Q & A with Inaugural Honors Dean at Kentucky’s Lewis Honors College

Editor’s Note: The following detailed Q & A is between editor John Willingham and Dr. Christian M.M. Brady, the inaugural Dean of the Lewis Honors College at the University of Kentucky, where almost half of the inaugural class is receiving full tuition scholarships or greater awards. Dr. Brady is the former longtime Dean of the Schreyer Honors College at Penn State. [Emphases below are added.] Please see earlier post, Kentucky to Open New Honors College with Gift of $23 Million.

Dean Christian M.M. Brady, Lewis Honors College

Editor: Can you say what the expected test score and GPA requirement will be, at least approximately at LHC?

Dean Brady: This year’s incoming class has an average unweighted GPA of 3.86 and an average ACT of 31.4. Please note that these figures are determined after the fact. The LHC does not use standardized test scores, but rather has an holistic selection process. The formal statement on the website currently reads*: “Applicants to the Lewis Honors College typically have at least a 28 ACT or 1310 SAT (M + EBRW) and an unweighted GPA of 3.50 on a 4.00 scale.” These minimums are not guarantees of admission to the program, but act as a benchmark for consideration. All applicants should be aware that Honors admission decisions are made independently of Competitive Academic Scholarships and applications will not be reviewed until a student has been admitted to the University….[A]n applicant’s essay responses carry a large amount of weight in the admission process….The deadline for submission of the application and all required documents is December 1.

*These minimum requirements are likely to change.

Editor: In what ways will the LHC differ from the previous honors program? In what ways the same? Will the number of honors sections be significantly increased?

Lewis Hall

Dean Brady: Honors was created at UK in 1961 and has taken on various forms in its nearly 60 year history. With the establishment of the Lewis Honors College we will continue the more recent progress of a university-wide honors program with certain key features. The development of a foundational course and experience that all Lewis Honors College Scholars will participate in, the expansion of departmental honors courses, and the strengthening of the honors thesis or capstone requirement. Students are also required to do 6 credits of “honors experience,” which can be accomplished via study abroad, service learning, and research. The LHC will have up to ten lecturers who will teach the Foundations Seminar and other honors courses through the relevant departments. We will also have two endowed lectureships: one in the area of organizational behavior and the other in entrepreneurship. There is a new Career Advising Center being created, with a staff of four advisors. There will also be five Academic Advisors. These new staff positions, along with other student programing positions, will all be in place by the end of fall 2017. Staff will be housed in the new Lewis Hall.

Located directly across from the WT Thomas Library and next to “The 90,” a dining and classroom space, Lewis Hall is one of three Honors residence halls and includes 346 beds. It also has over 20,000 square feet of office and meeting space, including four classrooms and a café. There is a spacious outdoor patio venue as well. One particular concern that I think will come to the fore is the commitment to helping students from their earliest moments on campus to discern their pathway forward. (E.g., they might have always thought they should be an engineer because they are good at numbers and like creating things, but they might actually be more of a business person. Or vice versa.) This will be determined and elaborated later in this semester, once we have the opportunity to meet with students and faculty.

Editor: What is the size of the class of 2021, and anticipated size thereafter?

Dean Brady: The incoming class is predicted to be 540 and our target is to maintain 10% of total student population, roughly 2,200 LHC Scholars.

Editor: What is your personal vision for LHC, building on your long experience at Penn State and contacts in the honors community?

Dean Brady: I believe firmly that every honors college and program should reflect what is distinctive and unique about the larger university community of which it is a part…. [W]e should also have a particular distinctiveness that reflects the Kentucky identity. This does not mean that we are regional, quite the opposite. The traits I have already seen in terms of work ethic, humility, and commitment to community are those that we should seek to inculcate in all students. Over the next 5 to 10 years we will build one of the strongest honors colleges in the nation. Founded upon the strength of excellent faculty, great breadth of offerings at UK (it is one of the most comprehensive research universities in the nation, with every professional school, aside from veterinary, within 1 mile of the honors complex), and developing men and women to understand and meet their own potential while benefitting their communities. As some have put it, “doing well while doing good.” The LHC will also become a standard within the nation and the world for innovation….With over thirteen years in the honors community, I look forward to working with our colleagues around the world to continue to learn from their best practices, develop exchange opportunities for our students, and help establish new standards for honors education. We will be submitting a proposal to host the [Honors Education at Research Univerity] HERU meeting in 2019 and I look forward to working with my SEC colleagues, many of whom I have already met through HERU and Big Ten conferences.

Interior view of Lewis Hall

Editor: What are the amounts and availability of merit scholarships, and do LHC students automatically qualify for university scholarships? Does the LHC offer its own merit scholarships?

Dean Brady: I am still learning where exactly all funds reside, but this is certain: the LHC has more than $8MM in scholarships each year. Almost half of all incoming students will have a scholarship at least cover full tuition. We are also preparing to enter into a capital campaign in which developing further scholarship and grant funds (for research, study abroad, and internships) will be a priority.

Editor: Can you tell us more about the honors residence halls and the LHC administration building?

Dean Brady: I referenced the new Lewis Hall earlier. There are also two other Honors residence halls, all built within the last 5 years, that are beautifully appointed with learning spaces for the students on each floor, ground floor lounges, and located next to the library and the new, $112MM Jacobs Science Building.

Another view of the Lewis complex

Editor: Can you tell us more about the size of the LHC staff and their assignments; are any staff dedicated to prestigious awards?

Dean Brady: When fully staffed we will have over 30 staff members including an associate dean for academic affairs, a director of academic affairs, five academic advisors, and up to twelve lecturers. We will have a senior director of student affairs who will oversee a director of career advising and 3 career advisors, a director of recruitment, a director of the Residential College (student programming), and an administrative assistant for student affairs and receptionist. We will also have a budget officer, director of communications, and a philanthropy officer.

Editor: What are the levels of honors completion and the semester-hour requirements for each level; is there a thesis required; is there a limit on honors conversions (contract courses?

Dean Brady: There are some adjustments being made, but the basic requirements beginning in 2018 will be:

• Total of 30 honors credit hours

• Writing, Reading, and Digital Studies/CIS (accelerated two-semester course)

• 2 first year courses + foundational seminar

• 2 upper level courses + directed elective (“Honors students must choose at least three credit hours in HON 301 [an honors ‘pro-seminar’] or departmental Honors sections outside their general discipline of study, including declared majors, minors, and certificate programs at the time of course enrollment.”)

• 6 cr Honors experience study abroad, experiential & service learning, research

• Senior Thesis

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Former Schreyer Dean Christian Brady Is First Dean of UKY New Lewis Honors College

Editor’s Note: The following post is from the University of Kentucky.

University of Kentucky provost Tim Tracy announced today that the former head of one of the most highly regarded honors programs in the country will be the first dean of the Lewis Honors College.

Christian Brady for 10 years — from 2006 to 2016 — served as dean of the Schreyer Honors College at Penn State University. Previously, he directed the honors program at Tulane University. At Penn State, Schreyer — under Brady’s leadership — raised more than $80 million to enhance honors education, developed a renowned leadership academy, and tripled applications to the college while also increasing selectivity.

Christian Brady

Brady’s permanent appointment is subject to approval by the UK Board of Trustees. He begins his work at UK Aug. 1.

“In Christian Brady, we have someone acknowledged throughout the country as a leader in honors education, who at the same time, has maintained an active career as a scholar in his field,” Tracy said. “This combination of skills, background and leadership is precisely what we have been looking for in our inaugural Lewis Honors Dean. Our students and staff are excited about the potential of growing this program into one of the leading Honors Colleges in the country under Christian’s leadership. The Lewis Honors College, I’m confident, will quickly become one of the distinctive programs at UK, one that helps prepare students for what President Capilouto often refers to as lives of meaning and purpose.”

Brady is a scholar of ancient Hebrew and Jewish literature. He has written two books and has a third one in progress. Brady also is the author of numerous scholarly articles and papers.

“It is a great honor and responsibility to be the founding dean of the Lewis Honors College. Honors education is not an exercise in elitism, rather it is providing UK honors students with an enhanced educational experience that will also benefit the entire university. Our goals are nothing less than building the best honors program in the nation and developing women and men who will transform this world in a positive way.”

In October 2015, the University of Kentucky received the largest single gift in its history — $23 million — from alumnus, longtime donor and successful entrepreneur Thomas W. Lewis and his wife Jan to create the Lewis Honors College from the previously existing Honors Program. The dean of the Lewis Honors College is a full-time appointment, reporting directly to the provost and serving on the Deans’ Council.

The dean serves as the academic and administrative head of the Lewis Honors College and is responsible for the leadership and administration of all aspects of the college.

Kentucky to Open New Lewis Honors College with Gift of $23 Million

Editor’s note: The following post is from a story by Linda B. Blackford in the Lexington Herald-Leader, first published October 22, 2015. As the story notes, philanthropist Tom Lewis of Arizona has had a long acquaintance with Barrett Honors College at Arizona State University. He has not only supported Barrett with his philanthropy but also the MBA program at the Kenan-Flagler School of Business at UNC-Chapel Hill. Originally funding scholarships for outstanding students to attend the university of choice, whether public or private, Lewis has more recently been committed to supporting public honors colleges that help to attract top in-state students and to keep them there after graduation, thus avoiding the brain-drain that can occur in the absence of honors colleges and programs. For their recognition of the value of honors education to students, their states, and to the nation, we applaud the generous efforts of Tom and Jan Lewis and their foundation. The odds are that the University of Kentucky will soon be among the leaders in public university honors excellence. Mr. Lewis and university officials tell us that the new college will have at least four counselors devoted to career planning and counseling for honors students.

Tom Lewis, alumnus and benefactor Lewis Honors College

In September 2014, the University of Kentucky announced the largest gift in its history — $20 million from trustee Bill Gatton to help build a new student center.

On Thursday, UK announced its new biggest gift ever: $23 million from alumnus Tom Lewis and his wife, Jan, to create an honors college for UK’s most intellectually inspired students.

“This gift, by a remarkable person and leader so committed to his alma mater and to education, reflects our mission to place the success of students first in everything that we do,” President Eli Capilouto said. “Tom Lewis is investing in, and helping enhance, a vision we have to be the finest residential, public research university in America.”

The college will be in a residence hall to be built across from William T. Young Library, and the money will be used to hire a dean and eight to 10 faculty and staff, and to provide programming.

Lewis, a native of Lexington and a 1971 engineering graduate of UK, is a seventh-generation Kentuckian, UK officials said. He was a 1967 graduate of Bryan Station High School in Lexington. After graduating from UK, Lewis earned a master’s degree in business administration from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

He then went into the home construction business in Arizona, where he started T.W. Lewis Co. He lives in Paradise Valley, Ariz.

“I have a strong belief in the value of education and helping young people become the best they can be,” Lewis said. “This gift is our way of helping University of Kentucky honors students reach their full potential as leaders who will create, shape and influence people, ideas and discoveries for this and generations yet to come.”

At the Thursday news conference, Lewis said he was inspired by the Barrett Honors College at Arizona State University in Tempe, near where he lives.

At Barrett, he said, he has seen that attracting the best and brightest students to stay in-state for college helps them remain afterward, and they “contribute back to the growth and prosperity of the entire state.”

Although Lewis has spent the majority of his life outside Kentucky, he made it clear that it remains close to his heart. He mentioned that all 16 of his great-grandparents lived here.

“When I think about this honors college, I really think about honoring the history of our family in Kentucky,” he said.

Lewis has already set up scholarships for students from Fayette County and some Eastern Kentucky counties.

UK has a long-established honors program, which provides enrichment classes. Provost Tim Tracy said elevating the program to a college “allows us to bring together all our resources. The students will live together and learn together.

“This will provide a very enhanced and enriched experience that allows them to gain an education they might not get otherwise.”

The plan for the college must go before the University Senate for approval.

The college will not grant degrees, and its faculty will be non-tenure track, Tracy said, because “it’s a residential college, not an academic college.” The faculty will teach courses such as life skills and organizational techniques.

For example, an honors student could major and get a degree in engineering but would be required to take 24 hours in honors classes, which would be taught by full-time faculty.

Some proposed classes for first-year students include “Jews and Christians in Medieval Europe,” “Science, Ethics and Society,” and “The Science, Public Policy, Law and Ethics of Drug Development and Human Health.”

Lewis Honors College will have about 2,000 students when it opens in fall 2016 or 2017, Tracy said. Students will be chosen based on grades, test scores and essays.

UK has committed $8.5 million a year for scholarships for honors students, Tracy said. That money is not included in the $23 million gift.

Ben Withers, associate provost for undergraduate education and dean of undergraduate studies, said that on a national level, honors colleges signal a dedication to the highest academic achievement.

“It is a highly visible symbol of the institution’s commitment to provide rigorous and challenging academic environment in all its undergraduate programs, in all colleges and majors,” he said. “The difference with honors is that the approach seeks to pull together students and faculty across campus who wish to explore interdisciplinary connections, questions and approaches.”

Withers said honors colleges should be seen as “serving all colleges but belonging to none.”

“The central mission should be to help talented, motivated students make the most of their UK experience, fostering work across any and all colleges as well as within,” he said.

Toluwalope Odukoya, a UK honors graduate now in medical school, said the honors experience is one in which intellectual discourse and exploration are expected for students who want to question and learn. He thanked the Lewises, saying the new space would “cultivate an amazing learning environment.”

“It’s not about elitism,” Odukoya said. “It’s about intentionality.”