College Honors Society Launched
New program to strengthen recruitment efforts, academic excellence and student scholarship
By Eva Emerson
At a launch party held Oct. 27, USC College leaders announced the establishment of the College Honors Society, a comprehensive, 4-year honors and enrichment program.
Created in discussion with undergraduates, the program redoubles College efforts to support students in pursuit of academic excellence, said College Dean Joseph Aoun. He reminded attendees, including a number of current honors students, that undergraduate education remains the College’s primary mission.
“The purpose of a research university is to transmit and create knowledge,” he said. “But here the creation of knowledge does not happen at the faculty level only. Many of you are doing original research. Our job is to help you learn how to learn.
“More and more we’re prevailing in the competition to attract the nation’s top students,” Aoun said. “I think our students are really of the go-getter mentality, the entrepreneurial mentality, the take-charge mentality. Their expectations — of college, of faculty and of themselves — are high. We’ve envisioned a number of new programs to meet these demands. I’m really excited about the launch of the College Honors Society.”
Peter Starr, dean of undergraduate programs and a professor of French and comparative literature, said the presence of a Honors Society will help the College vie for students who have their choice of prestigious universities.
Starr will oversee the new program, which will expand upon and coordinate the existing menu of honors programs. None of these, including the popular Thematic Option, Freshman Science Honors and Resident Honors currently coordinated by Starr’s staff, were designed to provide an honors experience that would last over a student’s entire college career.
While many departments, Starr said, offer well organized honors tracks, others are still in the process of setting them up.
Robin Romans, assistant dean of admission and honors programs in the College, will direct the new program, which will be rolled out over the next few months. Judy Haw, director of supplemental instruction in the College, will serve as the Honors Society’s associate director.
One well-articulated goal of the new Honors Society is to further boost original scholarship and research by College undergraduates, which has been on the rise for a number of years. Current departmental honors programs typically require students to complete a senior thesis or independent project. Starr views that requirement as one of the programs’ most successful aspects.
“These provide a capstone experience, which brings together all of the skills a student has mastered during their years here at USC College,” he said. It can also prove quite difficult, and one of the first tasks of the Honors Society will be to set up seminars on how to conceive of and complete a successful honors project.
“We’re going to give you the tools, and give you access to other students who have gone through the process, so that you can take advantage of this capstone experience,” he said.
A number of details about the Honors Society and its programs will be worked out in the coming months. Romans and his staff have planned a series of student focus groups to identify specific needs.
The College will offer membership to the Honors Society to incoming freshmen with a stellar record of academic achievement upon admission to the College. In addition, at the close of each academic year, the College plans to send out invitations to join the Society to students who earn a GPA of 3.7 or higher.
Departmental honors students will automatically become members of the Honors Society. Faculty also may nominate outstanding students for inclusion, even if they have a GPA lower than the 3.7 mark. Graduated members will be named Fellows of the Society.