Excited by the prospect of creating something vibrant for the Wittenberg University community that could further enhance the intellectual environment on campus, Amy Livingstone was thrilled to learn that she was appointed to lead the university’s Honors Program.
Livingstone, H. Orth Hirt Professor of History and now the Robert Sammis Sr. Director of the University Honors Program, was appointed by Mary Jo Zembar, interim provost and professor of psychology.
“I was very excited by the opportunity because I thought it was something I could do well and that I might help the university in attracting and retaining the best students possible,” Livingstone said. “I enjoy creating new academic and co-curricular experiences for students.
“There is a lot of unrealized potential for the Honors Program on campus,” she added. “I hope to develop new initiatives to give it a more dynamic presence on campus, but also to extend it from the classroom to extracurricular and service activities on campus.”
Livingstone explained that this new initiative is already in progress and that an honors section is now included in First Year Seminars (FYS) with an orientation meeting for first-year students in the Honors Program. Also part of the initiative was the creation of the Matthies Advisory Board, a committee of honors students who will advise the director on what programs and activities should be developed or initiated for its student members.
Honors students must maintain a 3.5 cumulative GPA throughout their Wittenberg career. As of this year, if they do not maintain this, they have one semester to bring up their GPA. If they do not, they will no longer be part of the Honors Program. The program culminates in independent scholarly research resulting in a senior thesis project in the student’s major area of study.
“I believe that Wittenberg's Honors Program is a vital resource with undiscovered potential for the purpose of encouraging academic excellence,” said Clayton Marsh, class of 2019, who is from Piqua, Ohio, and majoring in German with a minor in Russian studies. He serves on the Matthies Advisory Board.
“I think that great things are coming from the Honors Program,” he added. “Just this year, the requirements have been amended to hold students accountable within the program regarding academic performance. This will serve to solidify the academic standards of the organization. Further, with the creation of the advisory board, both students and faculty will be able to better communicate to make events and other forms of programming possible.”
With enrollment limited to 15 students, these honors seminars guarantee close faculty-student interaction and offer a comfortable setting for in-depth class discussion. Spanning a broad range of disciplines, seminars are often focused on a specific topic within an academic area.
“The Wittenberg Honors Program has opened a lot of doors for me personally,” said Jennifer Ryan, class of 2019, who is from Upper Burrell, Pa., and is majoring in English with minors in creative writing and journalism. She is a member of the Matthies Advisory Board and the managing editor of The Torch.
“When I came to Wittenberg, I wasn't immediately accepted into the Honors Program. I had to apply in the spring of my freshman year,” she continued. “The Honors Program has provided me with opportunity after opportunity to learn about my fellow students and faculty. The changes to the program are something that I hope will make the Honors Program a truly unique program.”
Up until the current semester, being an honors student was determined by academics alone – for example, taking seminars and completing an honors thesis. Livingstone, however, wants to build on activities and requirements that complement what happens in the classroom. She is asking students to take on a more active role and present their research more often at such events as the Celebration of Learning, which takes place each spring. This year's event is slated for April 6, 2018.
“I hope to build in more extracurricular activities for honors students so that a sense of cohort/identity emerges among them,” she said. “I also hope to create fun co-curricular experiences, such as films, lectures, excursions and service opportunities that could be a part of what it means to be an honors student at Wittenberg. These types of activities will allow the Honors Program to develop a more vibrant and obvious presence on campus. I also hope to investigate new and innovative curricular initiatives to offer honors students more options for their academic work.”
Livingstone would also like to work to make the Matthies House, which she hopes to have updated, the center of the Honors Program and is holding regular office hours at the house. The facility provides a “home away from home” for members with 24/7 access, comfortable study lounges, meeting rooms and a computer lab.
“By creating the Matthies Advisory Board, we are hoping to find a way to bring together all the students that are a part of the Honors Program,” Ryan said. “I am super excited to be a part of this process, and to see the Matthies Advisory Board come to life.”
The Honors Program plans to sponsor social activities for members, such as a digital scavenger hunt, pumpkin painting, an ice cream social and the Honors Graduate Recognition Reception. Students may also select unique living situations, such as an honors floor in one of Wittenberg’s residences.
For more information about the Honors Program, visit www.wittenberg.edu/honors