Dr. Lynne Goodstein has a wealth of experience in honors education, having directed the program at the University of Connecticut for many years. The UConn program has more than 1,600 students, and about half of them live in honors residence halls; another quarter live elsewhere on campus.
Even though Dr. Goodstein is leaving honors to return to the classroom, she shared her insights into developing effective, high-impact programs for honors residences and facilities during a session at the National College Honors Council annual conference in Boston.
Below please see her “top ten” recommendations. Parents and prospective students should find these useful as they visit honors colleges and programs across the country.
- The programming for residence halls should have clear goals and learning objectives.
- Variety is extremely important; the “menu” should include community service, along with social, academic, and professional development and opportunities to meet with faculty.
- The programs should be tailored to match the changing needs of students across four years. This means offering a wide variety of activities in the first two years, including many social programs to develop a sense of community. During the last two years, programming becomes more closely-related to specific professional and academic interests.
- Programming benefits from partnerships with cultural centers on and off campus, with academic departments, and with the university office of residential life.
- Residential assistants (RA’s) should be well-trained and understand the connections between their programs and honors goals.
- Incentives to students are important, but should not be excessive. Students should not be required to attend too many programs—about five in the first two years is recommended.
- Honors staff need to focus on online and other means of communicating meeting the topics, dates, and times of program events..
- Honors staff should solicit and read student response forms for use in future planning.
At UConn, one of the most successful programs is the “Lunch Bunch,” a series of luncheon meetings during which honors students have informal discussions with faculty, whom they get to know on a more personal basis.
The Honors in the Arts programming allows students to develop or expand an interest in the arts and meet new people in small groups. Book clubs are another way to expand student interest and promote positive associations.
Leadership programs and alumni presentations tailored to specific majors and professions are also
successful and help to sustain ties between generations of students.