

Without considering the personal development of the “emerging adults” who enter college and the ways their peers and professors can affect the remainder of their lives, reformers who are keen to increase access and reduce costs via distance learning may discover that, contrary to their dreams of producing more highly-trained students for the market place, they will be sending young people into the world who have yet to emerge from their early adult phase, and must then “emerge” on the job.  Do we really want to wait so long for this to happen?

–John Willingham, Editor

 

 

 

 

UT Austin: $310 Million for Engineering Research and Student Projects

The Cockrell School of Engineering at UT Austin has launched a $310 million project to build the Engineering Education and Research Center , which will include 23,000 square feet of space for engineering students to create and develop hands-on projects.

The total size of the center will be 430,000 square feet, including classroom and office space.

Dr. James Truchard, co-founder and CEO of National Instruments, has donated $10 million for the National Instruments Student Project Center.  Dr. Truchard has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in physics and a Ph.D. in electrical engineering, all from UT Austin.

The Cockrell School of Engineering is outgrowing its present space and needs the addition in order to match recent growth at MIT, Georgia Tech, UC Berkeley, and Texas A&M.

The Cockrell School says that for Truchard, “the  a gift to the EERC is about more than giving back to the university. It’s an investment in National Instrument’s future workforce. Headquartered in Austin, Texas, National Instruments includes more than 6,000 employees working in 40 countries.

“We hire from many different areas, electrical engineering, computer science, mechanical engineering and increasingly biomedical engineering. Our professionals need to be flexible, creative and innovative and know how to stay above the curve. Their education is a critical component to their future success,” Truchard said.

“Bringing to life math and physics to students in a way that it inspires innovative thinking and allowing them to succeed and fail with hands-on projects are just a few of the many benefits Truchard and others look forward to with the building of the EERC,” according to the Cockrell School.

At least one-third of the total cost of the 430,000 square foot facility will come in the form of private donations, with the UT System, the university, and the state of Texas providing the rest.  So far, the Board of Regents has designated $105 million for the project from the state’s permanent university fund.

“Depending on fundraising progress, the construction could begin in 2013, and faculty and students could move into the EERC by 2017,” the School says. “The return on…investment will be substantial since a typical graduating class from the Cockrell School generates
$2.5 billion in annual spending, $1.1 billion in gross product, and 10,240 jobs in the U.S. according to an economic study by the Perryman Group.”

 

 

Gates Foundation: No More Cuts for Colleges, but More Productivity from Pell Recipients

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has released a summary of their recommendations for dealing with the budget crisis in public universities, and key to their findings is that while state funding cuts have been severe and should go no further, the success rate for Pell Grant recipients is not high enough in relation to the cost.

The Foundation does not subscribe to the idea that college for most people isn’t worth the cost anymore.

“The returns to the individual from education are very clear,” the summary says. “In short, the more education you get, the more money you earn, and the less likely you are to be unemployed. This pattern holds true at every rung up the educational ladder, from high school dropouts to students who earn professional graduate degrees.”

The public still concurs: college enrollment has risen 17 percent over the last five years–but states have responded by higher education funding cuts of 13 percent.

While the report does not lay all the blame for rising tuition costs and student debt on state budget reductions, there is no doubt that the Foundation believes further cuts are not the solution. “The cost of a public education has been going up steadily for years,” the summary says, “and the rate of increase has spiked since disinvestment at the state level.”

Of course rising tuition has filled part of the gap, but the Foundation is especially concerned that increasing reliance on student loans, specifically Pell Grants, are not yielding a strong return on the public investment.

“So individuals and the government are spending all this money they don’t have on college, which it turns out is about a 50/50 proposition,” the report says. The Foundation is now trying to find ways to improve the graduation performance of Pell recipients.

Aside from putting an end to state funding cuts and improving Pell performance, the Foundation believes that it is necessary to “keep redesigning the higher education experience to fit the changing demographics of the student population.

“As enrollment goes up, the typical student profile changes. College students today are working and raising families while attending school, and they are often going part time. We should not expect to educate them the same way we educate single 18-year-olds living on campus and focusing only on classes.”

Not surprisingly, this leads to an encouraging message about the effectiveness of online learning.  The Foundation wants even more focus on “developing technologies that can improve learning and increase personalization while lowering costs. And we have to focus on developing technologies that are effective with the least advantaged students.”

The Foundation has funded Carnegie Mellon’s Open Learning Initiative (OLI).  OLI has developed interactive courseware that “got very compelling results with Carnegie Mellon students, but the question always existed about whether the results would hold for less well prepared and self-motivated students.

“We funded OLI to work with community colleges and their students. Recently, a random control trial proved that OLI-powered blended learning at public universities serving a cross section of student produced the same or better results than traditional models while getting students through the material in less time. The results point the way to significant cost savings and high-quality learning together.”

We believe that however the introduction of online learning plays out, the Foundation’s concern for public higher education is laudable as well as necessary if we are indeed to “maintain our higher education system as an engine of growth and social justice.”

OU Honors College Works with Student to Develop MOOC Pilot Program

Note: this excellent piece by Max Janerka, is from the Oklahoma Daily.  A great story about an honors dean collaborating with a student…

Starting this coming semester, OU will be offering an experimental program of MOOCs, or Massively Open Online Courses.

This pilot program will be made available exclusively through the Honors College at first, and it will not count for OU credit, said Jake Morgan, a microbiology sophomore and the mastermind behind the program.

Morgan, who also is a reporter for The Daily, said the pilot program will begin a few weeks into the semester and function like the Honors College reading groups, where students involved in the online courses meet in informal groups once a week to discuss what they learned and study together.

This would make up for the lack of community sentiment that is regarded as the greatest pitfall of MOOCs as a whole, Morgan said, and it will allow students to work together in pursuit of knowledge.

Morgan said he got the idea when he attended an educational symposium called “NextEd” at the Oklahoma Creativity Festival. One of the speakers there was Ken Parker, founder of NextThought, which is an innovative start-up focused on improving the quality and accessibility of online education, according to Creative Oklahoma’s website.

At the festival, Parker talked about online education and discussed MOOCs and the dangers and pitfalls of studying online and relying on the Internet, Morgan said. The question that bothered Morgan was how to create a learning community while still being involved in the MOOC, so he decided to try to resolve the biggest problem of a lack of interaction here at OU.

After coordinating with Honors College Dean David Ray, Morgan came up with a plan.

The program will encompass four online courses over three platforms: Game Theory and Critical Thinking in Global Challenges from Coursera, How to Build a Startup from Udacity and a course on artificial intelligence from edX. Morgan said it was important for the pilot program to be spread over multiple platforms and different types of programs in order to have a wider base from which to build the MOOC program in the future.

The artificial intelligence course is, according to edX’s website, an upper-division course originating from UC Berkley that is taught by Pieter Abbeel and Dan Klein and introduces the basic ideas and techniques underlying the design of intelligent computer systems.

How to Build a Startup is a business course focusing on instructor Steve Blank’s Customer Development process, according to Udacity’s website. The key steps of this process include identifying and engaging the first customers for a product and gathering, evaluating and using customer feedback to improve the product, marketing and business model.

Game Theory from Coursera is taught by Matthew O. Jackson and Yoav Shoham of Stanford University and Kevin Leyton-Brown of the University of British Columbia and focuses on “representing games and strategies, the extensive form (which computer scientists call game trees), Bayesian games (modeling things like auctions), repeated and stochastic games, and more,” according to the website.

The Coursera website also describes the course Critical Thinking in Global Challenges as one which will help students to “develop and enhance [their] ability to think critically, assess information and develop reasoned arguments in the context of the global challenges facing society today.” This course is taught by Mayank Dutia and Celine Caquineau, both of the School of Biomedical Sciences at the University of Edinburgh.

Morgan said the program is still in its planning stages. Meeting times, resources and student involvement are all still being worked on.

“We are planning on starting small,” Morgan said. “That way, if there is a problem, whether in the program or in logistics, we will be able to tackle it.”

Clemson President: There Is No Substitute for Campus Learning

As an architect and president of Clemson University, James F. Barker is perhaps the best person in America to speak to the value of the college campus as a place where young men and women can learn, grow, and be transformed within an atmosphere that is not only intellectually stimulating but also physically beautiful and inspiring.

Barker was one of several college presidents who contributed essays to a publication entitled Responding to the Commodification of Higher Education.  The title of Barker’s essay is “The Endangered Campus: Defining and Defending the Value of Place-Based Higher Education.”

Online delivery is “no substitute for the experience of ‘going away to college,'” he writes. “We must bring that experience into the 21st century and make it meaningful for today’s students. The best education is not transactional but transformational. It’s not: ‘You give me X amount of money and I give you a credential and a degree.’ Rather it is: ‘You give us four years, and you get a life-changing experience.’

Barker might have been speaking as well of the value of Clemson’s Calhoun Honors College, one of the most successful in the nation.

Barker recognizes the utility of digital learning methods, noting that for years Clemson has used a blended model in almost all math courses and in introductory chemistry. Students work in small groups while seated at round “technologically-enabled tables,” where they listen to short lectures and then complete exercises “to reinforce concepts and track progress.”  Using this model, students have had higher success and graduation rates.

Yet the success of this blended model in some kinds of instruction does not replace what Barker calls the “Idea of the Campus,” rooted in five concepts:

• Each campus is a distinct place. Each of us experiences it in a very personal way.
• The campus is a community – an intentional community. We are not born there. We choose to study or work there. It is a place of diversity and unity.
• The campus is stimulating and energetic. It bustles with ideas, creativity, and innovation.
• The campus is a work of art – for many of us, the first designed, beautiful, and cohesive landscape we experience.
• The campus is a place of pilgrimage – a place we return to, to renew a sense of belonging to the community we experienced in our youth.

But campus communities have another powerful value.  “Besides the cultural and historic value of our campuses, they also have economic value” Barker writes. “In a recent New York Times column, Thomas Friedman wrote that ‘the best entrepreneurial ecosystems
in the future will be cities and towns that combine a university, an educated populace, a dynamic business community and the fastest broadband connections. These will be the job factories of the future.'”

But the most important value of the physical campus is the impetus it gives to instruction.  “A beautiful, stimulating campus environment attracts the best students, faculty, and staff. It encourages personal reflection and group learning. Simply being together in a physical place, as a community of teachers and learners, has tremendous educational advantages,” the president-architect writes.

The real concerns for Barker and many other higher education leaders is not whether online instruction will have a significant role on campus but how that role should be defined in a way that does not diminish the overriding place of the campus as the principal seat of learning.

Most would agree with Barker that “he campus has always been the place where students begin separating from their families and gain independence. It’s a place where the deepest kinds of discovery and learning can and should happen. It’s a place where brains are fed, minds are opened, and lifelong connections and communities are formed. It’s a place that attracts creative, innovative people and creates the right ecosystem for community and economic development.”

 

 

 

 

University of Houston Honors College: High Value Added

While some national rankings overlook the University of Houston, the Honors College is a strong value-added component in a city that has lots of jobs to offer in business, engineering, and law.

The average honors student has a 1300 SAT and is in the top 10 percent of his or her class, but the college does not consider these qualifications as an absolute minimum.

The curriculum is substantial, requiring as much as 36 hours of honors work, including a thesis.  One of the most attractive features of the college is its close involvement with the Bauer College of Business.  Business majors admitted to the honors college are automatically a part of the Bauer Honors Program.  At least 18 of the 36 hours in honors are in small classes in all business specialty areas.  The classes emphasize discussion, writing, and case studies.  A thesis is required.

“This kind of thesis might resemble a long research paper in form, but it is different than a class paper. It approaches an existing business topic from a new angle, or tackles a newly developing business problem that others have not yet addressed adequately.  Often, the topic for a Senior Honors Thesis arises from close collaboration with a faculty member on an existing research project. You may choose to identify a significant aspect of a faculty member’s research to investigate in more detail or expand upon a case study completed as part of a previous course or business competition.”  Business theses average 50-75 pages in length.

The business program is ranked in the top 53 or so among those at public universities, and in the top 25 in entrepreneurship among all schools.  The U of H also has the Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management and it, too, has an honors track.

For engineering majors there is another honors track, also requiring a thesis.  The engineering school ranks  77th nationwide.  “A Senior Honors Thesis in engineering typically arises from close collaboration with a faculty member on an existing research project. Ideally, you will identify a significant aspect of that research and craft a smaller project representing your own work. The thesis should include an introduction explaining the relevance of your work to the broader field of study, a brief literature review, pertinent explanations of all technical innovations and processes, and an appropriate representation of results achieved. On average, the thesis will be between 30-60 pages.”  It is important to note that Houston and the surrounding area are home to a large number of companies that employ engineers.

Other honors tracks are available to students in the social sciences, humanities, and performing arts, including creative writing–a nationally-recognized strength of the university.

Honors housing is available in Cougar Village, a complex that opened in 2010.  The Village features two-bedroom suites, with two students in each bedroom and all four students sharing a sizable bath with two lavatories.  There is a skyway to the new Cougar dining hall.  Cougar Village is especially convenient to Melcher Hall, the home of the Bauer College of Business.

  • December 1 — Priority consideration application date for fall semester admission to both the Honors College and the University of Houston.
  • April 1 — Honors College application deadline and supporting documents deadline for admission for the fall semester.
  • April 1University of Houston application and supporting documents deadline for admission for the fall semester. Visit the University of Houston Admissions website for additional information about UH admissions.

 

Leading Public Universities Differ on Best Online Partners

Concerned about rising operating costs and uneasy about keeping pace with innovations in online learning, thirteen leading public universities have already taken sides in the emerging battle over which Mass Open Online Course (MOOC) organization offers the best vision for the future.

The fact that online learning will grow as a component in university education is not in question.  That is why EDx, the consortium formed originally by Harvard and MIT to offer free online courses to thousands, and Coursera, a strong recent entrant to the field, are emerging as the go-to entities for both public and private institutions that want to prepare themselves for the next revolution in higher learning.

So far, the upstart Coursera has the lead in total partners, now up to 33 schools.  Edx now has 12 universities, but nine of those are from the University of Texas System, the most recent addition to the EDx consortium.  (See complete list of  schools affiliated with Coursera below.)

The original partners in EDx were Harvard and MIT, each of which contributed a whopping $30 million to the project, giving EDx a funding edge for the time being.  The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is also a major supporter of Edx.  UC Berkeley later joined forces with Harvard and MIT, pledging support in the form of contributions from its outstanding faculty, and then UT Austin and the eight other UT campuses came on board.  UT will contribute another $5 million to EDx platform development, and UT will become a member of the EDx advisory board.  EDx is run by academics, and is a non-profit effort.

Stanford, Princeton, Michigan, and Penn were the first four to join the private Coursera venture, funding by an original $22 million from venture capitalists.  The brainchild of two Stanford professors, Coursera has received a combined $3.7 million in additional equity investment from Penn and Caltech.

According to some analysts, Coursera is perhaps more amenable to both intensive and modest efforts of its participants to develop for-credit online courses.  Schools that simply want something in place to assist them when the online “tsunami” hits can have a low-key Coursera ready in waiting and take a gradual or cautious approach as the case may be.  Some institutions with strong faculty opposition, for example, might prefer Coursera.  This does not mean, however, that Coursera cannot be used as a robust approach to digital learning.

Institutions that want more academic input and control when it comes to aligning digital learning with the best pedagogy might prefer Edx, which may be taking a more measured approach to developing platforms in line with individual campus and faculty expectations.  The UT System chose EDx in part because of the academic control and the fact that UT could have an advisory position.  UT Austin will offer some introductory courses for what are now large classes (more than 100 students) in the relatively near future.  Classes for college credit will not be free.

The University of Washington is currently the only university charging for classes offered through Coursera, because those classes are for credit.

Here are the public universities that have contracted with Coursera: Florida, Georgia Tech, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Ohio State, Pittsburgh, UC Irvine, UCSF, Virginia, and Washington.

These are the private institutions that have joined Coursera:  Brown, Caltech, Columbia, Duke, Emory, Johns Hopkins, Penn, Princeton, Rice, Stanford, Vanderbilt, and Wesleyan