Honors induction ceremony marks beginning of new year

When the Honors College started three years ago, Wichita State President John Bardo said he hoped it would move bright, capable students to the center of the university.

Since then, applications to the Dorothy and Bill Cohen Honors College have increased by 312 percent.

Meanwhile, the college’s enrollment has doubled, Bardo said during an induction ceremony Wednesday.

New members were welcomed to the Honors College during a ceremony Wednesday in which Bardo and Dean Kimberly Engber addressed the audience.

Engber said she believes the induction ceremony is where the continuity among students and faculty begins each year, along with awareness of all facets the Honors College Offers.

Since the Honors College was formed in 2013, honors applications increased from approximately 80 in 2013 to 330 in 2014, according to a 2013-14 annual report.

Engber said the Honors College also achieved its two-year plan of increasing honors membership to 500 — it now has 502 honors students.

“We have a lot of work to do to make this a space for more faculty participation and a lot of work to do to really create interesting student community and support each other,” Engber said.

After Bardo’s welcome, Moriah Beck, an assistant professor of chemistry, spoke to the idea of continuity among students. Beck said 20 years ago on this week she met her current husband and made many long-lasting friends among honors students.

Freshman Gentry Thiesen joined Honors so that she “could be with a bunch of nerds like [herself].”

Both Thiesen and freshman Derek Vonar found just that. They found friends in current honors students, partially because of the Honors Living-Learning Community, which is a floor in Shocker Hall designed to develop campus and community leaders.

The Honors College is important to Vonar “because it pushes you to a further level,” and because of “friendships that will last you longer than otherwise.”

Engber closed the ceremony by comparing the relationship between the Honors College and students to Walt Whitman’s only poetry collection, “Leaves of Grass.” Whitman revised his book multiple times over four decades.

 “Each year [we remind] people of the values that the people before them established, also telling them that we know it’s going to change with them,” Engber said. “Each time a new group of students comes in, they’re also changing what we know as the honors program today.”