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RU Honors Academy prepares for a bright future

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Dr. Niels Christensen, professor of psychology and associate director of the Honors Academy.

The Honors Academy is home to some of the best and brightest students at Radford University and thanks to a bold vision for the future, the program will only get better.

The Honors Academy is an academic community that assists highly motivated and intellectually mature students in making the most of their education. Currently, the academy is in the initial stages of rolling out a new implementation plan that will improve the experience of its students.

"We all want our students to make the most of their educational experiences available on campus and Honors goes a long way to make this happen," said Dr. Joe King, director of the academy and professor of psychology.

In order to achieve that goal, the new implementation plan makes changes to expectations of Honors students, also called Highlander Scholars. In addition to the required 15 credit hours of Honors-designated courses, students will work with their professors to transform nine credit hours of courses, study abroad opportunities, independent studies and seminars into Honors-level learning. A senior capstone project is completed to round out the Honors Academy course of study.

"We've tried to make the academic component a more flexible program that students can complete in a way that's more consistent with their personal interests and some things are going to be done to enhance the sense of community among Honors students," King said.

Among those community building initiatives are the addition of Honors Fellows and the Honors Academy Student Council.

Honors Fellows will be faculty members, appointed for three-year terms, who will teach two Honors classes per academic year, advise Honors students on academic and professional issues and participate in co-curricular activities with Honors students. They will act as mentors to the Highlander Scholars in their respective college.

The Honors Academy Student Council was established to recommend policies and regulations regarding the requirements and expectations of Honors students. The council, which has already held meetings, is composed of Honors students and gives them a voice in guiding the program.

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Building relationships between motivated students and faculty is a key goal of the Honors Academy. Christensen is just one of the Honors faculty members who encourages students to engage with their education.

The implementation plan has been approved by the University and the Faculty Senate, but the Academy will proceed with rolling out changes at a measured, open-ended pace to ensure everything is in working order and that students will have the best possible experience in the interim.

"Honors students are among the most intriguing, fascinating and interesting students on campus," King said. "These people make RU a better place to obtain an education."

Honors students have small intimate classes that are capped off at 20 students. They also have eligibility for special Honors housing in Floyd and Peery Halls. These halls have classrooms where many of the Honors courses are held, further creating a sense of community on campus.

"Honors students are not withdrawn from the rest of campus life; our community extends out to other student services and activities such as student government, residential life, athletics, tutoring and more," King said.

Honors student Lindsey Birch of Portsmouth chose to become a Highlander Scholar to work with other students interested in the rigorous academic opportunities presented.

 "The Honors Academy is a tight-knit group working together to excel and have fun in the classes while getting there," said Birch. "The academy allows me to be able to fit in and work closely with students that have the same priorities and interests as me."

Honors Academy freshman Zach King of Harrisonburg believes that the academy provides its students with more specialized opportunities, letting them pursue the subjects that they really feel passionate about.

"The Honors Academy is one of the main reasons I chose Radford University," Zach King said. "It has provided, and continues to provide, a way to differentiate my higher education experience from that of others by making it unique and highly personalized."

Eligible students can apply if they meet two of the three following criteria: a SAT score of 1100 or ACT score of 24; a 3.5 high school GPA; or a place in the top 20 percent of a graduating class. Students can also be invited after their first semester at Radford provided that they achieve a 3.5 GPA or higher.

Visit the RU Honors Academy website for more information.

Dec 3, 2013