Dr. Kuiken named interim director of Honors Program

Genny Frederick, News Staff Writer

Dr. Jonathan Kuiken has stepped into a new role on campus as the Interim Director of the Honors Program. Kuiken is an associate professor of history in the Global Cultures Department and was previously on the Honors Advisory Board.

The Honors Program at Wilkes gives “self-directed, self-motivated, intellectually curious students” the chance to “join others with shared interests and aspirations in a collaborative learning community.”

This type of program is something Kuiken has considered important, even before his time at Wilkes.

“When I was an undergrad, I participated in a version of an honors program, which was very focused on community and leadership. It’s actually where I met my wife. So, it was a pretty meaningful experience for me,” stated Kuiken.

The experience of the Honors Program is, as he says, “not just about, academically-gifted people coming in and taking classes. The idea behind the Honors Program is really to emphasize leadership and emphasize service to the campus community and the broader community.”

These traits of community, leadership and service extend outside of the classroom and are what attracted him to the Honors Program in the first place.

“The attitude in some schools’ honors programs is to set these students up as not just normal students – they’re honor students – and I really want to avoid that,” described Kuiken. 

“We want to be elite without being elitist. Being a member of the Honors Program is much more about service to other people than it is about glory to you.”

Teaching honors courses has brought Kuiken many fun class experiences as well.

“Honors students are very motivated, and that helps when you have a whole class of people who really want to be there and are really doing the readings and stuff like that. It’s just fun,” said Kuiken. 

“I feel like when you have people who are motivated and want to be there and want to participate, it really elevates the whole class.”

It is not just Honors Program students that bring excitement to classes. Rose Dietrich, a member of the Honors Program and also a student in one of Kuiken’s classes, noted how his excitement to teach makes a class so much better.

“Despite it being a 9 a.m. class, a time that some people aren’t quite awake yet, he was able to bring energy into the classroom. The energy he brought was often in the form of passion. Personally, for me, it makes the class experience so much different when the professor is visibly passionate about the class,” said Dietrich. 

The President of the Honors Program Student Committee, Olivia Raymond, has not had Kuiken in class but is already aware of the enthusiasm he brings to the program.

“I have never had a class with Dr. Kuiken, but I had the chance to meet him through attending the faculty Honors meetings due to my position as president of the HPSC,” said Raymond. “He was always an active participant and leader at these meetings, so I am confident in his abilities to be a leader and look forward to seeing what he will do with the program.”

Along with every other organization on campus, the Honors Program has to make some changes regarding events for the year, while continuing to emphasize the ideals of the program and help students.

Kuiken plans to have speakers from within and outside the campus community speak over Zoom about a variety of topics, such as health during the semester, the upcoming election and leading through crisis.

Conversely, he also plans to have some more laid-back meetings.

“We’re thinking about doing some fun stuff like Netflix watch parties and online trivia to get a chance to come together and have some fun and blow off some steam. I think we all need a little bit of that too,” said Kuiken.

In addition to a change in how events will be held, the Honors Program also saw a change in location. 

The new offices for the Honors Program and the new lounge for student use are located on the second floor of the Stark Learning Center. 

The offices are located in SLC 262, and the lounge is in SLC 258.

While Kuiken is excited about his position, he noted that Jennifer McLaughlin, the administrative assistant, has been a huge help.

“She is the real heart and soul of the Honors Program, and honestly, she’s the brains of the operation,” explained Kuiken. “I’m not exaggerating when I say that I could not do this job without her.”

While Kuiken is taking over at a time that will require some adjustments and new solutions, he explains, “I have a year, so I’m going to make the most of it.”