Students hear from potential Honors College associate director

Students meet with Thomas Spencer, a candidate for the position of Associate Director of the Honors College for Academics and Department Head. They voiced concerns about the current system and asked what changes he would hope to implement, if hired. Among many other plans, he hopes to make a more conscious effort to actively involve upperclassmen. “This is a position that hits my strengths,” says Spencer. “ I enjoy working with faculty and working with students. This sort of hits my sweet spot.” Gabriel Scarlett/HERALD

Monica Kast

The Honors College hosted an open session Monday for the first candidate seeking the position of Honors College associate director and Honors Academy department head.

The Honors College associate director and Honors Academy department head will oversee the Honors College curriculum, staff within the Honors College, and leadership and development in the Honors Academy. The person in this position will also teach one class annually.

Thomas Spencer, the director of Honors Student Affairs at the Sandra and Jack Pine Honors College at Eastern Illinois University, met with several Honors students on Monday. Previously, Spencer served as the director of the Honors Program at Northwest Missouri State University.

At the open student session, students were able to ask Spencer questions about himself and his plans for the Honors College if selected for the position. In return, Spencer asked the students what changes and improvements they wanted to see in the Honors College.

“My current position is 100 percent administrative,” Spencer said during the meeting. “Part of what I’m looking for sort of pulls me further back toward the faculty side.”

Students at the meeting brought up concerns about the Honors College continuing if budget cuts happen in the next few years. Spencer shared their concern but said he did not think there would be any extreme effect on the Honors College.

“I think that at the end of the day, since this is such an important part of WKU’s focus, I don’t think you’ll see it go away,” Spencer said.

Spencer said that as for teaching a class, he would be interested in teaching a section of Honors 251: Citizen and Self. He has a doctorate in history and said he would also be interested in teaching history or film courses.

Other students brought up concerns about the Honors College that related specifically to its capstone thesis branch. McKenzie Perdew, Shepherdsville senior, talked about some of the issues she had when working on her thesis project.

“There’s just not a lot of communicative support on our thesis project,” Perdew said. “It’s pretty much just me and my thesis advisor.”

Several other students voiced the same concerns, and Spencer said if he were given the position, he would work to develop clearer directions, guidelines and communication within the Honors College.

Spencer said he first heard of the Honors College at WKU in 2009 when he heard Craig Cobane, the college’s current executive director, speaking at a conference.

“When I was a beginning honors director in 2009, I went to the National Collegiate Honors Council, and one of the very first sessions I went to was [Craig Cobane] explaining how the Honors College got created here,” Spencer said. “And at that point I said, ‘If I see a job opening in that college, I want to apply for it.’”

The Honors College will continue to host other candidates in the coming weeks as well as more open sessions where students can meet the candidates.