More seniors will graduate in May with University Honors than ever before, something the director of the Honors Program said is another small but paramount sign the program is improving. Peggy Watson, director of the Honors Program, said recognizing these 46 seniors and supporting other honors students with more class offerings and programs is all part of an effort to eventually convert the Honors Program into an Honors College.
“I think it will take a number of years,” Watson said, “but it is going to happen.”
In the last few years, honors housing has doubled, and honors students have been given priority enrollment.
Watson said it is important to create a quality honors program because the program “makes a significant statement about top students on campus.”
She said the department has worked to offer programming to honors students, including the yearly Honors Convocation and the opportunity to hear speakers such as Ben Stein.
The Honors Program aims to create a support system for students, Watson said, and that it is working to add faculty, which would allow for more class options and smaller class sizes.
Watson said the national trend is to move from honors programs to honors colleges. This move would allow TCU to hire more faculty and better recognize and assist students who complete honors requirements. The current program is not large enough to be as encompassing as it would like, Watson said. However, while some schools offer an honors major, TCU is not looking to make that option available.
The University of Texas at Austin and Baylor University have programs that allow students to major within the honors college.
The Honors College at Baylor has four programs, only one of which offers a major. The other programs include alternative core requirements and a thesis project, much like TCU’s Departmental Honors option.
The UT offers honors options in the business, engineering and liberal arts colleges in addition to its Plan II option, which is a curriculum of humanities, social science, fine arts and natural sciences. Though it can act as a major, it is usually completed in conjunction with another major.
Watson said students at TCU will still graduate from another college and that the current honors requirements will remain the same.
But she said there will be more of a distinction at graduation for students that complete honors requirements, something that will begin this year with a ceremony for students and their families the Friday before graduation.
Watson said improvements will create more resources and more choices for honors classes, not a required set of classes for every honors student.
“(The Honors Program) should be a series of opportunities,” she said, “not a bunch of hurdles.”
As the program is able to offer additional opportunities, she said, the number of seniors graduating with honors should continue to increase.
Currently, freshmen offered academic scholarships are invited to join the Honors Program. Freshmen that achieve a 3.4 GPA or higher in their first semester and are not already involved in the program are also asked to apply.
To complete lower division honors requirements, a student must take 15 hours of honors coursework on one of two tracks.
If these requirements are met with at least a 3.4 GPA, students then have the option to complete either University Honors, which is another set of classes, or Departmental Honors, which includes a major-specific thesis.
Watson said in the future she would like the program to be more inclusive so that students can participate in honors classes even if they are not part of the program- – something that can only be done with more faculty.
Baylor and UT offer honors housing and different programming options similar to those already offered by TCU’s Honors Program, something Mickey Ley, a freshman political science major and honors student, said he thinks helps build a more unified group within the program.
Ley has been working with the Honors Program and the Student Government Association to move plans forward on improving the Honors Program and possibly converting it into an Honors College.
He said he would like to see additional scholarships for students who continue to do well, and with an Honors College, that may be accomplished.
“This is by no means a revolutionary changing of things in place,” Ley said, “but improving every aspect of things that are already there.