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SRU Honors Program expands
student offerings, opportunities

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Bradley Wilson, Slippery Rock University's new Honors Program director, is getting into the swing of things and says the program is expanding while also offering participating students new opportunities to meet program goals.

"I'm very pleased with this year's class of 68 students," he said. The additional students bring the SRU Honor's Program's enrollment to 300, including 40 students who are in the Living-Learning Communities in Watson Hall and about a dozen students who live at the ROCK Apartments.

"When I took over, I guaranteed currently enrolled students at our first meeting of the year there would be no dramatic changes that would affect their participation in the program, and that we would work to expand offerings for students to meet honors program requirements. As the program is set up it is working very well and growing," he said.

"I am hoping to increase the number of honors courses we can offer. That is always one of our challenges to see that students have enough options in their course selection so they can then graduate with the honors distinction," Wilson said.

To receive honors at SRU, students must take the equivalent of seven honors courses.

Other options include allowing participants to include
an international experience and offer presentations
at recognized academic conferences. Honors Program students are expected to excel both academically and professionally.

Students in the program complete their honors courses while also taking advantage of opportunities to develop in the breadth of academic and professional experiences to showcase their accomplishments for graduate school or career opportunities, Wilson said.

"Because we are limited in the actual number of academic honors courses the University offers, we allow honors students to present proposals to expand a more traditional course to an honors course through a contract that shows they will go beyond the basic requirements. They take a non-honors course, but agree to undertake extensive additional study as part of the work," he said.

The contracts require a 20-page research paper or project of equal value done under supervision and guidance of the course's professor. "Many times, these papers are presented at conferences or included as part of SRU's annual Symposium for Student Research, Scholarship and Creative Activities offered each spring," Wilson said.

He points to Amanda Paulsen, a music education major from Butler, who is taking a flute course this semester, but is also researching the Australian didgeridoo as part of her honors contract. "She is going to make one; learn to play it; and perform at one of the flute concerts," he said.

In another area, "Honors student Kassandra Burton, a safety management major from Mercer, is enrolled in a contract course involving ergonomics. She has arranged to monitor a nurses' work station at a health care facility in Pittsburgh. She will monitor the station; make a physical model of the area; do research; then offer suggestions to increase efficiency and safety. She will also show how her new model will benefit the facility. This is a wonderful kind of project," he said.

"We want our students to have an international experience, so we offer them up to two Honors Option Points for study abroad. SRU education students often chose to use their student teaching in Ireland or Mexico to earn the points, and students who elect to study abroad for a semester or academic year also earn two points toward their honors certification," he said. Several students participated in a summer language program in Spain to earn points.

Two Honors Option Points equal one academic honors course credit.

"This year, two of our students, Grace Evans, a mathematics major from Apollo, and Kelly Smith, a computer science major from Grove City, spent part of their summer studying archeology and history in Bermuda as part of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education's Summer Honors Program. This was a great opportunity for both students and right in line with our Honors Program philosophy. Plans are already under way for next summer's PASSHE program, that will include travel to Oxford, England," Wilson said.

The state system program accepts two honors students from each of the 14 system universities. Students spend a week studying at one of the state system universities before pursuing several weeks of research and study abroad on a specific topic.

"We also know the value and importance of leadership, and it is something we think honors students should be achieving. Many of our students are already campus leaders. All of our honors students participate in extra-curricular activities as part of the program. Each semester honors students are expected to complete four units, either as five hours of community service or they can elect to attend an event such as a Performing Art Series event or a campus lecture and then write a reflection on the event. A number of our students work with the Office for Students with Disabilities serving as note-takers and in other capacities. All of this is intended to get the students involved," Wilson said.

"We are linked with SRU's Compass Leadership Program offered through the Center for Student Involvement and Leadership. Honors students can earn two HOPs by becoming certified in the Compass program. We have a number of students who have taken advantage of this option," Wilson said.

The Honors Program provides tickets to special events, lectures and cultural programs such as the SRU Performing Arts Series that will benefit the student, and we work closely with a variety of professors to see that our students are challenged in the classroom in their academic work," Wilson said.

"We want our students to have the broadest education possible so honors students can elect to undertake a second major to earn two points, or a minor to earn an additional point toward their seven-course requirement," he said.

Students who do independent research, sometimes through a summer job or internship, can have their work reviewed by an SRU faculty member as a possible way to earn HOP credits. An SRU physics major's summer work qualified him for the credits, Wilson said.

Wilson said the program's growth in coming years is depends on finances.

"The University has been very supportive in its financial support, but in order for us to grow substantially, we will need additional funding. Right now we are one of the largest Honors Programs in the state system. One of my goals is to focus on development. We are looking at private donors who might be willing to underwrite portions of the program or special projects. We know donors are often willing to support quality academics and our students are the University's top students, thus making the Honors Program a perfect candidate for financial support," Wilson said.