To complete Western’s honors program successfully, a student must maintain at least an 3.4 or an “A” grade point average.
But if the success of Western’s honors program is based on its graduation rate, it’s failing. Only a small percentage of those enrolled actually complete the program.
This isn’t necessarily an indication of the program’s quality. The honors program, despite its budget, offers several benefits to students who participate. If an honors program student wanted to do research or travel for their thesis, they can apply for grants from the honors program. Students can apply for scholarships to help pay for school and take courses that will provide preparation for harder graduate coursework.
We commend Western for providing $100,000 of its academic quality funds to help improve the program. But while it is good to use that money to provide additional incentives for faculty and students, it is necessary to use a portion of that money to promote and educate students about the program to prompt more student participation
In the article, the Herald quoted a student who remained in the program simply because those in honors can register earlier. The honors program needs to show those who are eligible why participating in the honors program will benefit them. The honors program has offered several interesting classes – classes on the works of Hemingway and Faulkner, drug legalization and the role of gender in history. These classes would probably appeal to a cross section of honors-eligible students, but not many will know about it if these courses are nothing more than ink and newsprint in the back pages of the schedule bulletin.
It would serve the honors program well to find more creative ways to promote those interesting classes. Often before class registration, different academic departments hang fliers that outline courses that may be interesting for students. The honors program would benefit if they did the same.
In this business world, companies promote events and seminars that will help get their name or brand out to the masses. This is already being done in an academic setting as well. For example, the English Club will sponsor open mic nights for all students. At Northern Kentucky University, its honors program runs a coffeehouse for all NKU students once a month.
The honors program has the potential to do the same things. Some of the funds can be used to bring interesting speakers and events to campus that may attract a variety of students. Even if some of the students who go to these events aren’t necessarily honors eligible, it might pique the interest of those who are.
But of course not all this can be done with an honors program director and an office assistant. That’s why we suggest that the honors program use some of that money to form committees to help organize some things. There are so many facets to the honors program. It would be better to have a small group of people devoted to improving the different areas such as the thesis project, scholarship, curriculum and promotion.
Finally, we should educate students about the honors program. One thing that prevents many students from completing the honors program is the thesis project. Patricia Minter, the program’s associate director, said students in the past have misunderstood the concept of the thesis. Maybe some of that money can be used to provide a seminar that could educate students about what a thesis involves – that it’s not always a big research paper, but a long term project – and to show the feasibility of completing the project. Once students are educated that they can certainly achieve something as ambitious as a thesis program, it will more likely encourage them to do it.
Western’s honors program has benefited students – having former honors program students accepted to schools like Harvard Law School and the University of Kentucky medical school is no small feat. Most students will not seek out a program to find its benefits. The honors program needs to take some of that new money and take the initiative to convince students that the honors program is an essential part of their college education.
This editorial represents the majority opinion of the Herald’s 9-member board of student editors.