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2013 December 14

Undergraduate Honors Programs

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 18:31
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My campus has recently announced an administrative opening for a Faculty Director of Undergraduate Honors Programs, and I’m considering applying for it. I normally try to avoid administrative positions, since they usually call for being nice to lots of idiots, which is not something I’m good at.

But I’ve been a (not very vocal) advocate of honors programs for years, and my campus has only just started dipping its toe into the water in recent years, so maybe this goal would be worth overcoming my distaste for administrative positions to try to achieve something.  And the position reports to the “Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education”, who is a very reasonable and sensible person that I’ve worked well with in the past, so I wouldn’t have to be fighting a higher administrator all the time.

Here’s the problem, though: there are no resources associated with the position,  just “compensation: $12,500 annually in an allowable combination of stipend and course relief, subject to negotiation” and “Assisted by the Honors Coordinator and other divisional staff as needed and available.”

The compensation is not very important: $12,500 would be a nice replacement for summer salary, but I don’t really need the money, and it isn’t enough to do much with if spent on an honors program.  I don’t particularly want course relief—I’m teaching entirely courses that I’ve designed, and there is only one other person I trust to do a good job with one of them (he covered the course when I took my sabbatical).  I’ll need to train people to take over some of my courses so that I can take sabbatical (and eventually retire), but for next year that seems unlikely. It bothers me when some of our best teachers get sucked into administrative positions—no matter how good they are as administrators, I can’t see the administrative work as being as important as good teaching.  Unfortunately, some of the poorer teachers, who would be good to replace through course relief funds, would also make lousy administrators, so the incentives don’t line up well for getting the best people for each job.

Currently, we only have a first-year honors program, and that a tiny one that is only for first-year students.  The scope of the position seems to be only doing small tweaks to the existing program that don’t cost anything, not a major expansion of the program to be a 4-year program, which is what I’d like to see.

Before I decide whether to apply for this position, I need to figure out what I could achieve by taking it, and whether that is worth the effort it would take. Is there some other candidate for the position who would do a better job (or even nearly as good a job, so I that I don’t have to do it)?

More fundamentally, I need to have solid answers for questions like these: Why should we have an honors program?  What is the point of honors programs in general, and this one in particular?  What resources does an honors program need? How can the program be made a permanent institution, and not just a quick burn through startup money (which seems to have been the fate of all previous attempts to create honors programs here)?

I’ll try to address those questions in posts over the next couple of weeks—after I’ve got my grading done and the draft curricula put together for all the tracks of the bioengineering major.

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2 Comments »

  1. […] Undergraduate Honor Programs I […]

    Pingback by What is the point of honors programs? | Gas station without pumps — 2013 December 15 @ 16:35 | Reply

  2. […] Undergraduate Honor Programs and What is the point of honors programs? I talked about the part-time faculty administrative […]

    Pingback by Not applying for administrative role in honors program | Gas station without pumps — 2014 January 3 @ 17:06 | Reply


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