Honors College status advances


honors program presentation largeA major James Madison University initiative to elevate its strong Honors Program to the level of an Honors College took a step toward realization at the Jan. 15 meeting of the Board of Visitors. The board voted to approve the change and instructed university officials to submit the plan to the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia for consideration.

"We have been building over the last several years for this step,” said Dr. Bradley R. Newcomer, director of the Honors Program. "The time is right for us to move from a program to an Honors College because we cross into all academic majors and offer honors experiences for students throughout their undergraduate years at JMU."

"Additionally, research shows that when a program’s enrollment exceeds 800 students, coordination is better as a college. We currently have approximately 950 students in our Honors Program."

Newcomer told members of the Education and Student Life Committee that the change would not require any organizational or curricular changes because the program is functioning as a college now. The formal designation would position JMU’s program for improved national visibility and future growth, Newcomer said.

Begun in 1961 with a senior thesis focus, JMU’s Honors Program has grown under the leadership of former directors Dr. Joanne Gabbin and Dr. Barry Falk to encompass student representation from all JMU colleges in a full four-year academic experience for students Newcomer describes as "high achieving, intellectually curious and eager to learn."

Many such students are seeking enrollment at universities with Honors Colleges, Newcomer said. The benefits of enrolling honors students at a university transcend the effects the experiences have on the honors students themselves, he added. In today’s educational world of team-based, cross-disciplinary experiences, the addition of honors students enriches classroom and out-of-classroom activities for all students.

Students in the 27-credit program complete six credit hours of honors courses in General Education, nine credit hours of electives in courses designated “honors” or honors options, six credit hours in cross-disciplinary honors seminars and six credit hours of independent study in the senior honors project.

Pending SCHEV approval, which JMU officials anticipate during the spring semester, recruitment for the Honors College would begin in fall 2016 with the inaugural freshman cohort joining JMU in fall 2017. Students currently enrolled in the Honors Program would be grandfathered into the new college.

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Published: Friday, January 15, 2016

Last Updated: Wednesday, November 1, 2023

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