The Honors College
at West Chester University
Dr. Kevin Dean, Director
703 S. High Street
West Chester, PA 19383
As I begin my fourteenth year as the Director of the Honors College, it is thrilling to see where we have come and consider where we have yet to go. I remember an interview I had over seventeen years ago as part of my Kellogg Fellowship with the president of Marietta College in Georgia. Upon meeting me she said, "So, tell me, what's your passion?" Without hesitation, I can say that my "passion" today is the work that is happening in the name of West Chester University Honors. From our curriculum to our greatest asset, the gifted young men and women who hold membership in Honors, our College truly embraces the university's call for a "Plan for Excellence."
Without question, the cornerstone of the Honors College is the curriculum. Grounded in the liberal arts tradition of education, we offer an interdisciplinary course of study focused on personal leadership development. Our mission challenges students to reflect upon what contributions they will make to their communities -- perhaps the greatest testimony to the value of a higher education degree. Our curriculum prepares students to discover their own giftedness, to see the value of team approaches to problem solving, and to have exposure to the components necessary to enact real change. The core courses replace traditional general education courses. To make logistics of Honors work with every major program on campus, Honors students are given priority scheduling.
The pride of the Honors College is our student body. Students in Honors represent a diversity of academic backgrounds spanning 51distinctive disciplines. Such diversity truly enlivens discussions in class when a pre-med major and a major in music education can come together to discuss strategies for economic enhancement, formation of ethical standards for genetic testing, and approaches to survey research. While students spend a majority of their time with peers in their home departments, Honors provides a living-learning community environment where students reside in a designated Honors residence hall. This year marks an exciting change as Honors moved from his historic space in Killinger Hall to the newly constructed Allegheny. The amenities (airconditioned two person suites with private baths) coupled with a spacious group meeting room and a video/film technology lab ,dramatically add to a sense of community and create a living environment condusive to academic success. The Honors Student Association, the social arm of the College, holds monthly meetings and hosts a wide range of service and social opportunities each month. Through H.S.A., students clocked over 1,800 hours of community service and volunteerism. Anticipations for 2009-2010, in addition to multiple opportunities for on campus and community service each month include: our annual bus trip to Washington D.C., Spring outing to Arnolds (lasar tag park), fall NYC trip to see the Broadway production of "South Pacific", Halloween Haunted Hay Ride, special movie and theatre performances, guest authors, holiday party in Princeton, spring semi-formal dance, sponsorship of our annual graduate school fair, our annual Aid for South Africa (ASA) Fundraising Walk and Cultural Celebration, teacher celebration tea, recruitment events, and the spring banquet.
A highlight of May 2008 was the study project in South Africa, involving a team of 41 Honors students and faculty. In addition to seeing wildlife and splashing in the Indian Ocean, students conducted a community needs assessment in Guguletu Township, just outside of Cape Town. Students also worked at H.E.L.P. Ministries Soup Kitchen (feeding as many as 6,000 elementary school children daily), spent time at Sparrow Village (an HIV-AIDS orphanage) and Nikosi's Haven (care center for mother's with HIV-AIDS and their children). Video shot by our students was used in spring 2009, as the basis for a special topics Honors seminar, "Documentary Production for Social Justice Causes." This was our 4th such study project since 2001. We anxiously anticipate our 5th South Africa study project planed for March 2010. We hope to conduct indepth interviews ith leadership icons who helped transform South African culture from the opression of aparthied to the opportunity of democracy. I am so proud of the contributions to improved communication and access to health care that our students' research has encouraged.
We also benefit from a renewed grant from the Bonner Foundation that supports greater development of the Bonner-AmeriCorps Leaders Program--an opportunity for students to receive a $1,000 educational award for outstanding leadership and service. Finally, as an outgrowth of our fall 2007 "25th Anniversary Celebration of Honors" at WCU, we anticipate even greater opportunities for interaction between our alumni and current students. Speaking of alumni, the graduating class of 2009 now swells the ranks of WCU Honors College alumni to over 400! Our most recent graduates have been accepted into medical school at Drexel, Penn State and Jefferson, law school at Weidner, and graduate programs in historic preservation, vocal performance, bio-statistics, acquatic biology, and political science at the University of Glacow (Scotland), University of Maryland, the University of Pennsylvania, Texas A&M, and the University of Delaware. Others have attained jobs in eductaion, public relations, and business. It is very exciting to watch the "next steps" of our outstanding men and women.
With all that we have done and all that we have planned, I am confident in Robert Browning's words, "The best is yet to be." As always, I am anxious to meet with any of you to discuss your passions and learn "what difference YOU will make."