By Tina Snieder
During the spring semester of 2016 several students received an invitation from Dr. Russ Reeves to apply for an honors program to be started in the fall. Due to the restructuring of faculty this invitation did not yield any fruit. However, Providence’s recently hired Vice Principal of Academic Affairs (VPAA), Dr. Ann Hamilton, is working to take up the honors program for the spring semester of 2017. Dr. Ann Hamilton previously had the opportunity of witnessing the growth of the honors programs at Biola and Azusa Pacific University. In the short time Dr. Hamilton has been here she has met with faculty, administration, and students to discuss what kind of an honors program would best fit Providence.
As Dr. Hamilton met with students who showed interest in the program, each student brought up the common theme of what she termed “reciprocal learning.”
“In other colleges honors programs can be very competitive and focused on individual success,” said Dr. Hamilton.
Unique to Providence is the student body’s focus on supporting other students academically. The requirements for students who wish to enter the program would be based not only on GPA but also on character. While specific components of the honors program are still in the works it is certain that an honors program at Providence will engage the head, the heart, and the hands. Academic learning should motivate students in their love and service for others. When speaking of the exponential effect that this kind of an honors program would have on the student body (and the wider community), she asked,
“Imagine what kind of change we could bring about if the honors program was a group that was inclusive, encouraging, supportive, and stimulating.”
While it is clear that Providence would benefit from an honors program, there are challenges to face before it can be started. Dr. Hamilton commented on how it is difficult to create an interdisciplinary honors program when there are limited faculty members with limited time. Also, in a time where finances are sparse, the budget for the program is less than desired. Even just one or two extra classes each semester is difficult to afford. Dr. Hamilton is looking into possible grants for honors programs, as well as creative ways to fundraise.
“I have discovered,” she said, “that when you do what the Lord wants you to do at the right time with the right motives with the right heart for the right reasons, you have the right resources.”
More importantly, what is needed for the success of the honors program is student leadership and involvement. In the upcoming month Dr. Hamilton is planning on meeting with more students to find who the leaders and the followers for the honors program will be. Time is needed in order to create a sustainable honors program, and it is especially important to Dr. Hamilton that she does not rush the program because
“the trajectory we choose will affect the school for decades to come.” She adds, “It is especially important that we honor both how it was started and Dr. Reeves, who started it.” Our society is often greatly affected by groups, and Providence has the opportunity to create an honors program that could transform the student body into an academic community that helps one another reach their highest potential. “If you want to bring your stein to the table,” added Dr. Hamilton in reference to the famous Inklings, “we would love to have you at the table.”