Honors Residence Halls–University of Nebraska

Watch out for the ghosts. Well, anyway, watch out for the Neihardt student residents who pretend to be ghosts each year around Halloween. Hundreds of people turn out for the Neihardt “ghost tours” each year.

Max Walling, Neihardt’s residence director, told the campus newspaper that the ghost tours are a “long-standing tradition.” Most of their stories, he said, come from a thesis written in 1997 by Jessica Kennedy, titled, “Folklore and Ghost Stories on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln City Campus: A Compilation.” Kennedy wrote all about the campus. She explored the ghosts of the Temple Building, the Lewis-Syford House at 700 N. 16th St. and Selleck Quadrangle. However, many of those stories written in her thesis were from Neihardt.

The last tale, according to the paper, is performed as much as told by Derek Shafer, a senior (in 2010) and biological systems engineering major. “[Shafer] emerged from a coffin in the basement of Neihardt, representing a coffin that was found in Neihardt’s basement by maintenance workers years ago.”

“The residents of Neihardt,” the paper notes, take the ghost tours very much “to heart” when they recite their ghost stories.

Ghosts aside, or above, or wherever they may be, the Neihardt Residence Hall offers a prime location for the 400 honors students who live there. For one thing, the office of the honors program is on the first floor, a handy location for the residents who live on the second, third, and fourth floors. In addition, the nation’s most prominent organization for university honors education, The National Collegiate Honors Council, is also located there.

Below are many more reasons why students enjoy Neihardt:

• Student-to-student staff (RA) ratio is low
• Outstanding leadership opportunities through floor government and hall government
• Neihardt Council recognized as one of the most successful hall governments with active participation in service/philanthropy activities, social activities
• Easy access to Honors program faculty and staff
• Neihardt is full of members of the two most prestigious academic honoraries (Innocents Society, Mortar Board)
• Staff sensitive to high demands placed on Honors students…most of the RA Staff are Honors
• Residents of Neihardt develop lifetime friendships
• Coed
• More students return to Neihardt than any other hall on campus
• Centrally located, convenient to the Nebraska Union, academic buildings, Love Library, faculty offices, Campus Rec fields, basketball, tennis and sand volleyball courts
• Close to downtown Lincoln restuarants, and movie theaters
• Residents love the sinks in the rooms located in the Love, Heppner, Raymond sections of Neihardt
• First floor offers a variety of study environments/locations: Honors computer lab, Honors group study rooms, classrooms in the building. A variety of relaxing study spaces like your living room at home.
• The Sun Room
• Neihardt traditions include camping trip, ghost tours, steak feed, philanthropy auction, professor pizzaz, professor pancakes
• Neihardt has a community kitchen with baking and cooking supplies available for check out at the Neihardt desk
• GFL (Good, Fresh and Local) menu focus of the Cather-Pound-Neihardt Dining Service
• An historic building coupled with state of the art amenities (T-3 internet, Andover access system, Onity room door locks)
• The Lounge – snack shop with a coffee house atmosphere
• Beautiful interior courtyard

For more information, please go to http://housing.unl.edu/halls

Reformers, Distance learning, and the Future of Honors Education

Recently, President Obama called for a series of reforms directed at reducing the cost of tuition at the nation’s universities. Most public institutions are already operating with minimal state support, and these latest demands to cut costs and improve efficiencies, are, one hopes, an attempt by the president to take over the reform agenda from those who use it as part of a larger plan to reduce the role of government in all areas of life.

Some members of this alleged reform effort also champion private, for-profit online colleges as an effective means to make college education more available and affordable, despite the low graduation rates and high student loan burdens that are frequently associated with these institutions.

Of course these schools rely almost entirely on distance learning. Whether or not they are effective, overall, as educational tools, rather than as inexpensive delivery systems, is a matter of debate. But for those whose only bottom line is the one with dollar signs, distance learning will always be appealing.

The president’s proposal gives a strong nod to the role of technology in reducing costs:

“Through cost-saving measures like redesigning courses and making better use of education technology,” the president argued, “institutions can keep costs down to provide greater affordability for students.”

So how will the reforms affect honors education, especially the emphasis on distance education? It is possible to see at least three scenarios:

(1) public research institutions could use distance learning and even campus online courses to lower the cost of education for most students, thereby allowing the universities to maintain honors programs as they are, with small, personal classes and the best professors; or

(2) honors programs will have to ride the technology wave and include online learning to the same extent as the university as a whole; or

(3) An approach that includes somewhat more online instruction but retains the essential, more personal quality of an honors education will generally prevail.

Some universities, notably the University of Central Arkansas and the University of Maine at Augusta, already use distance learning in honors education, with good results. Many others require honors students to develop digital portfolios that involve the students in a process of reflection; this process not only allows students to collect and synthesize what they have learned but also to discover new connections along the way.

Even so, too much emphasis on digital learning will change the essential nature of the public honors hybrid. The combination of high-level research and a liberal-arts atmosphere would surely suffer if direct personal contact became significantly less frequent.