Purdue Honors College Dean to Chair National Honors Committee

Editor’s Note: The following post comes from the Purdue Honors College. Dean Rhonda Phillips will be an asset in bringing greater attention and support to honors programs and colleges within major public research universities.

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — With honors colleges growing in popularity among high ability students, the National Collegiate Honors Council (NCHC) has selected Purdue Honors College Dean Rhonda Phillips to co-chair its NCHC Large Research University Committee alongside Mark Law, director of the University of Florida Honors Program.

“NCHC has an opportunity to support large universities and research to build effective honors education by convening R1 institutions,” said Hallie Savage, executive director of the NCHC.  “Through the collaborative work of these institutions, we will engage a broad range of expertise in honors programs and colleges.  This is a unique opportunity for members of large institutions in program development.”

Phillips will head to Seattle for the 51st annual NCHC Conference later this month.  She is uniquely poised to serve as committee co-chair, as she has successfully built the Purdue Honors College to a scholarly community of 2,200 students in just three years.  Under her direction, the college has burgeoning enrollment and a new academic home, tailor-made for gifted students.  The 324,000- square-foot, $90 million Honors College and Residences opened in August.  It houses learning studios, faculty and staff offices, a STEAM lab and large community gathering spaces, among other things.

“I look forward to working with colleagues from around the U.S. to examine the needs of Honors Colleges at large research institutions and determine how we can better serve our students,” Phillips said.  “Right now, honors education has a great deal of momentum.  More students and families are recognizing the added value we provide.  We want to refine honors programming, while ensuring that sustainable growth continues.”

Currently there are dozens of public universities making investments in honors colleges, hoping to compete with historically prestigious private schools to attract the best and brightest.  For example, Rutgers opened an $84.8 million, 170,000 square foot honors college facility in August of last year.  Phillips says in many cases, that focus is paying off.

“Students find we offer many of the same perks and outcomes as the Ivy League for a fraction of the cost, small and supportive classes, undergraduate research opportunities, and a distinguished faculty and student body,” Phillips said.

The National Collegiate Honors Council (NCHC) is a professional association of undergraduate honors programs, colleges, directors, deans, faculty, staff and students.  With more than 1,300 members in the U.S. and abroad, it provides support to institutions and individuals as they develop and expand honors education.

About Purdue Honors College:

The Honors College, which admitted its inaugural class in 2013, brings together students from all areas of study across campus, along with faculty, staff, alumni and organizational partners, in pursuit of academic excellence. Fostering transformative scholar and leadership development, the college is a community of scholars who learn together and explore ways to connect to Purdue and to the world beyond through engaged service. Website:  https://honors.purdue.edu/

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Purdue Honors Student and Rhodes Finalist: “I have lived the immigrant experience.”

Editor’s Note: The following post comes from Rosanne Altstatt at the Purdue National and International Scholarships Office.

Purdue University student Brenda Ramirez has been named a Rhodes Scholarship finalist.

"I have lived the immigrant experience." Brenda Ramirez

“I have lived the immigrant experience.” Brenda Ramirez.

Ramirez was born in Mexico and immigrated to the United States as a child, gaining U.S. citizenship in 2012.

Ramirez, of Romeoville, Illinois, is a senior in the College of Liberal Arts and Honors College majoring in law and society and corporate communication. After she graduates she plans to study refugees and migration from a global perspective. She is planning a future in law and public policy with the goal of improving how immigrant populations are supplied with needed services and resources.

“I have lived the immigrant experience, and it is imperative for me to give a voice to others like me,” she said.

“We are thrilled for Brenda. She was one of the Honors College’s first mentors, lending peer support and guidance to others,” said Rhonda Phillips, dean of the Honors College. “Brenda exemplifies what we strive to help our students develop – leadership skills, interdisciplinary knowledge, and a commitment to global and community engagement.”

Ramirez’s programs of study are in the Brian Lamb School of Communication and the Department of Sociology.

“Brenda is an outstanding liberal arts student who leads by example in the classroom on campus and beyond,” said David Reingold, the Justin S. Morrill Dean of Liberal Arts. “She represents the very best at Purdue University and her passion for addressing global issues is powerful and her determination to succeed and help others is inspiring.”

NISO develops student-scholars’ skills as they prepare their applications for Purdue’s nominations for prestigious awards. The office also guides students through their applications with info sessions, writing workshops, one-on-one meetings, mock interviews and all the details of scholarship competitions.

Source: Rosanne Altstatt, Purdue National and International Scholarships Office, altstatt@purdue.edu

VIDEO: Brenda Ramirez: https://www.youtube.com/embed/o49aVMS4dKI

Honors News: August 14, 2015

Purdue Honors College Announces Exciting Updates

Only a couple of years ago, the emerging Purdue Honors College enrolled about 1,000 students and was still in the process of transitioning from the Honors Program, which began back in 2005.

But now the enrollment is up to 1,800 students–and the College has announced other changes as part of a major expansion. The Honors College will soon have a $90 million, 311,000 square foot Honors College and Residences complex.

“This facility will provide a home for the College, inaugurated in the Fall of 2013. Providing over 800 beds, the complex will house the offices, innovation forum, classrooms and labs for the honors students. The Purdue Honors College has 1800 students who will be served by the facility that is among the first in Indiana – and Purdue’s first- to be built using the efficient construction manager as constructor (CMC) process.

“The new home will provide opportunities for enhancing the living learning experiences for honors students.”

The Honors College, under the leadership of Dean Rhonda Phillips, has already made a name for itself. In our 2014 edition of A Review of Fifty Public University Honors Programs, the College achieved a 4.5 mortarboard rating on the basis of its curriculum, staffing, class size, and excellent six-year graduation rate of 94 percent.

Goldwater Scholar Profiles: Purdue Honors College

Editor’s Note: This post is part of a series on 2014 Goldwater Scholarship winners who are students in public university honors programs.

Haefa Mansour – College of Engineering and Honors College

A major in Chemical Engineering, Haefa Mansour is a junior from Mentor, Ohio who intends to pursue a research-oriented career as a professor of chemical/biomolecular engineering and to focus on new protein-based materials for better surgical adhesives. Haefa has worked extensively in the Birck Nanotechnology Center and progressed with her team to the world competition of the International Genetically Engineered Machine competition in 2012. She has worked closely with her mentor, Dr. Julie Liu, Professor of Chemical Engineering, on protein and tissue engineering at Purdue.

Ms. Mansour is actively involved with the Stamps Scholars Program which is also under the HC umbrella.

“Taking the leadership initiative as a freshman, Haefa was named Assistant Director of the Purdue Student Government. She was selected to participate in a weekly leadership session instructed by France Cordova, President of Purdue University, and other important Purdue faculty. Haefa was also named Chairperson of the Engineering Honors Learning Community and is responsible for managing the events hosted by this group of honors engineering students.” http://www.stampsfoundation.org/portfolios/haefa-mansour-purdue-university-15/

 Sean McDowell – College of Engineering and Honors College

Sean McDowell, from Stevensville, Michigan, is pursuing a degree in Biomedical Engineering with the goal of developing next-generation prosthetic limbs that improve the body’s interaction with a motor prosthesis through a neural interface. He received the Industrial Roundtable Scholarship from Cognizant Technology Solutions and has also presented his research at the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) Symposium. He has conducted research in Purdue’s NeuroProstheses Research Laboratory with Dr. Kevin Otto, Professor of Biological Sciences and Biomedical Engineering.

Mr. McDowell has been an integral part of the HONR mentor program since its inception in 2012. He currently serves as one of two mentor captains in Honors College and will serve as the head mentor in 2015.

“If I hadn’t had been involved with the Honors College, I never would have applied for the Goldwater Scholarship. [An HC faculty member] brought up the idea my sophomore year when mentoring for the first-year honors seminar, and then she kept encouraging me to apply through the start of my junior year. Although the research I wrote about is focused on my work in biomedical engineering, my work with the Honors College helped reinforce the balance of skills I needed to be a successful candidate.” – Sean McDowell  April 15, 2014

Nicholas Pogranichniy – College of Science and University Honors Program

Sophomore Nicholas Pogranichniy is from West Lafayette, Indiana, and is a Biochemistry major who plans to pursue a Ph.D in Chemistry. He has worked closely in the lab with Dr. Simpson, Professor of Analytical and Physical Chemistry.  Although the Goldwater Scholarship is open to sophomores and juniors, it is much more challenging for sophomores to win.  This year, only 16% of the scholarships were awarded to sophomores.  

FAQ about the Purdue University Honors College Curriculum

Editor’s Note: This FAQ explaining Purdue’s revised honors curriculum is from the Purdue Honors College site.  We are constantly touting the importance of honors curriculum, and this is a good example of a clear and concise explanation of a solid curriculum.


Q: Why are 24 credits required to graduate with honors?

A: 24 credits represent a significant investment of time and intellectual energy in honors coursework. The number of credits—which amounts to an average of a single 3-cr. honors course per semester for 8 semesters—is sufficient to distinguish the honors degree and to allow for the completion of that degree within 4 years.

 Q: Why are HONR courses required?

A: The 5 credits of required HONR courses specify a minimally enhanced breadth of study, which can be further enhanced through elective Honors courses. HONR courses also build community and identity among honors students across the disciplines.

Q: Why must 9 credits of honors electives be taken after the first year of college enrollment?

A: To ensure that some of the additional breadth and depth is not just at the introductory level. This requirement is also intended to keep the Honors College students involved in honors activities during the time between their first year and the beginning of their thesis research. 

Q: Why are up to 12 credits specifiable by individual colleges?

A: To allow the Honors College curriculum to comply with the accreditation requirements of some colleges while not extending the major curriculum significantly beyond 120 credits.

 Q: Why is a thesis or scholarly activity required?

 A: The thesis requirement specifies a minimally enhanced depth of study, which can be further enhanced through elective Honors courses. The thesis demonstrates that a student has distinguished himself or herself in the chosen field of study and can help prepare a student for professional or scholarly life after graduation.

 Q: Is the thesis requirement different from college to college?

 A: Yes. The implementation of the thesis requirement is left to the colleges—with the option to delegate this to departments—which both simplifies its administration and leaves the experts within each college or department to judge the quality and appropriateness of student work.

 Q: Will students in every college be able to participate in the new curriculum?

 A: Yes. It is designed to allow students from every college across the university to be able to follow—and to graduate within normative time.

 Q: What are the differences among HONR courses, H courses, and H contract courses?

 A: HONR courses are interdisciplinary courses offered through the Honors College; H courses are honors sections of existing courses offered by the academic colleges; H contract courses are non-honors courses in which the instructor and student do an independent honors project together in addition to regular coursework.

Purdue to Open Residential Honors College in 2013

Here is some great news from Purdue: they plan to open a residential Honors College in the Fall of 2013. See what Assistant Dean Catharine Patrone has to say about this exciting development at one of the nation’s premier public universities. Purdue honors has a bright future, and not only for engineering students.

May 2, 2012

By RACHEL RAPKIN Assistant Campus Editor

With the University’s plan for an Honors College, students will have the opportunity to live and learn from each other while gaining valuable leadership skills.

In July, the Board of Trustees approved the plan to develop the residential Honors College. The University plans for students to be enrolled by the fall of 2013.

Over the summer, during the third module, assistant dean of the Honors College, Catharine Patrone, said first year students will have a chance to preview the Honors College by enrolling in the Accelerated Summer at Purdue program.

“The students will have the ability to take four honors credits,” she said. “In addition to the Honors course opportunity, extracurricular (events will be provided) to help build the community around them.”

Dennis Savaiano, interim dean of the Honors College, said a task force with around 100 members had been meeting since the fall and had been looking into recommendations for the planning of the curriculum, governance, scholarships and post graduate support.

“They came up with a set of proposals. The (University) Senate reviewed the proposals, ( and on April 24) the Senate passed a resolution endorsing the Honors College and another resolution endorsing the curriculum committee,” Savaiano said.

Patrone said with the approvals of the endorsements from the University Senate, the next step is to officially start creating the Honors College curriculum.

“The University Senate approved the college and the faculty governance structure,” she said. “Each college or school (including the libraries) will have one faculty member elected or appointed … They are going to be assigning and approving the Honors College curricula. The governance committee will begin their work in September.”

According to a Powerpoint from Savaiano to the Academic Affairs Committee during March’s Board of Trustees meeting, the Honors College is looking to incorporate more diversity, complement all the colleges curriculum and enhance student leadership.

“The idea (of the Honors College) was to unify our existing programs and make them more robust and grow them so that perspective students would see a richer opportunity, particularly in a residential model,” Savaiano said.

The residential model is going to be an area where students live and learn together. Savaiano said this could increase student enrollment and possibly encourage upper division students to stay in the residences where they can mentor the lower division, or first year students.

“Building a residential model that is a more robust honors experience was certainly our goal,” he said. “Currently there are about 1,200 honors students at Purdue, and we would like to grow that to 2,000.”

Patrone said there are a large number of students who want to be a part of the Honors College, but the dorms are full and they are leaving the University to find another place where they can be a part of a close knit community.

“Students who are looking for that experience are going to other universities,” Patrone said. “They are choosing to go elsewhere and, sometimes, even out of the state. We hope the Honors College will keep them in Indiana and attract them to Purdue.”