Honors College looks ahead to continued growth and success


UAH’s Honors College offers an elite, intimate college experience that blends a traditional emphasis on arts and sciences, critical thinking, and communication skills with a practical, career-oriented education.

Michael Mercier | UAH

Growth, consolidation, success. These are the words that Dr. William Wilkerson, Dean of the Honors College at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH), says he feels best describes the current state of the College as it closes in on its second year in existence.


This year we brought in the biggest and brightest class in the history of Honors at UAH, and we're on track to bring in even more bright students next year," he says. In fact, the 2016-2017 class is expected to top 300 students, ensuring that the community environment so essential to Honor students' success will continue going forward. "This year's freshmen are signing up in record numbers to mentor next year's class, because they all want to recreate that powerful sense of community they felt when they arrived here last fall."

Key to that sense of community are initiatives like the Honors Service Corps (HSC), the student-led community-service arm of the Honors College founded by Honors students Kaley Doster, Shaylee Green, Benjamin Shea, and Alex Christley. Last fall, the HSC hosted a coffee fundraiser that raised enough money to provide clothes, shoes, necessities, and Christmas gifts for three children in need. And this spring, Corps members not only helped paint 30 rooms for the Red Cross of Huntsville, but they also tutored AP students from local high schools.


This year we brought in the biggest and brightest class in the history of Honors at UAH, and we’re on track to bring in even more bright students next year.

Dr. William Wilkerson
Dean, Honors College

"We have reinforced our gains in the classroom, with this year's greatly expanded Honors curriculum is next year's baseline," says Dr. Wilkerson. "Honors calculus; Honors sections in history, political science, and biology; and our Honors courses in the engineering core are all standard fare now. And starting this fall, we will also be offering special one-credit interdisciplinary seminars, an alternative to the traditional three-hour elective that can often be a challenge for both students and professors to fit into their schedules."

The first offering? Robot Ethics, taught by Dr. Nicholaos Jones, associate professor of philosophy. "The class nearly filled within one hour of registration opening," says Dr. Wilkerson. "Equally exciting, it will be the first course held in the new Honors Seminar Room in Frank Franz Hall." The course will explore ethical norms for the behavior of social robots, including top-down, bottom-up, and middle-out approaches. It will also address what these norms might be, how they might be made amenable to computer coding, and how they might be able to resolve disagreements about their content.


"Over 35% of our incoming freshmen earned a 4.0 in their first semester at UAH," says Dr. Wilkerson. "This is an astonishing accomplishment, given that these students' schedules included calculus, chemistry, Honors composition, and other demanding courses." Overall GPA among Honors students has risen as well, with students taking the initiative to complement their classroom learning by attending prestigious research conferences and becoming leaders in student and Greek life on campus. "Everywhere," he says, "there is buzz about UAH Honors!"


Dr. William Wilkerson, Dean of the Honors College at UAH

Michael Mercier | UAH

Indeed it seems like the College is on the cusp of another banner year, though Dr. Wilkerson is quick to credit much of its success to the support and assistance he's received from the College's growing body of generous alumni. "Already, the donations we've received have allowed us to expand our amenities and provide more resources to our students," he says.

Among other things, he lists a DVD series on chaos theory that UAH's former dean of science used to lead a brownbag series, lockers for use by the College's off-campus students, lab supplies for the Honors section of Circuit Analysis, and a copy of the College's required text, Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, for all incoming Honors freshmen.

But as exciting as the growth of the College is, Dr. Wilkerson emphasizes that the growth of the students who have come to call it home is equally - if not more - important. "I had the privilege to teach a section of both the Honors First-Year Experience and the Honors English Seminar last fall, and as we wound down the term, I felt that deep connection to the freshmen cohort that can only come from working closely with them in the classroom," he says. "I watch now with pride as these fine young people grow into mature scholars."

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UAH Honors College


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