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New Honors College Unveiled

by Greta Petry (December 9, 2005)

The Honors College will begin in Fall 2006 and will offer opportunities to work closely with distinguished faculty.
The Honors College will begin in Fall 2006 and will offer opportunities to work closely with distinguished faculty.

President Kermit L. Hall announced Dec. 1 the creation of a new University-wide and interdisciplinary Honors College. Speaking at a press conference in the Standish Room of the Science Library, Hall said the new program will open in fall 2006 and will be "a selective and high-powered academic experience for our best prepared and best motivated students."

Hall said the "way forward for the University is by building a better undergraduate experience. There is, in fact, no better prescription for dealing with the issues of the University's national standing than to strengthen its academic reputation and expect more of our students than they might expect of themselves."

Students in The Honors College will be taught by distinguished faculty, and will receive "the most rigorous and demanding comprehensive education we can offer," Hall said.

The Honors College courses will incorporate research, creative, and service-learning components. As seniors, students will design and complete a "capstone" project, that is, a year-long original research or creative project.

Hall said this new program will position students more competitively "for professional schools, for top jobs in industry, and for national scholarships like the Rhodes or Marshall."

More broadly, it will reinforce the University's commitment to the entire undergraduate academic experience.

"As a public university, we have multiple roles, and it is important to remember that access and excellence are, at every turn of the road, reciprocal and reinforcing," Hall said.

At the end of his remarks, the president stressed that through this new college, the University at Albany "most importantly, is putting a stake in the ground that says: Academics come first."

Steven Messner, chair of the University Senate, said The Honors College will have a heavy emphasis on mentorship, faculty interaction, and "more one-on-one teaching and learning."

He added, "Part of it is learning by doing." Messner noted The Honors College students will be active learners and peer mentors, and will be instrumental in creating "a genuine community of scholars."

Zakhar Berkovich, an undergraduate with senior standing who is originally from Belarus, said, "The main thing that attracts me as a student is interaction with faculty." Berkovich said he has friends who are in an honors college at CUNY and they "always talk about their classes, seminars, trips, and attention that they get from the faculty that they don't get when they are in the regular classroom."

He added, "I truly believe that Honors College will be a great program to be part of. In fact, I am already thinking what are the chances for me to get in it."

Berkovich said mentoring is important, as he had an English teacher in high school who was always there when he needed someone to talk to or advice.

Finally, he stressed the importance of a challenging curriculum. "In The Honors College the curriculum is set so that students will be challenged to the extent they can be. In the small classroom environment it will be easier for the professor to assign a fair amount of work in order to challenge students. Students then will not regard this as a burden but actually would enjoy the challenge."

The audience chuckled as Berkovich concluded, "You might say that I have been talking only about the positive side of The Honors College. Well, there is a negative side to it too. I am not in the program yet."

The president thanked the following campus leaders for making The Honors College a reality:

  • Professor David McCaffrey and the Honors Working Group of the Faculty Senate;

  • University Planning and Policy Council Chair – Professor Carolyn MacDonald – and Senate colleagues on the UPC;

  • University Senate Chair Messner;

  • University Academic Council Chair Philippe Abraham and UAC Council colleagues;

  • Associate Dean and Professor Vivien Ng;

  • Assistant Dean for Undergraduate Studies Richard Collier;

  • Vice Provost Sue Faerman;

  • Dean Joan Wick-Pelletier of the College of Arts and Sciences; and

  • Provost Susan Herbst.

"These individuals made The Honors College possible and the entire University community should be grateful to them," Hall said.


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