Academic journal article Honors in Practice

An Honors Alumni Mentor Program at Butler University

Academic journal article Honors in Practice

An Honors Alumni Mentor Program at Butler University

Article excerpt

BACKGROUND: BUTLER UNIVERSITY AND THE BUTLER UNIVERSITY HONORS PROGRAM

Butler University is a comprehensive master's university of approximately 4,000 undergraduate students with five colleges: the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; the College of Education; the College of Business; the Jordan College of Fine Arts; and the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. The Butler University Honors Program is an interdisciplinary program open to undergraduates from all five colleges. Incoming students admitted to Butler who meet certain benchmark requirements (1320/30 or higher SAT/ACT or top five percent of graduating class) are invited to apply to our honors program. If students perform well in their first year at the university, the Butler Honors Program may invite them to join at the middle or end of the academic year. In addition, students may petition to join the program at any time provided they are able to complete its requirements prior to graduation.

The requirements of our honors program are: completion of four interdisciplinary honors courses; completion of a departmental honors course, an upper-level research course offered within the student's academic major; completion of a thesis proposal as part of a thesis-preparation course; participation in a designated number of cultural events--plays, readings or lectures by visiting writers, concerts, ethnic festivals, and the like; and completion of an honors thesis, which includes an oral presentation of the thesis project. While we have approximately ten percent of the overall student body participating in the honors program, the past several years have shown that only between five and seven percent of the graduating class is fully completing the program. An analysis of the attrition information from our program indicated that we lost most of our honors students after the four required honors courses, some time during the thesis preparation process. In addition, particular academic programs demonstrated a higher attrition level than others, majors we determined were "at risk" for non-completion of the honors thesis. This information provided us sufficient motivation to find methods to address the attrition rate.

BACKGROUND: THE OFFICE OF INTERNSHIP AND CAREER SERVICES

The Office of Internship and Career Services at Butler University is a developmental support unit designed to help students explore, select, prepare for, and actively pursue satisfying careers. This unit is under the supervision of the Associate Provost for Academic Affairs (as opposed to being housed in Student Affairs) and retains seven full-time employees. Among the office's primary responsibilities are providing access to internship and career oriented information and offering opportunities to connect students with local employers.

Butler University has been awarded grants from the Lilly Endowment, Inc., to address Indiana's "brain drain" by increasing exposure to internship and employment opportunities with emphasis on employer development and student programming. Through these grants, development of partnerships with local employers, community organizations, and area alumni is essential to success and has been strengthened through the office of Internship and Career Services. A portion of the original grant money was devoted to recruiting mentors for our students, encouraging their commitment to and involvement with Butler undergraduates. Local alumni were tapped as a key resource for this portion of the project.

THE GENESIS OF THE IDEA

The alumni mentor portion of the Lilly grant, a small percentage of the initial funding, was not as successful as the office of Internship and Career Services had envisioned. Coincidentally, a local alumna approached the grant director at an event and commented that she would like to find a way to give more time back to Butler. In addition, the alumna lamented that she wished she had completed her honors thesis. …

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