On February 22, Honors College Dean Toni Doolen shared a State of the College address with an audience of students, staff, parents and alumni.
Toni and Associate Dean Tara Williams described the work of the Honors College in several areas, emphasizing progress made in supporting first-year students during their transition into the college, enrollment increases from all majors and academic colleges, outreach efforts and making the complete honors experience accessible for all students.
“It’s important that we reach admitted students to help them imagine what life as a student would be like,” Tara said during the introductory portion of the presentation, which highlighted the college’s efforts to support students’ transition into honors. She explained the steps the Honors College takes to ensure incoming students are fully informed about the value of an honors education, including personal, one-on-one outreach from an honors ambassador to each admitted student within two weeks of their acceptance. The college has also expanded its Instagram presence in recent years as a way to connect with current and prospective students through a medium that they are familiar with and use regularly.
“It’s important that we reach admitted students to help them imagine what life as a student would be like,” Tara said.
Toni noted the difficulties the Honors College has had in attracting students from all parts of the university; however, she also described the efforts the college has made to overcome this hurdle. “We’ve actually been doing very specific work with our partners in the College of Business and the College of Public Health and Human Sciences to increase the number of students in those academic colleges who are also part of the Honors College,” she said. “It’s not that there aren’t Honors College-quality students in those colleges; it’s simply that they don’t apply because they don’t necessarily understand what the Honors College is or how the Honors College adds value.”
“Being a land grant school,” Toni said, “we are all about access to higher education for all.” The Honors College has taken recent steps to expand access to an honors education, largely through efforts to increase private philanthropy in support of scholarships. Throughout the address, Toni noted the cost of differential tuition as a leading cause of students dropping out of the Honors College. It was this barrier that drove a 56% increase in donations from private philanthropy, from $191,673 in the 2015-2016 academic year to $338,768 in 2017-2018. The number of activities reaching out to alumni and other external supporters of the college doubled in the past year, further increasing scholarship fund development.
“Being a land grant school,” Toni said, “we are all about access to higher education for all”.
Recently, Oregon State University leadership challenged the Honors College to grow their enrollment as a part of the university’s commitment to serving high-achieving students from throughout the state and region. “We are completing the first year of trajectory to grow from 1,200 students to 1,800 students,” Toni said. “Even with our growth trajectory, the quality of students has not changed.” The Honors College continues to receive more high-quality applications than there are spots available, even with the increasing size of the college – a welcome sign of interest from prospective students.
The address closed with a discussion of the honors portion of the first OSU Day of Giving, which will take place on April 30th, 2019. The Honors College has already raised $7,250 in challenge gifts in support of the honors experiential learning scholarships, the focus of Day of Giving fundraising for the college.
Toni’s address portrayed a college that is continuing to grow and thrive, providing a high-quality education to the university’s top students.
Click here for a full recording of the presentation, including live questions from the audience.
Highlights of the State of the College, by the numbers:
-64% of honors courses this year have an experiential learning component, up from 30% in 2016
-82% of first year honors students live in the on-campus Honors Living Learning Communities in West and Sackett Halls
-92% of students who enter the Honors College graduate with their degree within 6 years
-86% of honors students were enrolled in one or more honors courses in the past year
-87% of honors students agree that being in the Honors College is good for them
-88% of honors students agree that they are satisfied with the honors community
By Christopher McCracken: Student Media Writer, Honors College