The State of Honors

Change and challenges. That’s how I would describe the last two years.

Retirements and a resignation brought changes in the UHP staff. Program coordinator Judi Bryant and assistant director Diane Burton retired in January 2020 and December 2020, respectively. Both served the UHP for many years and were dedicated to the UHP mission and to the success of our students. They influenced the lives of thousands of students. Kimberly Ross, Melanie Nichols, and Emily Morgan joined our staff as administrative assistant, program coordinator, and assistant director, respectively. Kimberly started in March 2020, as the university switched to remote work in response to the pandemic. Melanie came to us from the Collaborative for Student Achievement and started August 2020. Emily was executive assistant to the chair in the English Department and started June 2021. I am delighted to have them as part of the UHP team.

 There have been changes among the Honors faculty, too. Chuck Elkins, Walter Toki, Bill Timpson, and Vicki Volbrecht retired; Denise Apodaca, the 2020 Honors Prof, will start a Ph.D. program at Columbia University this fall; and Clara Keyt, Wesley Longacre, and Ursula Quillmann took advantage of new opportunities. We were all deeply saddened by the death of Gerry Callahan in August 2020. Gerry, a professor of English and Microbiology, Immunology, & Pathology, taught a popular Senior Honors Seminar for many years and was recognized as Honors Prof in 2019. Every one of these individuals enriched the lives of our students and we are grateful for their service. New instructors Anne Scott, Margit Hentschell, Justin Reeves, Nora Hickey, Joanna Doxey, Leah Holz, and José Luis Suárez-Garcia have invigorated the curriculum with new seminar topics.

 COVID-19 disrupted the lives of Honors staff, faculty, and students. The rapid switch to remote instruction after spring break in March 2020 was hard for all our students, but it was particularly rough on our first-year students, who could not return to campus, and our seniors, who we could not recognize in public graduation ceremonies. Largely through the extraordinary efforts of faculty and staff, students were able to complete their courses and stay on track for graduation. Last summer gave us time to prepare for the 2020-21 academic year instruction under COVID-19 precautions. We were able to offer fully in-person or in-person/remote hybrid instruction for most of our Honors sections, including all the first-year recitation sections taught by our peer mentors.

 This fall, we welcome 467 new first-year students to the UHP. All Honors sections will be taught in person. Thirty-two Honors faculty are teaching twenty-eight HONR 192 sections, fifteen HONR 292 sections, nine HONR 392 sections, four HONR 399 sections, and eight HONR 492 sections. An exceptional and enthusiastic group of 56 peer mentors lead the twenty-eight HONR 192 recitation sections. About 198 students will be completing their Senior Honors Thesis in HONR 499 this fall.

 Our students have struggled at times, but they have been remarkably resilient in responding to the challenges they faced since March 2020. The Honors seminars emphasize effective written and oral communication, professional development, interdisciplinary learning, creativity and problem solving, and critical thinking. These skills have given our students the confidence to embrace change, knowing that our staff and faculty are here to support them when needed.

 We are all looking forward to having our students back!


Donald L. Mykles, Director
Professor of Biology