Fall 2015 Honors College Update from Acting Dean Sarah Robbins

September 24, 2015

Dear Friends of the John V. Roach Honors College,

sarah robbinsOnce again, we’ve started a new academic year with high energy feeding into exciting plans for the fall semester—and with an outstanding entering class of first-year Honors students.

Our new students come from all over the country, indeed from around the world. There are 280 of them. In that context, I can’t resist bragging just a bit that, despite a higher-than-anticipated “yield” overall for the Class of 2019, we held the proverbial line by issuing fewer invitations to Honors, initially, than in recent years. This tightening of the Honors admissions group allowed us to provide full access to a more-than-needed number of seats in courses pitched to first-year students and also to Milton Daniel Residence Hall, a very special part of the Honors first-year experience at TCU. Our careful monitoring of invitations and acceptances also means that we will be able to welcome a few additional first-year students to Honors in the second semester: faculty around campus are keeping an eye out for students likely to achieve the 3.5 overall GPA needed to join Honors after having enrolled at TCU.

With such a strong first-year group in place, we are trying out new ways to help beginning students get involved in leadership in our program. As part of that process, two student program assistants—Hayley Zablotsky and Jen King—are working with me to facilitate activities aimed at bringing some of our most energetic freshmen to the forefront of co-curricular planning for the rest of the year and the future in Honors.

On the curricular side, we continue to make strides in support of undergraduate research. Leading a committee of faculty from all across campus, Dr. Wendy Williams is planning a pilot pre-research course to be offered for the first time in spring semester, targeting students in departments too small to run such courses on their own. (A number of TCU departments are already providing outstanding research seminars for their majors, including Honors students, so we are learning from their models.) Thanks to the generosity of our Board of Visitors, later this semester we’ll be launching a second round of applications for modest grants-in-aid to support student senior research project costs, such as travel to archives and acquisition of supplies or materials for lab-based inquiry.

Looking ahead to next semester, we’re excited about six “pilot” offerings by faculty members selected through a competitive process to prepare new colloquia drawing on a range of disciplines. Professor Will Gibbons has spearheaded this initiative, which will be bringing such topics as “good citizenship,” sources of human resiliency, managing dissent in the workplace, and women in religion into our curriculum in spring 2016. Meanwhile, Director of the TCU Press and Honors Humanities Professor Dan Williams is collaborating in a colloquium this fall with April Brown of the university’s Veterans Outreach program; students in this “lab of learning” course are gathering oral histories from TCU veterans and their families and editing those texts toward an eventual book to be published by TCU Press. With the talented leadership of TCU’s Theatre Department, we are already looking forward to a “Readers’ Theatre” presentation based on some of these stories in the fall of 2016, around Veterans’ Day.

This fall we have a number of exciting special programs planned, including a series of activities around the primary Fogelson speaker for this year, Professor Diane Ravitch of NYU. A powerful voice in ongoing debates about public education, Dr. Ravitch has long been addressing some of the most pressing topics related to teaching and learning in our society today, particularly in K-12 settings, but also in higher education. Whether or not you could attend her lecture at 7:00 p.m. on October 15 in the Brown Lupton University Ballroom, we hope you’ll consider taking part in the online discussion of her latest provocative book, Reign of Error. Our online “book club” conversation space is available here: https://tcureignoferror.wordpress.com/.

As we juggle another busy fall calendar, we want to send out an enthusiastic “thank-you” to all who participated in our self-study during the previous academic year. Data gathered through that process, supplemented by the wise counsel of our visiting team of nationally-admired Honors leaders who submitted their own external review, have provided us with an essential set of goals for the immediate future. In particular, the university has heeded their strong recommendations for enhanced resources, so that one of our most exciting tasks this fall has been to launch several hiring processes. We’ve been joined this fall by a third academic advisor, Marie Martinez, and have begun our search for a fourth, whose arrival will re-position student advisement loads to match national guidelines. With Marie already on board, we are now able to provide enhanced support for the invaluable guidance that our Director of Prestigious Scholarships/Fellowships, Ron Pitcock, offers to students from across the University (not just those in Honors) for programs such as the Fulbright.

On the faculty side, under the wise leadership of Honors Faculty Fellow Professor Darren Middleton, we are beginning a national search for a new tenure-track faculty member in the Honors College; joining us in fall 2016, this assistant or associate professor will focus on philosophy and history of science, with a likely emphasis on ethics in health care. We are excited to be bringing in such a colleague at a moment when TCU is embarking on a partnership for a new medical school—a process that has special resonance with the growing number of pre-med students enrolled in the Honors College.

We hope to see you on campus this fall and also online in our digital book club. In the meantime, all of us in the John V. Roach Honors College—students, faculty, and staff—send along our heartfelt thanks for your ongoing support.

Sarah Signature

Sarah R. Robbins
Acting Dean, J.V. Roach Honors College
Lorraine Sherley Professor of Literature, TCU Department of English

John V. Roach Honors College
2855 Main Drive
Scharbauer Hall 1016

John V. Roach Honors College
TCU BOX 297022
Fort Worth, TX 76129