Wingate’s already strong Honors Program is transitioning to an Honors College, welcoming a select cohort of first-year students and offering expanded opportunities for research, experiential learning and leadership development.
“We have created a pilot cohort for the first-year experience, but we’ll also continue to accept sophomores and transfers into the College,” explains Dr. Allison Kellar, dean of the college, who recently named Dr. Geniece Crawford Mondé assistant dean.
The transition to an Honors College is being funded in part via a donation from the estate of Evelyn V. Taylor, who served on the University’s Board of Trustees. The Evelyn V. Taylor Honors Student Experience gift provides startup money and funding for travel for research conferences, cultural events, community and civic engagement, leadership training and other experiential learning and high-impact practices.
“It will help us build in more opportunities for students to grow both professionally and personally as they connect with each other and with professors and also network and open doors beyond Wingate,” Kellar says.
Just a few weeks into her classes, Brooklyn Vereen says she’s already made “incredible connections with Honors upperclassmen.” A political science major from Florence, South Carolina, Vereen viewed the invitation to apply to the Honors College as a reward for the hard work she had put into her high school career and saw that she had “nothing at all to lose and all to gain” by applying.
“Being surrounded by like-minded individuals with similar pursuits has equipped me already in multiple ways,” says Vereen, who has her sights set on law school.
In the past, students were not eligible for nomination for the Honors Program until they had been at Wingate for a semester. Faculty members, work-study supervisors and advisors were asked to nominate students, and students could also self-nominate. Selected applicants, inducted during a spring banquet, didn’t begin taking honors classes until the fall of their sophomore year. This year’s pilot program has brought 13 first-year students into Honors. Honors College applications will be open to all incoming students starting in fall 2023.
Selected students should expect to be challenged in the honors sections of core-curriculum courses but shouldn’t anticipate a double load of assignments, Kellar says.
“Sometimes students hear ‘Honors’ and think they’ll have twice as much reading or writing, but it’s not about quantity, it’s about quality,” she says. “In fact, in some cases it may be reading less but reading more in depth or focusing on a more narrow topic. Honors students are assessed more by how thoughtfully they approach a project or paper or how innovative their analysis is, not by how much work they produce.”
As students move into their majors, the Honors College will open doors for one-on-one research with faculty members as well as opportunities to share their research at Wingate’s Wellspring Symposium and regional or even national conferences. Other perks include smaller classes, experiential-learning trips, events with guest speakers, special-topics courses and social gatherings with a diverse group of high-potential peers. First-year honors students also qualify to live together in the University’s newest residence hall.
Mondé is especially excited about this new opportunity for first-year students.
“The opportunity to help recruit students to the Honors College and support their academic journey is one that I truly relish. My own undergraduate experience in honors opened my eyes to opportunities I never would have considered otherwise,” Mondé says. “To now be in a position to help students, from all backgrounds, realize their academic and leadership potential feels particularly humbling.”
Designed to give students a number of ways to enhance their educational experience, Honors at Wingate has long been research-focused and is committed to diversity, equity and inclusion. “We are very proud of how diverse and inclusive our program is, and we want that to continue to be a guiding principle,” Kellar says.