Honors Program Hopes to Become an Honors College

Category:  News
Wednesday, March 2nd, 2016 at 9:22 PM

The new honors program director at Edinboro University has only held his position since the beginning of the spring 2016 semester, but he has already taken steps towards big changes.

Dr. Jim Wertz, assistant professor in the journalism and public relations department and the now Dr. Robert C. Weber Honors Program director, has initiated several changes. First, he plans to rename the program, is making strides towards an honors college to replace the honors program, and is adjusting the Honors Option Points (HOPs) system.

Wertz was approached about this position after the former honors program director, Dr. Jean Jones, a professor in the communication studies department, stepped down from the position nearing the end of the fall 2015 semester.

“Dr. Jones did a tremendous job over the past five years, building the program and really instituting some really strong structure to the program,” Wertz said.

Wertz said that Jones had made progress by adding more options for HOPs points, offering options like study abroad, independent studies, and contracting classes. He hopes to further her progress.

Perhaps the biggest change that he hopes to make is to change from the honors program to the honors college.

“I am happy they are moving towards an honors college,” said Erika Krasneski, second semester freshman. “That will be very good for students and for the university itself.”

“I don’t know if we could get it established by the time I graduate, but if I could say I graduated not from the honors program, but from the honors college… it would be so great.”

While this isn’t something that would be in place after only a semester or two, it is one of Wertz’s goals for the program. He expects that it is a change that could happen in future years and sees a significant amount of value in making this type of alteration. While the name change from the honors program to the honors college will be a time-consuming process, Wertz plans to change the name of the program in the meantime. Beginning in fall 2016, the program will be known as the Edinboro University Honors Program instead of the Dr. Robert C. Weber Honors Program.

“The changes have been supported both by Dr. Weber, who was the name sake of the program, as well as by university administration,” Wertz said.

He expects this “branding” change to tie the program more closely to the university. Honors program students qualify based on test scores on the SAT or the ACT, class rank and recommendations. According to the honors programadmissions page on Edinboro University’s website, the average SAT score was 1100, the average ACT score was 25, and the average honors program student ranked in the top 15 percent of their class when graduating high school. Full-time Edinboro students can apply to the program if they earned at least a 3.4 GPA.

“I think this opens up the opportunity to brand the program alongside the university,” Wertz said. “As we go out and talk to folks, we aren’t just talking about the honors program, but we are also talking about Edinboro University, we are talking about the great academic success they have on this campus.”

“The more we can link the great things that happen in our honors program with the exciting things happening here at the university, I think the stronger we will be moving forward. We want people to think hand in hand; when people think about Edinboro University, we want them to think of the academic rigor of the institution as well as the beautiful location and the kind of campus community that we have here.”

Once joining the honors program, students begin a process where they must earn 14 HOPs. The students can earn these points through a variety of options, such as honors-level courses, international and national study experiences, conference presentations, research projects and publication of research.

Students were required to complete at least three honors courses to graduate with the program, but Jim wants to see the students enroll in as many honors courses as they can.

For this reason, Wertz adapted to HOPs program.

“We are going to expand and incentivize opportunities to earn more HOPs on specific endeavors,” he said.

With his revisions, each honors course will be worth one point instead of two. However, instead of capping the amount of honors courses students can take, he is encouraging students to take every honors class possible.

“We want students to take as many ‘gen. eds.’ As they can, if possible their entire general education curriculum full of honors courses,” Wertz said.

An undergraduate thesis project was only two points previously, but Wertz adjusted it to five points.

One student, who asked to remain anonymous, worried that earning all the points will be considerably more difficult now. With honors courses being less points, the students will need to take more honors courses or choose another option to make up the HOPs.

“You could take a lot of honors courses, and they aren’t difficult, but they are meant to be challenging. But the thing is a lot them are… hard to schedule.”

Wertz recognizes that the options are limited at this time and intends to expand the options students have.

“I understand that some students have reservations about that, but students who are well on their way to that, like the person who already has 10 HOPs for example, they are grandfathered into the program of honors options through the honors courses,” Wertz said.

“We aren’t going to disrupt those plans. We are not asking people to start over. We are not making it more difficult to finish. The people that are in it right now can choose to go along with the plan they already have.”

He said, however, these changes will allow upperclassmen to more easily join the program. When every honors option was only two points, he worried it would be too difficult for students to attain the amount of points they needed in time for their graduation.

“If they have the right collection of courses, community service and perhaps research projects, they could earn those 14 HOPs in maybe a shorter amount of time,” Wertz said. “It would take some planning, but that’s the kind of organizational planning that honors students tend to be pretty good at.”

Tracy Geibel is the Executive Editor for The Spectator and she can be reached at edinboro.spectator@gmail.com.

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