College applications, scholarship information, financial aid forms, campus visits, and many other steps to entering college can be an overwhelming process to any parent or college-bound student. But for 18 incoming freshmen to Anderson University one extra step was made possible to them for the first time to outstanding academic students and leaders in their communities. New to AU this year is a program that will integrate students into campus life in a different way.
Three years prior to the 2006-07 academic school year, AU started meeting about an Honors Program through a development committee. With the program (made possible through a grant from Lilly Endowment), came planning, surveys to current students and alumni, curriculum intentions, and many other factors to create such a program for the university.
“We wanted a cohort of committed Christians who wanted to excel in learning, who were leaders in the community and knew how to represent AU’s campus,” said Dr. David Murphy, professor of History an co-director of the Honors Program. “We believe in combining our goals of intellectual and social learning in keeping with our mission to the program and AU.”
From the “Christian ideals” of the program it states the following: Anderson University is committed to the highest ideals of Christian higher education. As an integral part of that commitment, the Honors Program seeks to prepare students of demonstrated achievement for leadership in a range of fields of endeavor. Within this context, our scholars will be challenged to cultivate the life of the spirit, maturing in the virtues of integrity, justice, and generosity.
Dr. Carl Caldwell, vice president for Academic Affairs, nominated and appointed members to the committee to organize such a venture for incoming students. Committee members met to determine the desire and structure for such a program thus beginning the research and contact with other colleges in preparation for the program launch.
“We feel as though we learned from these other colleges and received feedback into how to structure and create such a program,” said Murphy. “For instance, we wanted to integrate these students with others on campus through dorm life and classes. Many other colleges have separate living quarters for honors students but we felt an overwhelming urge not to create such a lifestyle.”
Vivian Coffman, who works in the Center of Public Service (CPS) office and part-time for the Honors Program, appointed two upper classmen mentors, from CPS, to work with the cohort students. In addition, 2004 alum Erin Coffman and two other colleagues helped lead orientation sessions in adjusting to college life as a student and leader (curriculum from a youth leadership development program where she works in Washington D.C.)
“Because we did not have other honor students on campus we felt it was important to have upper classmen serving as mentors to these students and to see a familiar face when in the honors office,” said Vivian Coffman.
Rebecca Nelson, one of the first students to enter the program from Oak Lawn, Ill., felt that the three-day orientation program served the Honors Students in more ways than one.
“With arriving four days earlier on campus to adjust being away from home then coming into the honors orientation with three youth leadership experts, helped ease my anxiety coming into college,” said Nelson.
“I feel our roll in being mentors to these students is that they will use our mentorship how they see fit,” said senior Stephen Hawkins. “To let them know we [with sophomore mentor Lauren Roller] are people they can come to if they have problems, need questions answered, and to help them transition to college is important.”
Through CPS, Tri-S, SGA, and many other organizations on campus, Dr. Janice Fulkerson, associate professor of Education and co-director of the Honors Program, looks to these students as being future leaders on campus and in the community.
“We hope each year to have more and more applicants to the program and to have these students become ambassadors for the program in their hometowns and when talking to students and community members,” said Fulkerson.
“Retention is a huge factor for this program,” said Murphy. “We need to keep the brightest and best students in Indiana and in doing so need to create a program with a strong sense of belonging, which I think we have accomplished this year with our first group.”
Upon successful completion of 23 credit hours (one class per semester) over four years that will stand for and meet 17 liberal art credit requirements, students will receive special recognition at commencement, and on their transcripts and diploma.
For more information about requirements and the program itself, please visit www.anderson.edu/honors.
— Writer Stefanie Leiter is the editor of the Anderson University Web site in the AU Office of Communications.