Honors College Add-on

By on August 2, 2013

A Strategic Planning process for the UAB Honors College has been initiated. The membership of two committees, an Oversight Committee and a Working Group Committee was announced in early June.

At the first meeting of the Working Group Committee, President Watts charged the committee to develop the curriculum and structure that will enable the UAB Honors College to join the ranks of the best honors colleges in the world. This charge includes preserving strengths of the present Honors College and examining practices used by top honors program and colleges around the country.

Subsequent to that meeting there arose some issues regarding the decision to eliminate recruitment for existing honors programs for fall 2014. A later meeting between Dr. Mike Sloane, Director of the University Honors Program, President Watts, and Provost Lucas cleared up the confusion and a decision was made to proceed with normal recruiting for all existing honors programs for fall 2014. Both Dr. Watts and Dr. Sloane released statements after this meeting expressing their enthusiasm for the strategic planning process that will be unencumbered by any prior decisions and encouraged to explore all options in developing a highly attractive, comprehensive honors college.

Dr. Watts made a surprise appearance at last week’s Undergraduate Student Government Association’s Senate meeting. He faced an eager student body that overcrowded the Spencer’s Honors House and explained that the final Honors College plan will be structured to broadly represent UAB’s academic diversity.

“It would be wise of us to organize an honors college that is an arching umbrella and have programs underneath that…Never has there been any discussion of eliminating any of our honors programs,” confirmed President Watts after a widespread miscommunication that existing Honors College programs were to be dissolved or eliminated.

Dr. Julio Rivera, Interim Director of the Honors College, Dr. Suzanne Austin, Vice Provost for Student and Faculty Sucess, and Provost Linda Lucas, also represented UAB administration during the Senate meeting. The administrators informed the student panel that the committees are currently researching and reviewing existing Honors Colleges from the top universities in the country. A timeline has not yet been set, as UAB administration stated their prioritization for a high-quality plan.

The plan initiative arose because of the rising number of students turned away from one or more honors programs offered at UAB. Every year, 100-200 students who qualify for one of four Honors College signature programs are turned down due to space limitations

In the past, an average of 200 students are admitted into UAB’s Honors College. With the addition of the general track in the Honors College, around 80 additional students were admitted this year. One of the goals of the Strategic planning committees is to develop options where honors experiences are available to a larger number of students.

The Working Committee has representatives from the four existing university-wide honors programs, departmental and school honors programs, leaders representing undergraduate research and service learning, and a student representative from the Student Executive Council of the Honors College.The Working Committee is actively working to examine all possibilities that would optimally fit the mission of UAB. 

The general track in the Honors College might allow for qualified students to enter into the College without having to immediately commit to a program. According to Dr. Julio, there may be several options for student’s curriculum. For example, students who declared Engineering as their major may take several classes from one of the two Freshman Learning Communities organized under the School of Engineering. Several options from other Honors sections of regular classes were made available for students in the general track.

“We have students who want to come to UAB and don’t necessarily fit in the Sci-Tech program or UHP. We want to give them the opportunity to have a broad experience [general honors track] then stipulate where it’s best,” said President Watts.

The committees are still in the early stages of the strategic planning process and are working towards concluding and proposing a strategic plan within the next few months. The Oversight Committee will hear presentations about existing honors programs in August and then continue with their deliberations in September and October. 

UAB students, alumni, and community members are all invited to assist in the plan development. President Watt’s emphasized, “There are no secrets. There are no hidden agendas. There will be thousands of eyes and ears that oversee the proposal before we finalize it.”

The Student Executive Council (SEC) is in the process of organizing a public forum with a Q&A session. There are currently around 12 student representatives, which includes two representatives and one alterate from each Honors College program. Several students from the student panel expressed interest in increasing the number of student representatives on the Working Group and Oversight Strategic Planning Committees.

“I’ve read hundreds of e-mails and letters. I’m impressed with the passion and commitment of our students and alumni…We have to have a plan that’s going to be put together by the people, or it won’t happen. We are going to work together to make the best decision. Let’s take that brainpower and passion and channel it to create one big thing!” said President Watts.

Dr. Rivera has advised for students to address the SEC for feedback. Community and alumni are advised to address Dr. Rivera. Contact information can be found at the UAB Honors College website where plan development will be updated: http://www.uab.edu/honorscollege/plan.

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