As housing improves, a focus on Honors



By Amelia Orwick| @KyKernel

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When the doors of Central Hall open this fall, so will a door of opportunity for the UK Honors Program.

Between changes to application requirements and the opening of the Honors dorm on Haggin Field, there is much to look forward to within the program.

For the first time, students can now apply to the program as freshmen to become members as sophomores.

First-generation students, among others, are often so overwhelmed by coming to college that they overlook the opportunity, or do not understand all that it entails, said Honors Program recruiter Chelsea Brislin.

The change to accept sophomores has led to increased recruiting efforts on campus, said Brislin, who is working to spread word of the program through UK’s Greek community and the Center for Academic Resources and Enrichment Services.

In other efforts to improve recruiting, the Honors Program is pairing with GEAR UP, which stands for Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs.

GEAR UP is a grant program of the U.S. Department of Education designed to increase the number of low-income students who are prepared to enter and succeed in college, according to the program’s website.

“We have to look at it (the partnership with GEAR UP) as not only an investment in these children’s future, but an investment in our own program, because we want the best and the brightest,” Brislin said.

In recruiting potential Honors students, Central Hall is expected to give UK an advantage that has not been present in recent years.

The hall will provide 300-400 beds for Honors students, as well as the Honors Program offices, Honors lounge and three classrooms.

“Everything is going to be localized in that building, and I think that’s really going to help further the sense of community that you get,” said William Kelley, president of the Honors Program Student Council.

Aside from providing the obvious benefits of a nice, new facility, the dorm will help attract new students, Brislin said.

“It shows we’re really making an investment in these students,” she said. “It’s easier to tell students, ‘You will be special in this program,’ when you have something that’s so symbolic like that.”

As a result of the positive changes taking place within the program, UK officials expect the number of students joining the program to increase in coming years.

About 1,200 applications were submitted last year, Brislin said, and although submission numbers for this year have not been finalized, they far surpass those from last year.

There are just fewer than 1,000 students total in the program, and up to 400 could be added next year, Brislin said.

“We are trying to expand the program as quickly as we can,” Brislin said. “However, we will expand as slowly or as quickly as we need to to make sure that we maintain our standards.”

Although officials typically look for Honors applicants to have at least a 28 ACT score and 3.5 GPA, they try to take a holistic approach in their considerations, Brislin said.

The concept of flexibility is common in the Honors Program office, as it also applies to the program’s new curriculum.

“What the president has done, specifically, to enrich the program is to support a new curriculum that gives greater flexibility to students to take a diverse array of Honors courses in UK Core, in the major or minor,” UK spokesman Jay Blanton said.

As part of the change, courses that Honors students commonly enroll in, such as calculus, are now incorporating Honors sections.

“We really like to allow students to pursue their own interests and let Honors be a way to supplement and enrich what they’re already doing,” Brislin said.

The Honors Program also will be looking to improve connections with each of the individual colleges in the near future, Brislin said.

In the next couple of weeks, Honors students can look forward to the Kentucky Honors Roundtable, which brings Honors students from across the state together to share their creative work, as well as high participation on the Honors Program DanceBlue team.

“We recruit and bring to campus some of the best students in the country,” UK President Eli Capilouto said. “We want to provide more of those students the opportunity to pursue an Honors curriculum and living/learning experience.”