Honors program overhaul in the works

When Josue Rios started at Wichita State as an electrical engineering major, he knew he needed to find classes that encouraged self-sufficiency and hard work.

“Honors classes put more responsibility on me as a student and I really like that aspect,” Rios said.

Rios was one of a handful of students in attendance at a public forum about the honors program on Friday afternoon. The forum was led by Kimberly Engber, director of the WSU Emory Lindquist Honors Program, who wanted a chance to update students on the current happenings of the honors program and to encourage student feedback on their needs and ideas.

“What else should be happening for honors students that isn’t happening, that we can build into the program?” Engber asked.

Engber’s presentation covered a lot of ground: the new residence hall being built to house freshmen and honors students, WSU President John Bardo encouraging the establishment of a true honors college at WSU, honors scholarships and more.

“When this president was inaugurated, one of the things he said was ‘I want to see an honors college here on campus,’” Engber said.

This means creating a space for honors students on campus.

“What the president is trying to do is move honors to this central place on campus in some way,” Engber said.

The current design of the new residence hall and honors college area still needs some work, though, Engber said.

“Right now we’re moving the walls,” Engber said.

She and a task force of faculty are considering everything from furniture, electrical outlets and coffee options in the honors lounge to the layout of a conference room, office for an honors dean and reception area for the college.

They’re also considering a new approach to the honors program itself, one that would provide “multiple access points,” WSU professor Larry Spurgeon said.

Their idea is that students could have several options: departmental honors separate from the honors college, a minor comprised of 12 honors scholar hours and 12 hours from an interdisciplinary track, or an honors college degree comprised of 36 hours.

“With the creation of an honors college, you would have a diploma-level distinction,” Engber said. “It would appear on your diploma in addition to your transcript.”

Engber and Sturgeon said there’s still a lot to be developed.

“This is part of the faculty dream,” Engber said. “I also want to know what you find exciting about growing the honors college.”

Engber encouraged students to bring questions or comments to the honors program office.

The Kansas Board of Regents will vote on the honors college structure September 18 — from there, decisions will need to be made about what will come of the program.

“You are the people who will be carrying that torch,” Engber said.