The University Honors Program, which just celebrated its 30th anniversary, is experiencing a period of unprecedented growth and success. Over the past five years, Honors has developed into one of the university's signature programs. In fall 2009 there were approximately 370 Honors students on record, and they could choose from 10 Honors colloquia and electives. In fall 2014 the program had 602 students on the books, and their options included 30 Honors courses.
This remarkable growth has put increased stress on the Honors Program facilities in Schneider Hall. While students enjoy the cozy environment, it had become increasingly common to see students unable to find an open computer or even a space to sit and work. It was time to graduate to a larger, more functional space in McIntyre Library.
Honors Director Jeff Vahlbusch credits Director of Libraries John Pollitz with the "visionary suggestion" to bring Honors to the McIntyre Library. Creating a new Honors space in the library made perfect sense, says Vahlbusch, because "the library is at the center of campus geography and at the center of campus intellectual life." The Honors students agree, citing the many hours they already spend living in the library. The move gives them access to all of their essential resources in one place.
The Honors Commons, located on the second floor of the library, has a design that fits seamlessly with its neighbor, the Center for Writing Excellence. It provides a new center and focal point for activities in the Honors Program, and its open and inviting design encourages students to use both the Honors and the library space. The student Commons space is more than double the size of the previous Honors lounge and includes moveable furniture designed to promote conversation and teamwork.
Vahlbusch explains, "The Honors Commons gives us a place for students to get to know each other, to build community, and to engage in collaborative intellectual and transformative social work." The new space also includes Honors administrative and program offices and a workspace for Honors faculty to hold office hours and meet with their students. The new space enables planned and chance meetings between students and faculty with unexpected and exciting outcomes.
The new Honors Commons contributes to the energy and vitality of McIntyre Library's already wonderful space, while also enabling prospective students to tour the new facilities when they visit.