Honors will change in 2008

New program will emphasize student research, smaller classes and advising.

Elizabeth Cook

Starting in 2008, honors students will no longer be in individual programs at different colleges.

Instead they’ll be part of one University-wide honors program.

The change is scheduled for fall 2008 and steps toward the transition are already in place. Although neither curriculum nor office location has been finalized, a new director has been chosen.

For more information, go toThe University of Minnesota Strategic Positioning web site

Serge Rudaz, a professor in the School of Physics and Astronomy, took the helm of the new program early January. He’ll spend the next year organizing and implementing the new program.

The Strategic Positioning Task Force on Undergraduate Honors, which consists of six professors, one dean and two students, made recommendations on how the new honors program should be run.

The main components include an emphasis on research produced by students, smaller classes and closer faculty mentoring and advising for students.

In addition, priority registration will be offered to honors students, along with encouragement to study abroad and honors-only student housing.

Rudaz has been working in the Institute of Technology since 1981, with a brief sabbatical from 1994 to 1995 where he went to the University of Paris to teach.

During his time in the School of Physics and Astronomy, Rudaz held the position as director of undergraduate studies and taught honors classes.

“My role is to produce leadership in this transition,” he said. “It will take time to unify and merge all the expertise under one roof.”

A new curriculum will be determined for honors students, along with a unified admission process, he said.

Robert Pepin, the director of the Institute of Technology Honors Program, said the IT honors program will mainly change on the administration side.

“The students will realize a difference when applying for honors,” he said. “I think the changes are mostly administrative.”

The process is about “putting everyone on the same page and making sure there’s a transition that works,” Rudaz said.

The goal is to make the new program challenging and exciting for students, which may make admission into honors more difficult, he said.

Currently there are roughly 600 honors students at the University, Rudaz said.

“It’s going to be a challenging curriculum taught by engaged faculty who are really interested in reaching these students and exciting them,” he said.

The new program will make it easier for students to take interdisciplinary courses.

As the program stands now, many students come into the Honors in the College of Liberal Arts office interested in taking honors courses outside of their college, said English junior Stephanie Wilkes, who works in the office.

“I think this University-wide honors will be a good thing with having people explore,” she said.

According to recommendations, the other reason for the change is to attract students to the University through a more visible honors program, though some students don’t agree.

Tracy Powell, a mechanical engineering sophomore, said the way the program runs now was visible enough for her.

“That’s actually why I chose the University of Minnesota,” she said. “I liked the separate IT Honors.”

Honors opportunities didn’t matter to fine arts senior Andy Brinkman.

He said he never heard anything about the programs when he transferred from Columbia College.

“No one ever mentioned it,” he said. “It didn’t really affect my decision.”