Plymouth State University (PSU) recently unveiled a new project-focused honors program designed to enhance the academic experience of high-achieving students within the framework of its integrated clusters education model.
In 2015, PSU began its transformation to an integrated clusters model, in which academic programs are organized into seven clusters. In this model, students work with peers, faculty members, and community partners on interdisciplinary projects tackling real-world problems to develop critical thinking skills and experience working with dynamic teams.
Through the new project-focused honors program, PSU students will participate in a ‘passion project’ in which they will explore a topic of interest and develop a project, such as a scholarly paper, film, artwork, or website, through independent study under the supervision of a PSU faculty member. Students in the honors program may also choose to take a leadership role on a cluster project or open lab. In either case, students will be encouraged to collaborate across disciplines on shared topics, but the final projects will be their own and will be evaluated by their faculty supervisors.
“We [PSU] have implemented a new way of educating students to help them become critical thinkers and collaborators – vital skills for career success in the 21st century – and our revitalized honors program will complement this approach,” said Robin Dorff, provost, Plymouth State University. “Rather than the traditional ‘honors class’ model, our honors program is student-driven, promotes collaboration across programs, and truly enriches and expands upon the academic experience for high-achieving students.”
The top eight-percent (by grade point average (GPA)) of incoming first-year students in the Class of 2023 will be invited to participate in the honors program, which will also be open to current students who meet the program’s academic criteria. Students who are accepted into the program will be required to maintain a GPA of 3.0 to remain eligible.
Based on input from current students, PSU formed a committee that conducted focus groups with high-performing students. These students, as well as many prospective students, expressed interest in an honors program to provide them with opportunities for additional academic enrichment, as well as special recognition for their efforts. This critical undertaking resulted in the creation of what one PSU committee member deems a ‘21st century, beyond-the-classroom’ honors program.
One student who participated in PSU’s exploratory focus groups said, “PSU should definitely start an honors program for its more motivated students who are looking for extra opportunities and extra activities to prepare us for the world, and for careers.”
“Student input was integral to the re-creation of our honors program, and we are thrilled to move forward with it this fall,” Dorff said.
Students who participate in the PSU honors program will have honors-specific housing options and dedicated study and collaboration space on campus, as well as opportunities for extra-curricular experiences. Students who successfully complete the program will be recognized at commencement.