Over the past few months, so much about the world has changed; how we live, how we work, how we interact, our daily routines. What’s also changing is the need to provide our student communities with safe access to quality education both on and off-campus during times of crisis and beyond. Online learning has become less of an alternative and more of a necessity. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the need for institutions to create robust online models of learning that will serve in conjunction with the in-person campus experience. Faculty and instructors across the nation (and globe) are working hard to adjust to this new normal so that students can remain challenged, engaged, and excited for what their educational futures hold.
I am immensely proud of the dedicated and hard-working faculty and staff at the Honors College. Our team is looking closely at what the long-term impacts this global health crisis will have on education, and how our Honors students will learn moving forward. Honors College Associate Dean, Dr. John Pollard, along with our instructional team have been busy teaching classes online to finish out this semester. Dr. Pollard is also leading the effort to assess the Honors four-year experience, working closely with our Curricular Committee to prepare for the upcoming summer and fall semesters. Our advising team continues to work with our students remotely to help guide them through this challenging time. You can learn more about how the Honors College is continuing to serve our student community in the April edition of Pollard’s Post.
Additionally, we are looking at our student engagement opportunities. Assistant Dean, Dr. Karna Walter, is leading the effort with her Co-curricular Committee to inventory student programs both internally and externally to create a benchmark of what has worked well in the past, and what changes we may want to consider as we look to the future. We are eager to provide meaningful experiences for students beyond the classroom that help them develop holistically as people who wish to strengthen skills that will benefit both individual students and the communities they inhabit. Dr. Walter recently took on new responsibilities now reflected in her title as both Assistant Dean and Senior Director for External Partnerships. One piece of that new role is her current work, with a seven-member planning committee, to develop the Honors College Lecture and Debate Series that will launch in Fall 2020 with the goal of strengthening civil discourse around challenging questions we face today.
I would also like to take this opportunity to announce other exciting staffing updates that have taken place in the Honors College:
Dr. Cheree Meeks. Dr. Meeks has recently been appointed as our new Assistant Dean for Programs, Diversity, and Inclusion. She leads the Honors College efforts and initiatives to create and foster a safe, welcoming, and inclusive environment in the college. This includes incorporating equity and inclusion-based student affairs practice to review policies, procedures, and practices that contribute to a culture of inclusion. Dr. Meeks continues to provide leadership over the First Year Experience and has been responsible for creating and developing programs and activities to assist students with the transition to college for over eight years in the Honors College. She leads the selection of the common reading book each year and designs complementary programming, contributes to planning for Honors Orientation, coordinates the First Year Project research opportunity, teaches the Catalyst course as well as a unique first-year seminar that explores the ways in which policing and incarceration impact communities of color.
Susan Kaleita. Susan is our new Associate Director of Development, Merit & Honors Scholarships. She joins a new team in the University Development Program created to meet students' financial, wellness and academic needs, personally focused on finding support for students enrolled in the Honors College and those who demonstrate outstanding academic achievement. Susan has worked on campus for over a decade, most recently as Senior Director, Employer & Alumni Engagement and Interim Senior Director, Career Development at the central career center on campus. A product of an honors education at Penn State’s Schreyer Honors College and a former University of Arizona Honors College staff member, Susan is eager to work with our community of supporters who are excited about fueling student success.
Finally, I want to close this letter by saying how much our alumni and friends mean to us. All that we do would not be possible without your support. As we navigate through this new world, we are reminded of how interconnected we are, and I’m so grateful for the special community of individuals that make up our Honors family. On behalf of our faculty, staff and students, we thank you for your caring and commitment to the Honors College.