Legislation

University Senate Documents

Legislation Establishing The Honors College

Senate Bill No. 0506-05

UNIVERSITY SENATE
UNIVERSITY AT ALBANY
STATE UNIVERSITY OF NEW YORK

Introduced by: Undergraduate Academic Council and University Planning and Policy Council

Date: November 21, 2005

UNIVERSITY-WIDE HONORS COLLEGE

IT IS HEREBY PROPOSED THAT THE FOLLOWING BE ADOPTED:

1. That the attached Proposed for creation of a University-Wide Honors College be approved by the University Senate effective for the Fall 2007 term.

2.. That students admitted as freshmen for the Fall 2006 term who are able to complete the requirements of the Honors College be grand parented into the program.

3.. That this proposal be forwarded to the President for approval.

Rationale:

The UAC and UPC have carefully considered this proposal and believe that it credibly supports the University mission and goals cited in the document as well as addressing concerns raised at the UAC in its discussions of honors programs last year.

The UAC also wishes to note that it applauds the administration's willingness to support this undergraduate initiative.

Concerning the implementation date, although the proposal seeks approval of the Honors College for Fall 2007, many lower division honors courses or sections of courses already exist and it is anticipated that many students entering the University next fall will be able to remain on track for the new requirement and will be interested in joining the program the following year.

University-wide Honors College Proposal

The University at Albany is committed to excellence in undergraduate education. The creation of a University-wide, interdisciplinary Honors College as a centerpiece of this commitment is timely and necessary.

Current Situation

The Office of Undergraduate Studies oversees honors activities campus-wide through an Associate Dean for Honors Programs who is supported with only a half-time reduction in teaching and no designated staff support or real budget. These activities include: 1) managing the University Scholars Program ; 2) coordinating the team-taught "Foundations of Great Ideas" courses; 3) collaborating with academic departments to mount department-based honors courses; 4) coordinating other academic programs and social gatherings, e.g., Honors Conference, trips to New York City and within the Capital Region; and 5) disseminating information about national and international scholarships, serving as campus representative and managing the nomination and application process for most of these scholarship programs.

Some components of honors activities function quite effectively. The University Scholars Program is a major feature of the University's recruitment; many students are active in the Presidential Honors Society and contribute to co-curricular activities through the Presidential Scholars Leadership Council; efforts to promote undergraduate research have engaged numerous units in the administration and departments; and one can find a small number of well-functioning departmental honors programs on campus.

At the same time, the University has not invested substantially in honors activities outside of the University Scholars Program and most departmental honors programs essentially are inactive because they have not been a high priority in times of tight budget and little if any faculty growth. In addition, the University has not been successful in producing Rhodes, Marshall or Truman scholars.

The Honors College

The University-wide Honors College is designed to strengthen successful components of current programs and redress the deficiencies identified above.

Mission

The mission of the University-wide Honors College is:

  • To contribute to the University's goal of attracting an increased number of especially talented students with interests matching the programs of the University at Albany and to retain these students to graduation;
  • To identify other academically talented undergraduate candidates and direct them to honors opportunities on the campus (this is a responsibility that is ideally shared by University teaching faculty and Advisement Services and Educational Opportunities Program advisors);
  • To create a community of scholars—both students and faculty—who work together in a challenging academic environment and to stimulate high levels of academic achievement;
  • To involve more faculty members in honors activities so that they are available individually as mentors to help students become active learners;
  • To create a structured set of academic experiences comprising a clear "honors pathway" through which students can access the opportunities and enriched academic offerings of the University in a systematic and coherent fashion;
  • To enhance the offerings of honors degree programs housed within academic departments, programs and schools;
  • To prepare students to compete successfully in national and international scholarships as well as in admission to graduate and professional schools;
  • To recognize and accommodate the different ways in which students can demonstrate distinctively high levels of academic achievement;

Structure

The University-wide Honors College will be housed in the Office of Undergraduate Studies. It will be administered by the Assistant Vice Provost for Honors, who reports to the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education, and the Honors College Governing Board. Members of the Governing Board include the deans of the College of Arts and Sciences, School of Business, College of Computing and Information, Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy, School of Criminal Justice, School of Social Welfare, or their designees, and six teaching faculty who hold the rank of Distinguished Professor, Distinguish Service Professor, Distinguished Teaching Professor, or hold University awards for excellence in teaching. The six teaching faculty will be appointed by the Provost in consultation with the University Senate's Governance Council. The Governing Board may create subcommittees for specific purposes, such as curriculum and admission.  The Governing Board will submit an annual report to the University Senate's Undergraduate Academic and University Planning and Policy Councils.

The responsibilities of the Assistant Vice Provost include:

  • Managing the budget of the College;
  • Mounting honors courses;
  • Organizing co-curricular activities;
  • Advising students and matching students with faculty mentors;
  • Community building;
  • Serving as liaison to honors housing and Undergraduate Admissions;
  • Working with the Vice President for Development to identify potential means to enhance funding for the Honors College and related activities.

Student Body

Initially, 150 new students are to be admitted each year, using the process outlined below:

  • As they are admitted to the University, University Scholars will be invited to apply for admission to the Honors College. This opportunity will be advertised in recruitment materials as well as in the scholarship award letters issued by the Office of Undergraduate Admissions;
  • Recruits will be encouraged to apply for early admission to the University (this is already being done by recruiters);
  • The Governing Board will determine the application process for admission to the Honors College, including criteria for admission, in consultation with UAC's Committee on Admissions and Academic Standing and the Office of Undergraduate Admissions.
  • University Scholars already in residence at the University may apply. Frosh and sophomores who are not University Scholars may also apply. They would be evaluated for admissions on the basis of their work at University at Albany by the AVP for Honors and Governing Board. Admission is based on GPA, faculty letters as well as evidence of scholarship (e.g., sample of research paper or creative work).

Curriculum

Honors College students will be required to take six honors courses before their junior year. (Students admitted after one semester in residence will be required to take five courses; students admitted after two semesters will be required to take four courses.)

A senior thesis or creative project is required for all Honors College graduates.

  • At least eight honors courses per semester will be offered for honors students, across disciplines.
  • Honors courses will be designated by the suffix "H";
  • Honors courses will have a built-in e-portfolio component;
  • The e-portfolio is a tool that students (and their faculty mentors) can use to archive, access, revise, collate and assess their learning experience, particularly their creative and/or research projects;
  • The portfolios will reside on a dedicated server managed by CETL, similar to the way WebCT is being managed and maintained.
  • For a course to be designated an honors course, it must meet one or more of the following requirements:
  • Provide students with the opportunity for in-depth study of subject-matter that would not be possible in larger classes;
  • Have a research and/or creative component;
  • Have a service learning component.
  • Among the 16+ courses offered every year are:
  • Lower division courses that fulfill requirements for more than one major, especially in disciplines that have very structured requirements for the major. Consequently, departments with large number of intended majors will be encouraged to offer honors sections of introductory-level courses, similar to ACHM 130; ACHM 131; AMAT 118; AMAT 119; APHY 141; APHY 151; and APSY 102;
  • Courses that meet one or more of the requirements in the General Education Program. These will be selected with a view to allow students to fulfill those requirements not typically available within the more common majors and minors.
  • Faculty would receive TA support or field trips, materials, etc.
  • Departments would be compensated for lost teaching;
  • Articulation with departmental honors programs:
  • All Honors College students will be enrolled in departmental honors program;
  • All Honors College students will be matched with a faculty advisor in the major who will supervise the mandatory thesis or creative project;
  • In departments without an honors program, the Assistant Vice Provost for Honors will help students devise a comparable 12-credit upper division honors curriculum  in the major. (This includes forming an advisement committee comprising three or more faculty in the student's major.)

Co-curricular Activities

In order to create a vibrant and viable living-learning community of scholars, Honors College experience is enriched by a diversity of co-curricular activities, including:

  • Undergraduate research initiative (in collaboration with VP for Research);
  • Annual Honors Conference featuring work by honors students. Non-honors students may apply to present their work and receive distinction for doing so;
  • Information open house for national and international scholarship programs;
  • Lecture series (open to the university community and the public);
  • "Dinner With Faculty";
  • Peer mentoring program.

 Legislation Amending Membership of the Governing Board

Senate Bill No. 0607-05

UNIVERSITY SENATE
UNIVERSITY AT ALBANY
STATE UNIVERSITY OF NEW YORK

Introduced by: Undergraduate Academic Council

Date: November 29, 2006

PROPOSED REVISION OF MEMBERSHIP OF THE HONORS COLLEGE GOVERNING BOARD

IT IS HEREBY PROPOSED THAT THE FOLLOWING BE ADOPTED:

That the attached proposed revision of the Honors College Governing Board be approved by the University Senate.

That this proposal be forwarded to the President for approval.

That the revision take effect upon the President's approval.

Rationale:

When the Honors College was approved a year ago, the six deans (or their designees) of colleges and schools that offered undergraduate major programs were included on the Governing Board, along with six members of the teaching faculty.

Since then, it has been pointed out that this omitted the School of Education, which has substantial undergraduate enrollments and a minor frequently chosen by undergraduates, several of whom continue on to graduate study in that school. Also omitted were the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering and the School of Public Health, the latter already having a minor and both of which are likely soon to propose undergraduate majors. Both of these programs also continue to offer expanding research opportunities for undergraduates in subjects and facilities not generally available at most universities. Should a new college or school be created, the UAC believes there would also be no reason to exclude that academic unit from a truly "University-wide" Honors College. The UAC therefore recommends that each college and school dean (or designee) be a member of the Governing Board, and the number of additional teaching faculty be increased to equal that number.

In discussions in both the University Senate's Executive Committee and the Governance Council, the heavy concentrations of deans (or their designee) was questioned. One solution would be to make the number of other teaching faculty one more than the number or deans (or their designees), but in the UAC discussion it was noted that no student membership was required in the original legislation.

Although not a body of the University Senate, many of the Governing Board's recommendations on policies, requirements, courses and the like are subject to UAC approval and/or review. Since student membership with full voting rights characterizes the University Senate and its Councils and their Committees, including CPCA and various appellate bodies, the UAC further recommended at least two undergraduate students from the Honors College be included with full voting rights. The Assistant Vice Provost for Honors Programs subsequently recommended this be changed to three students, to be elected by students in the Honors College. The UAC believes the addition of these students sufficiently addresses the concern of the decanal percentage that currently characterizes the Governing Board.

Finally, in working with the Provost and Vice Provost on a list of mutually acceptable members of the teaching faculty for the current six positions on the Governing Board, the Governance Council questioned the exclusion of recipients of the Excellence in Research awards, given the objectives of the Honors College. The Governance Council was also concerned that faculty from some of the newer or interdisciplinary academic areas could be excluded if the choice of teaching faculty were rigidly limited to Distinguished and Excellence winners. Further, and in the same spirit of inclusion, that Council recommends term limits be established for the teaching faculty members of the Governing Board but notes that, while in theory there may always be enough faculty recognized by Distinguished or Excellence awards to allow this rotation, it is not surprising that many of those individuals are engaged in other activities that would limit their full participation in the Honors College.

Based on the preceding feedback and considerations, the Undergraduate Academic Council therefore recommends the following.

University-wide Honors College Proposal

Structure

The University-wide Honors College will be housed in the Office of Undergraduate Education. It will be administered by the Assistant Vice Provost for Honors, who reports to the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education, and the Honors College Governing Board. Members of the Governing Board include the deans of each of the University's colleges and schools, or their designees, additional teaching faculty equal in number to the number of college and school deans, and a sophomore, a junior, and a senior who are current members of the Honors College and who were elected by students in the Honors College.

The additional members of the teaching faculty will be appointed by the Provost in consultation with the University Senate's Governance Council, with a view to broadly representing the academic disciplines of the University. The Governance Council will submit the initial slate of faculty. These faculty will serve for three-year terms, which may be renewed once, but initially some members will be appointed on a one- and two-year basis to allow for continuity as well as rotation. Although it is anticipated that the majority of these faculty will hold the rank of Distinguished Professor, Distinguished Service Professor, and Distinguished Teaching Professor or will have received University awards for Excellence in Teaching or Excellence in Research, the Provost and the Governance Council may agree on other teaching faculty for the sake of representation and balance.

The Governing Board may create subcommittees for specific purposes, such as curriculum, admission, and standards for "Honors Standing" to be met by Honors College students. The Governing Board will submit an annual report to the University Senate's Undergraduate Academic and University Planning and Policy Councils.

 Legislation Changing Honors-course Requirements

UNIVERSITY SENATE
UNIVERSITY AT ALBANY
STATE UNIVERSITY OF NEW YORK

Introduced by: Undergraduate Academic Council

Date: March 24, 2008

PROPOSED REVISION OF REQUIREMENTS TO GRADUATE FROM THE HONORS COLLEGE

IT IS HEREBY PROPOSED THAT THE FOLLOWING BE ADOPTED:

That the attached proposed revision of requirements for graduation from the Honors College be approved by the University Senate.

That this proposal be forwarded to the Interim President George M. Philip for approval.

That the proposed revision takes effect upon the Interim President's approval.

Proposed changes to Senate Bill No. 0506-05:

Honors College students will be required to take 18 credits in honors courses before their junior year. (Students beginning in The Honors College after two semesters in residence at UAlbany will be required to take 12 credits.)  A maximum of 4 of the 18 credits may be earned through one-credit honors courses.

Rationale:

By unanimous vote, the Governing Board of the Honors College requests a change in the requirements for graduation from The Honors College.  Current requirements include that students must complete six honors courses during their first two years (five courses if starting in The Honors College during the second semester of their first year; four honors courses if starting in The Honors College during the first semester of their second year).  The Governing Board recommends that this requirement be changed to 18 credits for students admitted to The Honors College as entering first-year students and 12 credits for students admitted to The Honors College to start during their second year.  All other requirements for graduation from The Honors College (e.g., completing a senior thesis or creative project) will remain the same.

One goal of The Honors College is to provide a wide range of educational experiences, some of which may be in addition to the traditional classroom educational experience.  Changing the graduation requirement from number of courses to number of credits will allow the creation of several additional types of experiences that will enhance the education of students in The Honors College.  These potential educational experiences include:

  • 1- or 2-credit travel courses led by UAlbany professors during breaks (e.g., a trip to Death Valley during the spring break, a trip to Brazil during the winter break);
  • 1-credit discussion sections for honors students that are attached to an introductory lecture course [e.g., honors students in a large lecture course meet with the professor of the course an hour a week for discussion (and complete additional assignments related to the discussion)];
  • 1-credit courses that we hope to create for students in The Honors College, such as a course for first-year students that focuses their attention on the variety of research methodologies used by professors across the UAlbany campus.

Most incoming first-year students using these 1- or 2-credit experiences are likely to take one less 3- or 4-credit honors course than they do under the current requirement.  We do not anticipate that this would be problematic for their education and believe that the 1- and 2-credit courses are likely to increase the breadth of their educational experience while at UAlbany.  The limit on 1-credit courses and the limited availability of 2-credit travel and other courses means that almost all honors students will take five "traditional" 3- or 4-credit honors courses as they meet the new requirement.