May 15, 2015
We’ve had a busy, productive spring 2015 semester in Honors at TCU.
This May, we’ve graduated an impressive number of over 170 laureates, students who successfully completed both the lower-division Honors curricular sequence and upper-division Honors, either Departmental (a thesis or creative project) or University (four colloquium courses). On the Departmental Honors side, over 140 students worked with faculty mentors in their major field(s) to produce a strong example of undergraduate research/creative activity on topics ranging from sequencing yeast DNAs to critiquing gender roles in Young Adult literature; from analyzing the language in family communication patterns to managing successful mergers in the business world.
To enhance the quality and to promote continued growth in the number of students doing undergraduate research/creative projects, Honors has launched several initiatives this year. With leadership from the College Board of Visitors (BOV), a new fund to support student research in Departmental Honors has been established. Major thanks to Honors College faculty member Wendy Williams and her hard-working (and fast-working!) committee for establishing criteria (drawing on a strong model from the College of Science and Engineering); issuing the first call for student proposals; and selecting the first grant winners. BOV members Jay Case and Larry Parsons spearheaded fundraising to establish a seed endowment for this ongoing project. BOV Chair Mark Wassenich served as the board’s liaison to the committee of faculty members from diverse disciplines (Giri Akkaraju, William Gibbons, Karla O’Donald, Lisa Bashore, and Rob Garnett) who vetted the first proposals. For spring 2015, here are the students whose projects received funding ranging from several hundred dollars up to $1,000:
Haley Schroer, History
Erin McKay, Childhood Development
Haley McKnight, Nursing
Kelcie Williams, Psychology and Childhood Development
Kyle Roush, Biology and Criminal Justice
Allison Badar, Dance and Political Science
Besides seeking funds to bolster undergraduate research and creative activity, Honors has been at work enhancing the upper-division curriculum for both Departmental and University Honors. Wendy Williams is leading another committee whose members are at work on a pre-thesis/project seminar, to be piloted in spring 2016. Contributors to this cross-disciplinary planning team have included Tim Barth, Catherine Coleman, Jim Scott, Mark Dennis, Karla O’Donald, William Gibbons, Stacy Landreth Grau, Max Krochmal, Lavonne Adams, Jo Nell Wells, Alex Lemon, Lisa Bashore, and David Sandell.
As referenced above, students who complete University Honors as their upper-division option take four semester-long courses with a “big-issues,” interdisciplinary emphasis. Honors Administrative Faculty Fellow William Gibbons is coordinating development of new Colloquium course offerings. Faculty from across campus proposed pilot classes, to be offered in spring 2016. The six selected courses include topics ranging from “Human Resiliency” to “Society and Multimedia”; from “Democracy and Dissent in the Workplace” to “Women in Religion.” We hope, pending funding, to repeat this process in spring 2016. One goal is to continue the broad participation from multiple academic fields that was achieved through our first new course cluster.
Besides facilitating the fundraising initiative for undergraduate research/projects in Departmental Honors, the Board of Visitors has been actively involved in several other projects. BOV members Mary Mulry and David Archer, for instance, have been collaborating with TCU Director of Institutional Research Cathan Coghlan and interested faculty members to study grading patterns in Honors and to gather data related to the various benchmark GPAs that have been required for students to remain in the program year to year. Meanwhile, BOV member George Henderson is leading interrelated initiatives to generate a recognition program for major supporters of Honors at TCU and to highlight the successes of our College’s alumni.
One of the most exciting developments in Honors this spring has been led by BOV member Tim Weaver, whose efforts to recognize the many contributions of faculty member Bob Frye have taken shape through the Bob and Alice Frye Scholarship Fund. Alumni from Bob’s own classes have been among the major contributors to this new fund, which was celebrated during an Honors Banquet presentation that included a multimedia history of Bob’s and Alice’s years of TCU leadership.
We look forward to continuing our progress in enhancing the Honors College on all fronts in the coming academic year. For now, please join me in thanking all the students, faculty, and staff—as well as our alumni and other community members—who have made so many vital contributions to Honors in 2014-15.
Sarah R. Robbins
Acting Dean, J.V. Roach Honors College
Lorraine Sherley Professor of Literature, TCU Department of English