LU’s new Honors College to build on 50 years tradition

Dean Kevin Dodson talks to students during a mixer welcoming freshman honors students in Gray Library Aug. 28. UP Lauren Van Gerven

Dean Kevin Dodson talks to students during a mixer welcoming freshman honors students in Gray Library Aug. 28.
UP Lauren Van Gerven

Lamar University has a new college. After 50 years on campus, the Honors Program is now a full college.

“It’s been a slow, gradual evolution and development in growth, and really, for the last few years, we’ve been basically functioning like a college,” Kevin Dodson, founding Dean of the Honors College, said. “There are requirements and standards for the functioning of an Honors College. There’s a general organization, the National Collegiate Honors Council, which set up the standards. We’ve been more or less functioning like that for several years now. It was just the next logical step and the resources finally became available.”

The mission of the college is to combine academic excellence and community engagement, Dodson said.

“Our college is specific to Lamar,” he said. “It is tailored to the Lamar culture, to Southeast Texas. Obviously, we have requirements regarding GPA and number of credit hours in honors, but we also strongly stress students getting involved in the community.”

Dodson said the Honors College is the vehicle by which students are able to get involved in the community of honors students, the campus community, and even the broader community of Southeast Texas, through a variety of service projects on and off campus and academic initiatives on and off campus.

“Students in the Honors College will engage in what is known as high-impact educational practices,” he said. “The honors classes should be in greater depth and breadth. They should be more demanding and they are composed of exclusively honors students. I think there is a synergy, a sort of critical mass in there that is really helpful to the class.”

Dodson points out that the Honors College is different from the other colleges.

“The traditional five colleges have their own majors, they have their own professors and they have their students,” he said. “We are built on what they do. We’re adding value to what they do. The value added is in the form of the student’s experience at Lamar, the ways that enriches a student’s experiences, and the way those students enrich the university.”

Dodson who joined Lamar in 1991, and started teaching honors classes early on, became the interim dean on Nov. 1.

“I taught for many years — I became a member of the Honors Council, I became the assistant director, I became the director, and now I am the founding dean,” he said. “For me, this is just the ultimate capstone of a long and fulfilling career at Lamar University.”

As founding dean, Dodson has the opportunity to mold the future of the Honors College, and to invent and construct what it will be.

“I am incredibly excited to make this contribution to the university,” he said. “I have been involved for so long and I’ve watched it grow. Almost my entire career has been here at Lamar, and it’s been a really fulfilling and enriching career. I think that I’ve helped to enrich the university, and now this puts me in a situation where I can enrich it further. It’s an amazing opportunity.”

Dodson said that he is exploring the possibility of an Honors College lecture series.

“These are in prospect, but we’re looking at bringing distinguished academics to bear their expertise on issues of public interests and concerns,” he said. “We’re talking about very serious public intellectuals. We’re looking for speakers that will appeal and represent all of the different colleges, and appeal to the broad cross-section of students at the university. We want everyone to come. We want to appeal to the broader community.”

The Honors College has requirements regarding the GPA and the number of credit hours in honors. An incoming freshman has to have either an SAT score of 1200 in critical reading and math, or they need to be in the top 10 percent of their high school graduating class. A continuing student must have a GPA of at least 3.5, but there is a credit hour maximum to be able to join.

“We have some specific honors courses,” Dodson said. “We have seminars and topics. These are strictly and exclusively for honors students. They are intended to be outside the box, they are intended to be experimental, and they are intended to be fun. They are not the kind of course you would normally find in your department and in your degree plan.”

The Honors College will share their new building with the school’s administration and will be built where the Brooks-Shivers dorm was leveled. The building will be tied into a building across the street and will be the entry point to Lamar.

Dodson believes the prestige of the elevated profile of Lamar in the state will benefit everyone.

“It’s a really exciting time not only for honors, but also for Lamar,” he said. “I think honors contributes a lot to Lamar, so it’s really exciting for us and what we are going to contribute to the broader community. I think the university in general is really thriving.

“There’s a lot of really good stuff happening at Lamar. Any student coming in should be really excited and students who have been here should be excited of what they have seen, and excited about the future of their alma mater.”

For more information, call 880-2296, or visit www.lamar. edu/honors-college.

 

Kristen Stuck

UP Managing Editor

@KristenStuck

 

Learn more about Lamar University at lamar.edu

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