Wilkes Honors Program to begin Fall 2015; Benefits to first year students: success, achievement

In the fall 2015 semester, 30 Wilkes University incoming freshman will begin the first year of the revived honors program as one had existed in prior years.

The program, which is centered on the university’s values of mentorship, scholarship, diversity, innovation and community, also places high emphasis on leadership in personal and professional settings, integrity in demonstrating ethical and moral standards, self-awareness and academic distinction.

According to Dr. Mark Allen, Interim Director of the Honors Program, the program has been in the works as university President Patrick Leahy brought the idea back to the campus community.

“Dr. Leahy was a driving force in getting the university community thinking about resurrecting an honors program,” explained Allen. “A taskforce spent over a year developing the program and then getting it approved by the faculty.”

The program is oversaw by various university faculty and staff.

“In addition to an Advisory Council of six faculty members, representing each of the six schools at the University, a Student Development staff member serves on the committee with a focus on developing experiential learning opportunities that will dovetail with classroom learning,” explained Allen.

The program requires 22 honors credits, most of which are incorporated into the students regular course load.

Allen explained that the program is flexible to accommodate all majors.

In order to be selected for the program, students must fulfill certain academic requirements as well as submissions.

“All students had to complete an application which included an essay. Each app was scored, using a rubric, by two faculty members.” said Allen. “Each interview also had two faculty members. The evaluators based decisions on a variety of factors including diversity of majors and backgrounds.”

Students must also have an SAT score of 1,500 or higher or an ACT score of 23 or higher, or rank in the top 20 percent of their high school graduating class.

While the program does require extra courses, it does reap benefits to enrolled students.

Along with access to field trips, dinners and notable speakers on campus., honors students will receive a housing scholarship valued at $7800 along with any qualifying merit scholarships he or she receives; an enrichment grant to help cover academic costs such as study abroad and research. This is broken down to $1000 for the first two years of study and $2000 annually for their last two years.

Students who are residents will also be placed in a living-learning community with other first year students.

He or she will receive first priority access to course selection as well as additional support in career counseling and assistant in applying for graduate school or scholarships.

If the honors courses go over the course load credit limit, these courses will not be charged at an additional cost, as per academic advisors approval.

Participation in the honors program will also be noted on their transcripts as well as at commencement.

While the monetary benefits act as incentive, Allen explains that the overall experience is what counts.

“The value of participation far exceeds monetary rewards by providing intellectual experiences that challenge the academic strengths of the students involved,” said Allen.In order to remain enrolled in the program, students must maintain a 3.0 GPA at the end of the freshman year, a 3.2 after the sophomore year, and a 3.3 after the junior year.

To graduate with honors, students must end the senior year with a GPA of at least 3.4.

The student must also receive 3.0 or higher in all grades and will only be permitted one grade of a 2.5 in an honors course.

If a student wishes, he or she may leave the program however, the benefits will no longer be in place.

Currently, the program is only available to first-year students.