A (Somewhat) Brief History of the AUM Honors Program

Because of the particularly fine work of a student in a statistics class during the fall quarter of 1980, Professor Joe Albree (Mathematics) began to consider, and talk with fellow faculty members about, the need for meeting the special challenges of students who wanted to study materials more deeply and in ways that were not part of normal classes. He established an informal honors committee including Oliver Billingslea (English), Bradley Moody (Political Science), and Janet Warren (Education).

In April 1981 the Executive Committee of the Faculty Council at Auburn University at Montgomery recommended to the administration the creation of an honors program. The recommendation included the creation of a Faculty Council Committee chaired by Joe Albree.  The new Scholars Program, with Albree named as the first Preceptor, began in the Fall of that year.

The Scholars Program offered a series of courses (colloquia and special topics classes, directed readings, and independent research) and events for honors students. In addition, students were permitted to convert regular courses into honors credit by contract with faculty members.

In November 1996, then Preceptor Mary Jane Curry recommended to the Faculty Senate changing the name of the Scholars Program to the University Honors Program (henceforth UHP) and the title of Preceptor to Director. The Senate unanimously recommended those changes to the Chancellor, and the name and title became effective in the Fall Quarter 1997.

At the end of Christine Lewis’s term as director, AUM’s Provost determined that the UHP would be better served by a more visible location and the appointment of a permanent director. In 2010, the Associate Provost recommended that Donald Nobles be appointed interim director while a search was conducted to fill the position. Ultimately, the search committee determined that Nobles himself, who had served with distinction for several decades as a professor of communication, was the best candidate for the job, and “interim” was removed from his title effective Fall 2011. He hired Jackie Hall as the UHP’s first Student Services Coordinator, and “Honors 2.0” was officially underway at AUM.

Under the leadership of Director Nobles, the UHP was greatly expanded. The honors curriculum was reconceived: a series of team-taught interdisciplinary seminars became its backbone, and a senior thesis requirement was adopted. The honors colloquium course was implemented, and evolved into a one-credit hour, pass/fail course that could be taught by faculty and staff from across the university. During this time, the AUM Honors Assembly, an officially sanctioned undergraduate student organization, was founded, and the Masquerade Ball and Quidditch tournament became annual events. A very generous gift from the Daniel Foundation provided support for student travel, and the UHP sent students on educational trips to England, France, the Galapagos Islands, and Italy. The UHP also became affiliated with the National Collegiate Honors Council and the Southern Regional Honors Council, and occasionally sent students to their annual conferences.

In 2015, the Provost’s Office approved a new staff position in order to support Nobles and Hall, and Hillary Boaz came to AUM as the UHP Advising and Recruiting Coordinator. Director Nobles also oversaw the development and implementation of the Deichelmann Memorial Scholarship, a $44,000 award over four years and the most prestigious scholarship at Auburn Montgomery. In order to apply for this scholarship, prospective students were required to apply for admission to the UHP, significantly enhancing efforts to recruit new honors students. The first class of Deichelmann scholars came to AUM in the fall of 2016.

In January 2016, Director Nobles had announced his intention to retire from the university. An on-campus search was conducted for his replacement, and Matthew Jordan, a member of the AUM philosophy faculty since 2010, was hired. Jordan had been closely involved with the UHP for several years, teaching multiple honors seminar courses, leading an honors study abroad trip and a trip to the 2015 meeting of the Southern Regional Honors Council, and serving on the Honors Committee of the Faculty Senate. He became UHP Director on August 1st, 2016.

As articulated by the Office of the Provost, Director Jordan’s principal charge was to increase the size of the UHP. With the help of Kelsey Hayes, who had succeeded Hillary Boaz as Recruiting and Advising Coordinator, Jordan implemented new strategies for recruiting continuing AUM students into the UHP. This was an immediate success; the program grew from 43 students in the fall of 2016 to 68 students in the spring of 2017.

Two important changes took place during Director Jordan’s first year. One was the creation, by the Honors Committee, of alternative “pathways to honors.” These new pathways solved two challenges facing the UHP: first, that some majors had mandatory curricular requirements in the junior and senior years that made completion of the UHP requirements virtually impossible; and second, that students who had been deeply invested in the honors community but did not, for one reason or another, complete a senior thesis, would not be formally recognized for their accomplishments. The new system made it possible for students to earn University Honors by completing the existing honors curriculum, but also made it possible for students to earn Warhawk Honors through meaningful honors coursework and participation in the life of the UHP.

The second change was to give greater structure to the sequence of honors seminars. The Honors Committee identified key texts, themes, or goals that would be associated with each course in order to ensure a coherent and shared academic experience for honors students at AUM.

 

Space

The UHP was given its own office space in January 2010 in the Administration Building, and eventually moved to a suite of offices on the seventh floor of the AUM Library Tower. Also in 2010, a dedicated space for UHP students, the honors lounge, was created on the third floor of the Taylor Center. In 2016, thanks to the generosity of the Dean of the College of Business, Dr. Rhea Ingram, room 218 of Clement Hall informally became the de facto honors classroom; from 8:00—5:00, the UHP was given priority for scheduling classes in this high-tech space.

 

Distinction

Historically, UHP graduates wore white honor cords to distinguish them at graduation. In May 2011, graduates of the UHP ceased wearing cords in favor of a new UHP medallion struck from a design by UHP students. With the implementation of the Warhawk Honors option in 2016, honor cords returned; students earning University Honors wear orange and white cords and the medallion, while students graduating with Warhawk Honors wear the cords. In addition, graduates of the UHP are identified in the commencement program and announced as they cross the stage. Students who graduate with University Honors also have this distinction noted on their diplomas.

 

AUM Honors Assembly

Chartered by the Office of Student Life in July 2011, the AUM Honors Assembly is the undergraduate student organization for members of the UHP. It held elections for officers for the first time in August 2011. 

 

                        President                     Vice President                         Secretary

 

2011-12     Graydon Rust             Justin Davolt                           Alaa Zaied

2012-13     Alex Trott                   Kelhi DePace                         Jordan Price (Jan-Aug)

                                                                                               Caitlyn Williams (Aug-Dec)

2013-14     Alex Trott                   Sonni Gunnels                        Kelhi DePace

2014-15     Alex Trott                   Sonni Gunnels                        Kelhi DePace

2015-16     Garrett Herring            Ameer Bedwan                       Jake Sustarich

2016          Jake Sustarich           Ameer Bedwan                       Rachel Pate

2017          Rachel Pate               Jasmine Boutdy                      Safa Kazi

 

 

Scholars Program Preceptors

 

                        Joe Albree                  Mathematics               1981 - 1982

                        Oliver Billingslea         English                         1982 - 1983

                        Bradley Moody           Political Science          1983 - 1984

                        Diane Griswold           Education                    1993 - 1995

                        Mary Jane Curry         English                        1995 - 1997

 

Honors Program Directors

           

                        David Witkosky          International Studies     1997 - 2003

                        Christine Lewis           Management               2003 - 2009

                        Donald Nobles            Communication           2010 - 2011 (interim)

                                                                                           2011 - 2016

                        Matthew Jordan          Philosophy                  2016 -

 

Historically, the UHP had been housed in the faculty office of the termed director and courses were offered using the designation of his or her department. Directors served specified terms of varying lengths.