By MOLLY HODGES
Incoming academically advanced undergraduates at the University of Mary Washington are the first to benefit from the UMW Honors Program, which is new to the university this year.
UMW’s website says that participating students “have the opportunity to engage in rigorous honors-designated coursework, interdisciplinary seminars, strong internship experiences, extended research and creative projects and intriguing community service endeavors.”
The College of Arts and Sciences Strategic Plan designated the honors program as a priority.
The UMW Strategic Plan “identifies strategic goals and objectives for grounding our decisions, guiding our resource allocations, directing our efforts and determining our progress over the next five to eight years,” according to the UMW website.
According to Kelli Slunt, director of the UMW Honors Program, honors courses are designed to be challenging, although this does not necessarily mean more assignments for students. Instead, these courses are research-focused and place an emphasis on in-depth discussions in the classroom.
Seventy-three students are part of the honors program this year, but Slunt said the goal is to decrease that number to 50 in the future.
“Next year, we’re going to have to be a little bit more selective in the offers that we make for the program,” said Slunt.
Prospective students must have a weighted high school GPA of at least 3.9, have received a combined score of 1,200 for the math and verbal sections of the SATs and must have taken part in a rigorous high school curriculum. This is evaluated based on the number of AP or IB courses taken.
Honors students must maintain a cumulative GPA of 3.2. They are required to complete at least six credits of honors courses per year. Additionally, they must attend at least eight co-curricular events, such as specific academic field trips or lectures, prior to graduation.
The UMW Honors Program is unique in the fact that participating students are not housed together in a specific dormitory.
The Student Government Association felt very strongly about this issue, according to Slunt.
“It was mainly because Mary Washington’s such a close knit environment, they didn’t want to isolate them and wanted them to feel part of the Mary Washington community,” said Slunt.
Richard Finkelstein, the dean of arts and sciences, was tasked with establishing an honors program.
According to the Honors Program Proposal, Finkelstein was to create an honors program that could be used as a basis for admission by the fall 2012 semester.
When asked about how her acceptance into the honors program influenced her decision to enroll at UMW, freshman July Laszakovits said, “It was definitely a reason to come here.”
Senior Molly Pardoe said of the honors program, “It will help me to be proud, after I graduate, of the school.”
Students may apply to the honors program in the spring of their freshman year, and will be accepted based on space availability.
Non-honors students can take a maximum of four honors classes, which will count toward their graduation requirements. This limitation is in place to ensure availability for honors students.
The honors office will be located in duPont 210 and a study space will be available exclusively for honors students.