Thank You for a Great Honors Week 2016

April 9, 2016

Dear campus community,

Thank you for your many contributions to and participation in Honors Week, which in Spring 2016 actually started early, thanks to a whole cluster of pre-events ahead of the core activities April 4-8. Below, I’d like to offer up some specific appreciations—and also provide, for those of you who missed various specific occasions, reporting on the highlights.

Often, it seems, the superstar staff who work to make major endeavors like this one happen get thanked last. So I hope you’ll join me in sending appreciation, first, to the amazing staff members in Honors who gave so much vision, time, and energy to this annual tradition:

  • Lauren Nixon, Honors Program Coordinator
  • Lynn Herrera, Assistant to the Dean
  • Renda Williams, Administrative Assistant
  • Our dedicated academic advising team: Donna Schonerstedt, Marie Martinez, Colby Birdsell, and Jason Dunn.

Honors Week aims to celebrate the intellectual aspirations and achievements of students from all over campus, with students in the Honors College being only a part of that larger group. Along those lines, this year “Honors Week” actually began well before Monday, April 4, as the degree-granting colleges from across the university scheduled first-level sets of presentations of Honors Departmental Senior Projects in conjunction with their own multi-faceted celebrations of undergraduate research. I just wish all of us could have cloned ourselves to see every session in every college. The ones I did get to see were surely inspiring.

More than 130 students presented their Departmental Honors projects in events held all over campus. This shift to de-centralized presentations emerged based on recommendations from several of the deans, who were eager to integrate the public sharing of Honors Senior Projects more fully and visibly into their own colleges’ celebrations of undergraduate research. Though my tentative sense is that holding de-centralized celebrations of learning was ultimately very rewarding, it involved a LOT of work in each college. So we sure do want to give a BIG shout-out to all the college liaisons: 

  • AddRan College of Liberal Arts—David Sandell and Keith Whitworth
  • College of Education—Amber Esping
  • College of Fine Arts—William Gibbons
  • College of Science and Engineering—Marlo Jeffries and Kathy Ferguson
  • Harris College—Debbie Rhea
  • Neeley School of Business—Stacy Landreth Grau, Megan McKinney and Laura Barclay
  • Schieffer College—Paul King

On Tuesday, April 5, 12 finalists competed for the “big prize.”

Thank you to this group of generous and thoughtful judges from across the university:

  • AddRan—Grant Ferguson
  • CSE—Matt Hale
  • Harris—Dennis Cheek; Maria Munoz (each for about half the presentations)
  • Fine Arts—Will Gibbons
  • COE—Kathleen Strickland-Cohen; Robin Griffith (each for about half the presentations)
  • Schieffer—Paul King
  • Neeley—Beata Jones

This year, the judges decided to recognize two Honorable Mentions:

Brien Twomey, Departmental Honors in Business Information Systems

Kelcie Willis, Departmental Honors in Psychology

The winner of the 2016 Boller Award for best oral presentation of his senior thesis:

Matt Miller, Political Science 

12963570_1049838318388228_3509949861910911579_nIt’s been a pleasure indeed hearing from so many of you that you enjoyed this year’s convocation. MANY people contributed to its “visioning” and the fun-and-thoughtful combination of music and learning. Special thanks to Honors Faculty Fellow Darren Middleton for his extraordinary leadership in bringing keynote speaker Barbara Makeda Blake Hannah to our campus, along with her talented musician son, Makonnen Blake Hannah. And, wow! What a treat to have the Jazz Septet, directed by Joey Carter, bring Marley Magic to the occasion. (For those of you who need to learn Marley’s lyrics so you too can sing along next time, I’ll be offering a workshop soon—just kidding! But you CAN come study his lyrics in my American literature course sometime.) Kudos, too, to the amazing staff who make possible the event’s taking place in Ed Landreth auditorium. Thank you for superb hosting!

During Honors Week, we also “honor” students’ own vision of what they value in teaching by announcing the student-selected recognition of Honors Professor of the Year. By tradition, members of the student cabinet manage a multi-step election process that includes nominations, a first-run vote to determine finalists, and then a second round, from which the award-winner emerges. For a roster of many outstanding winners of this award over time, all of whom I feel should be re-saluted each year, visit this page on the Honors website: https://honors.tcu.edu/honors-week/honors-professors-of-the-year/.

12920272_1049848668387193_6499966257753290478_nCongratulations to Juan Carlos Sola-Corbacho, a veteran of over a dozen years at TCU, for joining that august list, and to Dan Williams, the 2015 winner, for a thought-provoking and engaging talk at the Honors Banquet this year.

I mentioned at the banquet that I’m a fan of John Dewey, and that among his familiar sayings is a call to go beyond enjoying experiences—and I hope you enjoyed Honors Week—to learning more by reflecting on those experiences. With Dewey’s mandate in mind, we’ll be gathering soon with all the college liaisons to reflect together on how Honors Week can continue to improve for everyone every year, going forward. If you have suggestions, please pass them along to your college liaison (listed above) and/or your home college’s dean. As we did last year, the Honors Week team will synthesize input from all stakeholders—since Honors Week “belongs” to the entire campus community—and continue refining practices. For 2017, that process will be aided by an ethnographic assessment being prepared by an Honors faculty member from a sister institution, Dr. Todd DeStigter, a highly experienced ethnographer of educational events, practices and places. Everyone involved in planning and carrying out Honors Week—a big, big team indeed—will be eager to hear his advice—and yours as well.

Meanwhile, thanks again for your support!

Sarah Robbins
Acting Dean

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