Univ of Arizona Honors College to Open New Center in 2019

Editor’s Note: The following item is from the University of Arizona.

Tucson, AZ – April 11, 2017 –The University of Arizona Honors College will be moving into new facilities that will enhance the student experience for The University of Arizona’s top students.

Development of the facilities, to be located on Mabel Avenue between Park Avenue and Santa Rita Avenue, is expected to be completed by 2019. They will include a four-story building that will support contemporary residential, academic, and administrative needs with cutting-edge technology, a new recreation center, and a parking garage. It will also be the first Residence Life facility to have both dining and housing options.

Innovative classrooms, community creative spaces, and more personal living areas will create a centralized space for Honors students, faculty, and staff. The hope is that the facilities will not only allow students a more challenging, beneficial academic experience, but provide greater co-curricular and community-building opportunities that are so important to a holistic student experience.

“The current Honors College facilities are spread across four buildings at disparate locations on campus,” Honors College Interim Dean, Elliott Cheu, says. “A new building will bring together the students, staff and faculty under one roof.”

The need for new facilities became a focus for the college when it began looking at ways to improve the Honors student experience. New visions for academics, engagement programs, and recruitment processes made it apparent that new facilities would be needed.

“We will be able to significantly increase the interaction and collaboration between students, staff and faculty that will greatly enhance the Honors experience,” Cheu says.

A sense of community has always been one of the strengths of the Honors College, and even though the building will not be completed until 2019, current students are excited for what it will bring.

“Right now, upperclassmen are somewhat disconnected from underclassmen. A central space will bring all Honors students together,” Madison Richards (Honors Class of ’18) says.

Even though she will graduate before the new Honors facilities are completed, Richards believes future Honors students will benefit from the new building.

If you have interest in learning more about the new vision for the college, you can visit https://www.honors.arizona.edu/honors-path-future.


PSU Schreyer Honors College Has New Dean

Dean Peggy Johnson

Penn State announced in late April that Peggy Johnson, a professor and former head of the Department of Civi and Environmental Engineering, has been named dean of Schreyer Honors College.

Johnson, who holds a doctoral degree in civil engineering from the University of Maryland, joined the Penn State faculty in 1996. Her work has focused on hydraulic engineering, bridge scour, resilient infrastructure, stream restoration, reliability analyses, and river mechanics according to the university website. She is heavily involved in her field, and has accumulated numerous honors over the course of her career —the most recent being the 2016 Hans Albert Einstein Award, presented by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

In 2006 Johnson was appointed department head of Penn State’s civil and environmental engineering program, a position she occupied for until going on sabbatical 2015. She returned in January 2016 to teach undergraduate and graduate-level engineering courses while remaining active in the world of engineering research, according to the university website.

Johnson will replace Kathy Bieschke, who served as interim dean of the college for almost 10 months after former dean Christian Brady stepped down as dean last spring.

Johnson was selected after a nearly year-long search conducted by the administration, and was one of four candidates to be evaluated in part by an interview that involved current Schreyer students.

“There are so many exciting possibilities associated with this position,” Johnson said in a statement. “The commitment of Penn State and the Schreyer Honors College to outstanding scholarly activity is clearly very strong. I am looking forward to working with an exceptional group of students and alumni, and collaborating with colleagues across the university to strengthen and advance an already strong reputation in honors education at Penn State.”

More than 1,800 students are currently enrolled in the Schreyer Honors College, which was founded in 1980 and renamed in 1997.

University Honors College at Pitt Appoints New Dean

Janine Faust | Staff Writer, Pitt

June 7, 2017

(Photo courtesy of Pitt)

Pitt announced researcher and medical doctor Brian A. Primack as the new dean of the University Honors College Monday.

Primack will succeed Edward Stricker as the third Bernice L. and Morton S. Lerner Chair and dean of the UHC, beginning July 1. Primack’s primary responsibilities as dean will be overseeing the financial and administrative operations of the UHC, which is currently in its 31st year.

Pitt provost and senior vice chancellor Patricia E. Beeson said in a press release that she believes Primack will be able to ensure the Honors College persists in being the intellectual core of the Pitt community.

“Under Dr. Primack’s leadership, I am confident that the University Honors College will continue to serve as the center of gravity for our most academically engaged and curious undergraduate students and as a hub of intellectual activity for our entire university community,” Beeson said. “His broad and inclusive vision is well-matched to our aspirations for the UHC and the University.”

Stricker, who has served as dean since 2011, will be returning to a teaching position in the Department of Neuroscience this fall as he first declared when he announced in June 2016 that he was planning to step down.

Students active in the UHC complained in 2012 that he had shifted UHC policies away from the emphasis that the first dean and founder of Pitt’s UHC, G. Alec Stewart, placed on intellectual curiosity. Students wrote a letter to Stricker expressing their concerns.

“For us, the promise of an institution that promotes intellectual curiosity as its core value is what made the choice to come to Pitt so easy,” the letter said. “Nonetheless, we are deeply concerned that the value of intellectual curiosity is being de-emphasized at the service of achievement-oriented principles.”

Stricker responded to complaints by claiming that the Honors College was not solely a vehicle for pure intellectual curiosity.

“[Intellectual curiosity] is incidental but true,” he told The Pitt News in November 2012. “I wouldn’t say it’s the only thing [the UHC] does or the most important.”

According to the position profile for the University Honors College dean, Primack’s other duties will include collaborating with the UHC community to develop and implement new plans, recruiting faculty from across the University to engage with students, and promoting the UHC to current and prospective students and families. The dean is also expected to teach at least one honors course each year.

Primack is a Pitt alumnus, having earned a Master of Science in clinical science in 2008 and a Ph.D. in translational science in 2011. Primack also practiced medicine at various medical centers including UPMC hospitals and the student health services centers at both Pitt and Carnegie Mellon.

During his time at the University, Primack has founded Pitt’s Center for Research on Media, Technology and Health in 2012 and earned numerous awards for his work. He is currently a professor of medicine, pediatrics and clinical and translational science and the Leo H. Criep Endowed Chair in Patient Care in Pitt’s School of Medicine. He is also an assistant vice chancellor for research on health and society in the School of Health Sciences.

Chancellor Patrick Gallagher praised Primack’s appointment in a press release Monday, stating that his diverse academic and professional experiences and dedication made him the right pick for the job.

“As dean, Brian’s multidisciplinary dexterity — coupled with his commitment to collaborating and leading — will ensure that our Honors College continues to serve as a defining force in our University’s mission to leverage new knowledge for society’s gain,” Gallagher said.

New Honors Deans at Univ of North Florida, TAMU-Kingsville

Dr. Jeff Chamberlain will be the inaugural dean of the newly created Hicks Honors College, starting in August.

The Hicks Honors College was a university program; however, the current Honors Director, Dr. Jeff Michelman helped elevate the program to a college. Michelman will return to the Coggin College of Business faculty as a professor.

Chamberlain served as the director of the Frederik Meijer Honors College at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Michigan for the last 10 years. He also worked as a professor of history at the University of St. Francis in Joliet, Illinois. His interests include social, political, intellectual, and ecclesiastical history of Tudor/Stuart and Georgian England.

Dr. Chamberlain holds a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago.


Dr. Thomas M. Spencer has been selected as the sole finalist for the position of Dean for the Honors College at Texas A&M University-Kingsville. His appointment is pending approval from the Chancellor of the Texas A&M University System.Dr. Thomas Spencer

Spencer has served as the Director of Honors Student Affairs at Eastern Illinois University’s Sandra and Jack Pine Honors College since 2012. His duties there have included overseeing the day-to-day administrative matters for some 500 honors students; coordinating 24 departmental honors programs; and managing 190 scholarships worth approximately $1 million annually.

During his time at Eastern Illinois University, its Honors College’s share of the incoming freshman class increased to more than 12 percent for three straight academic years from 2014 to 2016. Spencer helped create and develop the Pine Honors College Housing Community in 2014. He has also been in charge of social media for the Pine Honors College since 2013, among other accomplishments.

Prior to his time at Eastern Illinois University, Spencer was Director of the Honors Program at Northwest Missouri State University and a tenured Professor of History. He oversaw the Honors Program there from 2008 to 2012, and was a faculty member from 1997 to 2012.  His scholarship includes the publication of three books and several articles.

Spencer is active in the National Collegiate Honors Council (NCHC) and has made a number of presentations as well as led workshops for Honors administrators at the NCHC Annual Meeting. He served on the NCHC External Relations Committee from 2010 to 2013 and currently serves on the NCHC Teaching & Learning Committee.

Spencer received a Ph.D. in History from Indiana University, Bloomington; an M.A. in History from the University of Missouri-Columbia; and a B.A. in History from Trinity University, San Antonio.

Appalachian St Honors College Names Dr. Jeff Vahlbusch New Dean

BOONE, N.C.—After an extensive national search, Dr. Jefford Vahlbusch has accepted the position of dean of The Honors College at Appalachian State University effective July 17. Dr. Vahlbusch comes to Appalachian from the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire, where he currently serves as the Director of the University Honors Program.

“Dr. Vahlbusch demonstrated measurable successes in catalyzing the honors program at the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire,” Provost Darrell Kruger said of the new dean. “Over the course of his term there, he built a thriving and diverse program dedicated to intellectual, personal, and professional growth of the students. We are very pleased to have such a qualified and experienced leader join our faculty.”

Vahlbusch is charged with providing a vision and strategic direction for The Honors College and will act as an advocate and leader for honors education across the campus and beyond.

During his nearly eight years as director of the honors program at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, the number of students in the program and the number of honors courses offered more than doubled, and the enrolled students of color increased from 2.51 percent to 11.57 percent.

Vahlbusch earned his Ph.D. in Germanic languages and literatures, his master’s in German literature and philology, and his bachelor’s in German and English literature from the University of Michigan in ’98 ’82 and ’79, respectively.

He has taught at Berea College, Berea, Kentucky; Washington College; Chestertown, Maryland; Miami University, Oxford, Ohio; and University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. He was a lecturer at Johannes Gutenberg–Universität, Mainz, Germany.

About The Honors College
More than 750 students are enrolled in Appalachian’s Honors College, which attracts high-achieving students who are in the top 5 to 10 percent of their graduating high school class. The program develops independent and creative thinking, promotes open and provocative discussion, and nurtures a cultured and caring exchange of ideas. The college’s enhanced academic experience prepares students for leadership roles in their career as well as for graduate or professional school.

About Appalachian State University
Appalachian State University, in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, prepares students to lead purposeful lives as global citizens who understand and engage their responsibilities in creating a sustainable future for all. The transformational Appalachian experience promotes a spirit of inclusion that brings people together in inspiring ways to acquire and create knowledge, to grow holistically, to act with passion and determination, and embrace diversity and difference. As one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina system, Appalachian enrolls about 18,000 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and graduate majors.

Georgia St Honors College Gets $200k Grant for Human Rights Initiative

ATLANTA—The Georgia State University Honors College will endow the Herndon Human Rights Initiative with a $200,000 grant from the Rich Foundation.

The initiative will use teaching and research on the Herndon legacy to enhance community understanding of historical and modern-day human rights issues.

Born into slavery in 1858, Alonzo F. Herndon imagined a better life and worked tirelessly to build it. He achieved business success unprecedented in his day, first as a barber and later as founder and president of Atlanta Life Insurance Company. His only son, Norris, committed financial resources to the student-led Committee on the Appeal for Human Rights in Atlanta and the modern civil rights movement in general. Herndon’s contributions were critical, yet quiet and behind the scenes.

More than 150 years after Alonzo Herndon’s birth – and 90 years after the formation of the Atlanta Life Insurance Company – the Honors College occupies the company’s former home at 100 Auburn Ave. The Honors College is committed to educating its students and surrounding community about Alonzo and Norris Herndon’s lives, their values and character, and their role in the modern Civil Rights Movement.

The Herndon Human Rights Initiative focuses on four major components:

  • Herndon Human Rights course
  • Digital mapping project
  • Lecture series
  • Student scholarships

“The Georgia State University Honors College is making a difference in our community thanks to the generous and continuing support of the Rich Foundation trustees,” said Larry Berman, founding dean of the Honors College. “Their decision to endow in perpetuity the Herndon Human Rights Initiative will allow generations of young Honors College students to make a difference in the human rights challenges of the present and future.”

UC Berkeley, UT Austin Lead Publics in NSF Graduate Research Grants

The National Science Foundation has named 2017 grantees for the prestigious NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program (NFSGRFP). UC Berkeley and UT Austin led all public universities while MIT and Cornell led private institutions.

Below please see a list of the 50 universities with the most NSFGRFP grants in 2017.

For the 2017 competition, NSF received over 13,000 applications, and made 2,000 award offers.

Past fellows include numerous Nobel Prize winners, U.S. Secretary of Energy, Steven Chu, Google founder, Sergey Brin, and Freakonomics co-author, Steven Levitt.

Fellows share in the prestige and opportunities that become available when they are selected. Fellows benefit from a three-year annual stipend of $34,000 along with a $12,000 cost of education allowance for tuition and fees (paid to the institution), opportunities for international research and professional development, and the freedom to conduct their own research at any accredited U.S. institution of graduate education they choose.

NSF 2017 top 50 pubpriv.xlsx

NSF Grants 2017Top 50
UC Berkeley64
UT Austin34
UC San Diego25
North Carolina22
Arizona St21
Georgia Tech20
North Carolina St16
Ohio St14
UC Davis14
Florida St12
UC Irvine12
Johns Hopkins11
UC Riverside11
Georgia Tech10
Notre Dame10
Texas A&M10
Washington Univ10

Colorado State, Arkansas Each Have Two Truman Scholars in 2017

The University of Arkansas and Colorado State University each have two Truman Scholars for 2017, leading all public universities. This is the second year in a row that the University of Arkansas has had two Truman Scholars.

Twenty-six of the 62 Truman Scholars this year are students at public universities, and most are honors students. Three scholars have already served on active-duty in the military.

Yale University led with three scholars. Barnard College and Cornell had two scholars in 2017.

Truman Scholars receive up to $30,000 for graduate study. Scholars also receive priority admission and supplemental financial aid at premier graduate institutions, leadership training, career and graduate school counseling and special internship opportunities within the federal government.

Recipients must be U.S. citizens, have outstanding leadership potential and communication skills, be academically excellent and be committed to careers in government or the nonprofit sector.

The Truman program drew 768 candidates nominated by 315 colleges and universities. The 62 recipients were chosen from 199 finalists by 16 independent selection panels on the basis of the students’ academic success and leadership accomplishments, as well as their likelihood of becoming public service leaders.

The program has selected 3,139 Truman Scholars since the first awards were made in 1977.

The recipients from public universities are listed below:

Judson Adams, University of Louisville
Mussab Ali, University of Rutgers-Newark
Ryan Alonso, University of Arkansas
Taylor Cofield, University of Missouri
Francis Commercon, Colorado State University
Thomas Dowling, University of Illinois
Mohamed Elzark, University of Cincinnati
Jonathan Espinoza, West Texas A&M University
Rachel Gallina, Boise State University
Autumn Guillotte, University of Rhode Island
Sam Harris, University of Arkansas
Hanan “Alex” Hsain, North Carolina State University
Nadine Jawad, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
Rachel Johnson, University of Northern Iowa
Kilaulani Kaawa-Gonzales, Colorado State University
David Lascz, US Naval Academy
Attifa Latif, University of Virginia
Claire Lynch, City College CUNY
Killian McDonald, Clemson University
Athena McNinch, University of Guam
Mikaela Meyer, Purdue University
Karen Rosario-Ortiz, University of Puerto Rico
Joseph Russell, George Mason University
Matthew Salm, University of Texas at Dallas
Taylor Zabel, University of Kansas

“Reformers” Cite Productivity as the Reason for Higher Ed Cuts: Here’s What They Don’t Understand

After a years-long, bruising battle in Texas between the University of Texas and Texas A&M systems on one side and then-Gov. Rick Perry on the other, the two flagships have emerged more or less intact and relatively free of political meddling.

But that doesn’t mean that the overall fight to maintain quality in public universities is over. Far from it. Now comes news that Missouri and Iowa are joining Wisconsin in considering severe restrictions on faculty tenure, including the elimination of tenure tracks for new faculty hires.

Here are the four main factors involved in this ongoing battle:

  1. Real or exaggerated fiscal problems in the states;
  2. Ideological interference for partisan political purposes;
  3. Attacks by “reforming” governors on the fundamental purposes of public higher education;
  4. Disregarding what is unique about universities, while trying to turn them into business focused on “productivity.”

If far-right politicians in Iowa, Missouri, and Wisconsin and like-minded officials  across the nation succeed, then here is what will happen to public universities:

  1. They will be unable to compete for top faculty, continue to lose quality and prestige, and be relegated to secondary status.
  2. The purported vocational goals of the reformers (more business and STEM grads who can earn higher salaries) will in fact be undercut when public university grads find that their degrees are not regarded as highly as they are now.

Since the Great Recession, most states have struggled to keep abreast of legitimate public needs. In the early years of the recession, states enacted severe cuts in higher education. Often, the most severe cuts occurred in states with very conservative governors who saw an opportunity to leverage the recession into a continuing attack on the liberal arts and a concomitant turn toward vocationalism in higher ed.

But as the economy has rebounded, only some states have slowly begun to increase higher ed funding. Others, such as Wisconsin, Iowa, and Missouri, are renewing attacks on higher ed.

Here partisanship and ideology enter the picture. For the extreme right, public education should be almost entirely vocational, and “real” education should occur in the more expensive, private colleges, and mainly for those who can afford them. The fixation on private governance even drives these advocates to favor for-profit private “colleges” even though support for these dysfunctional businesses drives up federal loan losses.

Clearly, not funding public higher ed and reducing quality in public colleges is antithetical to the essential purposes of state universities: providing both access and quality to students in their states.

Moves to eliminate tenure are an example of the tone-deafness of some politicians when it comes to the differences between universities and the corporate business world.

The need to fire inept or irresponsible employees in the corporate world is a given. Almost always, such dismissals are unrelated to philosophical and ideological issues or to the expression of differing, even seemingly bizarre opinions.

The firing of a faculty member can come down to objective performance issues; but far more than in the case of firing a business employee, it can also be a punitive act against free expression or the result of a misguided bias against certain academic disciplines.

Of late, those disciplines–the humanities, mainly–are probably the very disciplines that need to be supported in an era of “fake news.” Do humanities and liberal arts majors find more high paying jobs than, say, chemical engineering graduates? No, but do engineering graduates need significant exposure to the humanities? The answer is yes, even if, or especially if, the engineering students disagree with what the humanities offer. At least they are more likely to think about why the disagree.

It must be said, however, that some alleged reformers see no value in having engineers–or any student, for that matter–do much critical thinking beyond that required by their (preferably) vocational major.

Arguments grounded in the need for “productivity” and the general uselessness of academic research have been an abiding feature of far-right attacks on public higher ed.

Yet there is a working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research that not only describes the uniqueness of universities as institutions but concludes that they are in fact rational actors in making decisions about faculty pay in relation to both research and teaching loads. They are productive, but productive within the very special context of a university.

The paper does not disagree that sometimes research professors are rewarded more than those who lack a research pedigree. But in the end, “prizing research output over teaching doesn’t necessarily affect educational quality.”

According to an excellent summary of the research by Colleen Flaherty of Inside Higher Ed, “the paper seems to dispute assertions that higher education spending — at least on instruction — is wasteful or inefficient.”

The authors note that “Departments in research universities (the more so the more elite) must pay high salaries in order to employ research-productive faculty. These faculty, in turn, contribute most to the universities’ goals (which include teaching as well as research) by following their comparative advantage and teaching less, and also teaching in ways that are complementary with research — notably graduate courses.”

And one of those goals is to maintain or enhance academic credibility. Flaherty writes that the “authors predict that because ‘scholarly reputation and output’ at research-intensive institutions are shaped by largely by research, highly paid faculty members within a department ‘do relatively little teaching, on average.’ And whatever teaching they do ‘has relatively high consumption value, either directly or as an input into research.’”





Growth in Honors Colleges Aided by Large Donations

Not only are new honors colleges and programs being created at universities across the nation, but, increasingly, large donations are enhancing the opportunities at programs already in existence.

One of the largest gifts ever came last year, when benefactor Tom Lewis and his wife, Jan, donated $23 million to develop the Lewis Honors College at the University of Kentucky.

The University of Akron has received a $3 million gift from Dr. Gary and Pamela Williams for the Honors College, which was renamed in their honor.

The announcement was made at a ceremony that included appreciative thank-yous from students who stood on steps as the couple descended.

The gift will be used to fund grants for students to study abroad and undertake research.

The couple have long supported what is now the Dr. Gary B. and Pamela S. Williams Honors College, and have also donated to other programs since they graduated from UA in 1968.

“We are enormously grateful that the Williamses are demonstrating their belief in and support of the University and the Honors College in this manner,” President Scott Scarborough said in a statement. The couple’s cumulative commitment of more than $10 million in giving will help advance the continued growth and expansion of the college, officials said.

The couple, who met as undergraduates, said in a statement that the university “has been and remains an important part of our lives. We appreciate the opportunity to provide this support and look forward to the great successes that we know participating students will achieve in the years ahead.”

Enrollment in the Honors College has increased 30 percent in the last five years to 1,937 in 2015.

While many faculty members at the University of Montana have struggled with cuts, there is good news for the Davidson Honor College, where a new $1.5 million gift will allow the hiring of two new specialized professors and a full time career development coordinator. Davidson Honors College President Brock Tessman has more details.

“We are going to bring in at least two full time teaching, research, and mentoring fellows,” Tessman said. “So starting next summer we will unveil a fully developed career development program. This will be staffed by a full time program coordinator. Which will be taking them all the way from a resume critique to interview prep to landing that first internship.”

During it’s 25th anniversary celebration this past weekend, The Davidson Honors College received the gift from the Davidson family that comes with a chance to bring even more staff into the program.

“The Davidson’s have also issued a challenge grant  as part of this gift,” Tessman said. “It is an open offer, and that means they will match dollar- for-dollar any additional gifts that come in to support this program and that will be up to two additional fellows.”

The UNLV Honors College received a $1 million boost to their scholarship program.

The gift was from the Bennett Family Foundation to support scholarships for entering freshmen and upperclassmen starting next fall.  This money will provide scholarship support to more than 150 Honors College students over the next four years.

Enrollment in the Honors College has nearly doubled from less than 300 in 2012 to over 500 today. The gift was made in an effort to maintain the college’s growth by offering compelling financial aid packages. This will allow the Honors College more of a capacity to recruit, support, and retain Nevada’s academic talent.

“Our students often say that the Honors College was the deciding factor in their choice to attend UNLV,” Marta Meana, the dean of the Honors College, said. “These students raise the academic standards and ultimately improve the quality of the entire university.”

The money will also fund a new mentorship program that will ensure new students will learn the ropes of college life and academic success from upperclassmen. The Bennett Family Foundation has contributed more than 10 million dollars to UNLV over the years.

University of Central Arkansas alumni and philanthropists Rush & Linda Harding have pledged $500,000 to benefit the Norbert O. Schedler Honors College.

Rush ’76 and Linda Harding ’82 have a long history of support and service to the institution.

In 2002, the Hardings established the Holloway-Hicks Scholarship to benefit African-American students. In 2004, they gave more than $1.4 million to UCA, which was the single largest gift in university history at that time. Those funds were used to support student scholarships and to construct Harding Centennial Plaza, a signature landmark on the campus.