Honors Program transitions to Honors College

With the beginning of the spring semester came the change of the honors program to the honors college.

The UNA board of trustees approved the move before the end of the fall semester, according to a UNA press release.

With the help of President Kenneth Kitts and UNA Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Ross Alexander, this change was possible, said Vince Brewton, director of the UNA Honors College.

“(Kitts and Alexander) had the confidence in us to encourage us to make a transition from program status to a college status,” Brewton said.

Brewton said the transition was overdue.

“We always functioned more or less as an Honors College functions on a campus,” he said. “We’re campus-wide, so we’re not an honors program for a specific academic college. We have a significant academic component, a significant residential component, an extracurricular component and a final capstone component. These are things that at a national level indicate that an Honors College status is appropriate.”

This change can benefit the college, said senior Rachel Morgan.

“I joined the honors program as a way to further my education and help with grad school,” she said. “With this change, I believe the college will offer more opportunities for future students.”

Brewton said this transition allows them to reimagine the function of the college.

“We are going to take this opportunity to reconfigure what we do because the anticipation is that over a four to five-year period we want to double the number of students we have in the college,” he said. “So, a more streamlined approach to our requirements is something that we’re looking at, but also some innovative ways to imagine what an honors college should be going for rather than looking into the past.”

This change should also bring more opportunities for students, said sophomore Janae Smith.

“It would be great if we could have more scholarship money and more programs and classes in the college,” Smith said.

There are plans to implement a minor in honors studies in fall 2018, Brewton said.

“That minor, since it won’t center around content or a discipline, will be structured around particular types of outcomes, such as critical thinking and higher order communication skills that we look for in the classes that we offer,” he said.

The college will also spend more time recruiting students who already attend UNA, Brewton said.

“We have not done (internal recruiting) in the past, but we believe this will be great benefit to the college,” he said. “Right now, we require students to have a 3.9 or higher GPA and 26 ACT.”

Morgan said with the program now becoming a college, more people might want to apply.

“A college shows a chance for more growth,” she said. “I know I would’ve been more excited if I was applying to an honors college.”

Brewton said he hopes the college will be able to achieve its goals.

“We see our main priority is to attract more strong students to UNA,” he said. “We want to make sure we look at where the students will be five to 10 years from now and help them get there. That’s our goal: attract great students, give them a rich, meaningful experience while they’re here and ensure their success.”