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An Honorable Growth Honors College freshman enrollment has nearly doubled


I


mpressive as the numbers are—fresh- man enrollment in Eastern’s Honors College program, which accepts enter-


ing students with at least a 25 ACT score and 3.5 high school GPA, has nearly dou- bled since 2011—it’s what they represent that excites Rebecca Sipe, the HC’s director. For example, just as the cliché tells us


it takes a village to raise a child, Sipe has seen that it takes a university to grow an honors college, and she’s quick to credit collaborations across campus for the growth. “Over the last


three years, I’d have to say recruitment for the Honors Col- lege has become a campus-wide activity,” says Sipe. “Enroll- ment management, admissions and finan- cial aid have helped us become involved in the Presidential Scholarship competi- tion and, starting last September, we’ve sponsored Honors’ tours for high school seniors every Friday. Te admissions folks are taking information about the Honors College out to schools, the colleges and individual professors are doing a wonderful job of recommending students, and we’re picking up more transfer students through strengthened efforts with the community colleges.” Last December’s Presidential Scholar-


ship competition atracted more than 430 students, and Sipe says 52% of them even- tually enrolled at Eastern. “Tat’s a gigantic piece of our growth right there,” she says. Moreover, “Every student who partici-


10 Eastern | FALL 2013


“Recruitment for the Honors College has become a campus- wide activity.” —Rebecca Sipe


pates in the competition is guaranteed at least a $4,500 scholarship, about half of tuition,” Sipe says. “Tat came in with (As- sociate Vice President for Student Affairs and Enrollment Services) Kevin Kucera, who changed some financial aid formulas to provide more support for students who had a 3.5 and above.” Support, financial and otherwise, is the key to keeping these top students at Eastern once they’ve arrived. Te enrollment growth is gratifying, says Sipe, “but I think it’s the retention in the Honors College that’s been the coolest story.” Beyond the com-


mon denominator of academic excellence, HC


students are as varied as their classmates. “We have students from every single disci- pline, from business to nursing to music to art,” Sipe says. “We cross all five colleges.” And, also like their peers, navigating a


big institution like Eastern can sometimes be a struggle. “Tere are people who think an hon-


ors college is elitist, a silver spoon kind of thing, and that is the myth I think we have done a good job of dispelling,” says Sipe. “We have many, many students in the Hon- ors College who are first-generation col- lege students, who are puting themselves through school, who are at least partially dependent on financial aid. “One of the messages that’s transmit-


ted to the students early and reinforced throughout the program is you can think of the Honors College as a family, a small


group inside of a large comprehensive uni- versity,” she adds. “If they have a problem, we encourage them to come to us. We abso- lutely will not solve it for them, but we help them think about ways to approach the situation, and if it makes a difference, we’ll pick up the phone and help them make a connection. We try to find resources to help them do the things they can’t do on their own, like study abroad, which most of our students can’t afford.” Te University has also made fellowship


money available to help fund undergradu- ate research and other kinds of projects that enrich students’ credentials when they apply to graduate school or for their first job. Te fruits of all these efforts are already ripening. Sipe cites a few off the top of her head:


“We have a student seeking his Ph.D. in political science at the University of North Carolina with a full ride, another pursu- ing a law degree at George Mason, one in biochemistry at Miami of Ohio, two at the University of Michigan in chemistry, and one who was just accepted to the University of Alaska-Fairbanks in geology/archeology. Students are going everywhere out of here.” And the ones who are still here are reap-


ing benefits, too. “A really interesting and wonderful thing is happening,” she says. “More and more professors are coming to us and saying I have this really cool proj- ect but I don’t personally have a student in mind who might be a good fit for this; could you help me find one?” When Sipe interviewed for this job in


2010, she was chair of the Department of English Language and Literature and ad- mits she was “really reluctant to leave, but I couldn’t stop thinking about what could be done if I had the opportunity to work with Honors College students and make Honors College available to more students, and it’s just been an amazing experience. I feel like I’m the most fortunate person on campus.” 3


—Jeff Mortimer Photograph by Michael Andaloro


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