Robert McClure, senior associate dean in the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs and a former director of the program, credits it with helping to reshape the culture and emphasis at SU. "It has provided the University with a model for the kind of service and attention all students deserve. We need to celebrate it, protect it, expand it. Unfortunately we have only so many people, so much time, and so much money. Where do you best place these resources?" wonders McClure, who serves on a campus committee exploring this critical issue. |
Another myth: All Honors Program students are brilliant. In reality, their success is more often about perseverance than brilliance. "You won't find a lot of Good Will Huntingtypes in this or any other honors program," Carter says, referring to the popular movie. "Good Will Huntinggenius is mythological. It's not impossible, but it's rare."
Professor Robert Gates, chair of the English department, has taught the same courses to honors and non-honors students. He's convinced that one group is no more intelligent than the other. "It's a question of commitment," Gates says. "Honors students are always in class and always prepared. They set very high standards for themselves."
Their extra effort is reflected in the Honors Program attrition rate of 4 percent; campus-wide, attrition is 10 percent. Another deterrent to dropping out is the kid-glove care that honors students receive. Their initial honors experience, a first-year seminar, is more nurturing than intellectually challenging. "It helps students get acclimated intellectually, socially, and emotionally to the academy," Carter explains. "It provides them with a peer group, a sense of belonging, and an overview of how the University operates."|
School of Management Professor John Collins emphasizes the University's belief that retention and the feeling of belonging to a group are closely connected. "The freshman seminar serves this purpose very well. Faculty members interact one-on-one with freshmen in a way we don't ordinarily get to do. Since the freshmen share a journal of their experiences with us, the seminar serves as an early warning system for students in distress," Collins says. "I remember a student from Florida who arrived on campus one very cold fall. She made it clear in my seminar that she didn't like it and wasn't going to stay. I alerted a counselor in the Honors Program, and we saved her. She ended up graduating."
The heart of the Honors Program is a suite of offices, lounges, and conference rooms in Bowne Hall. Students receive some academic advice there, but it's unofficially regarded as "a safe haven," according to Kim Bart '98, who earned a dual degree in public relations and women's studies from the Newhouse School and The College of Arts and Sciences. "It's a good place to sit around, read, eat popcorn, and talk," she says. "It's a place where people know your name."
One person who knows their names is Honors Program academic advisor Carol Erwin. "These are kids who want to do it all," she says. "We function as their sounding board. We slow them down and let them hear themselves speak."
David Coryell, the program's student services coordinator, enjoys the personal atmosphere and interaction with the students. "I've started a softball team with these kids, met them for dinner, helped them move, and hired them to baby-sit," he says.|
The program's serious academic work begins after freshman seminar. Freshmen and sophomores in General University Honors take four rigorous honors courses plus two one-credit sophomore seminars. "Sophomore seminars expand the students' horizons beyond campus," explains Judy Hamilton, associate director of the Honors Program. "Some seminars look at the different ethnic communities within the Syracuse area. Others help students understand the cultural and civic infrastructure of Syracuseor any community."
Lori Standley, who graduated from The College of Arts and Sciences with an honors degree in geography, took the sophomore seminar on the local Hispanic community and spent one afternoon a week working with inner-city Hispanic teens. "I had wanted to do something like that, but I was very into academics and had a part-time job," Standley says. "This seminar made it more of a priority."