||Schofield Hall 218|
||Eau Claire, WI 54702-4004|
UW-Eau Claire Honors
Program at Record High
MAILED: Sept. 1, 1999|
The number of new students qualifying for the University Honors Program at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire is at an all-time high, as is the number of students opting to participate in the program throughout their college careers.
"UW-Eau Claire is doing an exceptional job of convincing highly qualified students to attend UW-Eau Claire," said Dr. Ronald Mickel, director of the Honors Program. "They're coming here in record numbers, and more are continuing in the program until they graduate."
For the 1999-2000 academic year, 109 incoming freshmen qualified for the program and 104 have already committed to participating in the program, Mickel said. This compares to the 98 freshmen that qualified for the program a year ago, 89 of whom enrolled in the Honors Program for the 1998-99 academic year.
In the fall of 1998, a total of 354 students were enrolled in the Honors Program, and 333 students were enrolled in the spring. While the total number of students enrolled in the program for the 1999 fall semester won't be known until early September, all indications are that the number will be well above last year's, Mickel said, noting that most Honors courses are full and have waiting lists.
To qualify for UW-Eau Claire's Honors Program, a student must have graduated in the top 5 percent of their high school graduating class and scored in the upper 5 percent nationally on ACT or SAT scores. Students then must complete a minimum of 24 credits in designated Honors courses, including a one-credit first-year seminar and a one-credit senior honors seminar, and earn at least a 3.5 grade point average. The Honors courses are typically small classes that provide opportunities for close interaction with faculty and with other honors students. The content of these courses is designed to stimulate and challenge students of superior ability.
"UW-Eau Claire's Honors Program uses the most rigorous criteria of the UW System institutions, with the exception of UW-Madison, for inviting students to participate in the program," Chancellor Donald Mash said. "Yet UW-Eau Claire's program is the strongest in the UW System. This is a good indication that UW-Eau Claire is attracting outstanding students who are interested in being challenged at the highest level throughout their college career."
During the 1998-99 academic year, 39 UW-Eau Claire students graduated with University Honors, up from 30 students the previous year. Since the Honors Program began in 1983, 291 students have completed the requirements of the program an impressive number when compared with other institutions of UW-Eau Claire's size, Mickel said.
When UW-Eau Claire started its Honors Program, national experts told Mickel to be satisfied if 20-25 percent of the students completed the program. After 16 years, close to 50 percent of the students in UW-Eau Claire's program complete it, Mickel said, adding that he expects that number to go up.
"It's really amazing when you think about the difficulty involved," Mickel said, referring to the challenge of fitting the necessary classes into a schedule as well as the difficulty of the classes themselves.
The increased retention rates are likely the result of the program's first-year honors seminars, courses that are so unusual that they are attracting national attention, Mickel said. In the first-year seminars, two senior honors students act as mentors to first-year students. Under Mickel's guidance, the seniors run the class and lead discussions.
"We've really created a buddy program for new students," Mickel said. "I'm not sure how else I'd explain the retention numbers in the Honors Program. Students are lining up to enroll in Honors classes. They are carefully planning their schedules so they can complete the program. The numbers just keep going up."
Several years ago, Mickel created a one-credit senior Honors course that served as an exit interview as students prepared to leave the university. It gave seniors an opportunity to talk about things such as what a liberal arts education means to them, Mickel said. Seniors in those seminars said that such discussions would have been useful to them as freshmen, helping them understand the reasons for things such as the university's requirements for academic programs, diversity and service-learning, he said. The results of those suggestions were the freshmen seminars.
"The first-year seminars have been extremely successful," Mickel said. "It provides the seniors with valuable experience, and the freshmen are often more comfortable asking the seniors certain questions than me. As a result, the discussions are that much better."
Janice B. Wisner
UW-Eau Claire News Bureau
Updated: Sept. 1, 1999