University Honors Program assists students in reaching their goals
Between studying abroad, conducting research and formulating an original capstone project, honors students are constantly seeking opportunities to elevate their academic experience. At the forefront of these opportunities is the University Honors Program (UHP). The UHP provides high-achieving students intellectual enrichment, support and a sense of community. Most importantly, the UHP creates a space for students to further their love for learning.
Behind the program is Dr. Sara Luly. After serving as the director of undergraduate studies and director of undergraduate recruitment in the Department of Modern Languages, Sara transitioned to her current role as the faculty director of the UHP. Jim Hohenbary, associate director, works alongside Sara and additionally directs the Office of Nationally Competitive Scholarships.
Stemming from a love of working with undergraduates, Sara wanted to assist students in thinking through their path of study and pursuing their goals.
“I had a really positive experience in my honors program in college,” said Sara. “It was the best thing I got out of undergrad. It was transformative.”
One way UHP students are able to elevate their K-State experience is with honors classes. These small, discussion-based courses create a high-impact environment where students have opportunity to discuss unique topics and learn from each other’s ideas.
Between accelerated classes, free tickets to programs at McCain and a social group, participating students create a tight-knit community. Students can further build community by living at the Honors House, which provides a unique living environment focused on community development and academic success.
“We have such great students. They benefit from meeting other people who are super excited about what they do,” said Sara. “You go in the Honors House and there are a wide variety of people with all different majors and areas of interest, but they are all very supportive of one another’s interests.”
Beyond honors classes, students pursue three co-curricular experiences and an Honors Project. The co-curricular experiences include tutoring, research, internships, academic competition teams and study or service abroad.
“These experiences create an opportunity for us to encourage our students to build a strong resume in addition to a strong transcript,” said Jim.
The Honors Project allows students to come up with a topic of their own choosing and create scholarly work based on research or based on their experience with an internship, or study abroad. With very few requirements, the ambiguity of the project can be challenging, but the creative thinking and problem-solving skills are traits that help honors students grow and prepare for their future careers.
“It is really exciting to hear what a student is interested in and do creative thinking,” said Sara. “I always start by asking, ‘What was your favorite class and why was it your favorite?’ or ‘What has been your favorite project you’ve worked on?’ From there, it is a conversation. It is then my job to help them package those ideas into a plan.”
Another feature of the UHP is honors advising. From assisting a student in applying for prestigious scholarships to asking a professor to be their mentor, honors advising helps students grow academically and professionally. This offers a unique interdisciplinary aspect: the ability to help students make connections that they might not have been aware of before.
Philanthropic support is important in elevating the UHP. There are no added fees for students involved in the UHP, but co-curricular experiences can cost money. While the experience can be transformative, an international experience almost always requires a financial investment or an independent research project might require supplies, equipment or travel.
“Maybe a student is really passionate about non-profits and wants to take an unpaid internship, then there is an opportunity-cost,” said Sara. “If we do not offset costs, we are only enabling certain students to pursue these opportunities.”
The UHP Excellence Fund provides perks for honors students that are otherwise not allowed when using state funds. For example, these gifts are used to provide support for Honors Ambassadors, snacks at Fireside Chats at the Honors House, field trips for honors classes and other items that assist in supplying resources and building community.
In the future, Sara hopes to see philanthropic gifts provide funds for honors scholarships and opportunity grants. Because honors students are involved in so many things, they often carry a large financial burden, which could be offset through an honors scholarship or project grant.
“I would love to be in a position where we have money to support students to pay for classes, co-curriculars and research,” said Sara. “We want to continue to recruit the very best students to K-State and honors-specific scholarships would help us do that.”