This is my first column as Director of the University Honors Program, and I am humbled and honored to have, as former Honors Program Director Kathleen McCluskey-Fawcett put it so well, “the best job on campus.”
Honors students continue to achieve at the highest level and are deeply involved at KU and beyond. Over the past year, Ryan Limbocker won a prestigious Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship thanks in part to his research contributions to the field of neurodegenerative diseases; KU’s three other nominees received Honorable Mentions. KU also put forth four nominees for the Harry S. Truman Scholarship, all of whom were selected as finalists. Among the Truman finalists were Leigh Loving, who founded the Jayhawk Health Initiative at KU, and Micah Melia, the current executive director of the KU Center for Community Outreach.
The extent of involvement by our Honors students is impressive. Emma Halling, former Student Body Vice President, was recently called on to serve as interim Student Body President after the spring 2014 election results were invalidated. In the September elections, Miranda Wagner was voted in as Student Body Vice President; in this role she will preside over the University Student Senate. Jake Doerr and Emma Halling were recently asked to serve as the two undergraduate student representatives on the KU Sexual Assault Task Force; they work with members of the administration to review both policy implementation and assault prevention. Seven of this year’s 10 ExCEL award nominees and both award recipients, Ellie Eastes and Graham Naasz, are KU Honors students.
The University Honors Program continues to grow toward our goal of serving 1,600 students. In this planned growth, we have not lowered the high standards for admission; in fact, we have redoubled our recruiting efforts and have been able to attract more extremely bright and talented students from across the state and around the world. Increased funding from the Provost’s Office and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences has made it possible to support this growth with additional staff, faculty fellows and seminar instructors.
We are working hard to extend the incredible academic enrichment that has been central to the University Honors Program for decades to our expanding student population. As part of this effort, we are making sure we have the depth and breadth of Honors courses to meet the needs of our student base. We are also carefully coordinating Honors advising to ensure we help students make the absolute most of their KU education, expanding co-curricular offerings with timely and engaging presentations and discussions, and increasing opportunities for transformative experiences.
This past year, we were able to make such experiences possible for 166 students through Honors Opportunity Awards. These grants typically range from $250 to $1,000, and they often make the difference between a student studying abroad, attending a conference, engaging in service…or not. One of my primary goals is to expand the amount and number of opportunity awards to match the growth in our student body. Please consider using the enclosed envelope to help students reach their goals, or contribute online at www.honors.ku.edu. Your support could help send a student to Bolivia to improve sanitary facilities, to Panama to serve in a medical clinic, or to one of the other thirty countries that were destinations over this past year.
We are extremely grateful for the generous support of our friends and alumni. On behalf of our incredible students, faculty, and staff – thank you.
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