The Impact of Honors on the Campus Community

By Rice, Larry | Journal of the National Collegiate Honors Council, Fall-Winter 2015 | Go to article overview

The Impact of Honors on the Campus Community


Rice, Larry, Journal of the National Collegiate Honors Council


The development of an honors program at Rogers State University a decade ago brought about significant positive changes to our campus, where more than three-quarters of our students are the first in their families to attend college. Throughout the years, these young scholars have elevated academic discourse across campus and delivered an impact felt well beyond their honors classrooms.

As we consider how an honors program has benefited our university, it is important to provide some context to our unique history. Rogers State University holds the distinction of being Oklahoma's newest regional institution of higher education, but it has roots that go back to shortly after Oklahoma's statehood. For most of our history, we operated as the Oklahoma Military Academy, with an on-campus high school and junior college. In the early 1970s, the military school became a community college that operated for more than a quarter-century. From that community college, the Oklahoma Legislature in 1999 created Rogers State University to address unmet educational needs for the state's second largest metropolitan area.

Our service area includes some of the poorest communities in a state where one in six people live below the poverty line. Even with one of the nation's lowest in-state tuition rates, 84% of our students require some form of financial aid to attend college. We also find that the majority of our students are not fully prepared for college, with more than 55% requiring some level of remediation in English, math, reading, and/or science.

Our campus leadership soon determined that adding an honors program would be crucial to our growth as a regional four-year university. The creation of the RSU Honors Program in fall 2005 served purposes both practical and idealistic With its full scholarship that included room and board, it provided an enrollment incentive to attract accomplished students, while improving the quality of our academic enterprise through the addition of some of Oklahoma's best and brightest students.

Quite frankly, the move allowed RSU to attract outstanding students who might not have otherwise given a second look at a regional university that had recently transitioned from a community college just five years earlier. Further, the generous scholarship package opened doors for many students who had academic credentials to attend larger or more established schools but nevertheless chose to attend RSU About 90% of our honors program students are from Oklahoma, with most living a short drive from our main campus in Claremore.

The RSU Honors Program was built on the high-impact educational practices developed by George Kuh, the founding director for the National Survey of Student Engagement. Built on the foundation of the honors program's learning community, the program also includes enriching activities like service learning, internships, and study-at-large (study abroad). Most RSU bachelor's degree programs include an intensive senior capstone project, which is a recommended practice from NSSE These features, when taken in combination, help broaden student perspectives and strengthen the academic experience.

The honors program was designed around learning communities of academic high-achievers enrolled in a small number of designated honors courses Students in the RSU Honors Program typically take about a third of their classes within the program, with the majority of their studies taking place in classes where they mingle with the entire student population Soon after the honors program launched, longtime faculty noted that honors students helped spark more in-depth conversations and elevated discussion among students of all levels. …

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