Date of this Version
For years, honors programs and colleges have experienced well-documented difficulties in justifying and defending their budgets (and in some cases their existence). These challenges—some of which are discussed in the 2006 JNCHC “Forum on Honors Administration” and the 2009 JNCHC “Forum on Social Class and Honors”—have ranged from the philosophical (“honors programs are elitist”) to the pragmatic (“we have to take care of our own students first, so we can’t spare any faculty for an honors class”). Honors administrators have therefore developed an extensive and effective litany of benefits that emphasize how honors programs enhance the student experience, the health of the university, and the good of the community. Honors administrators highlight the role of honors education in student development and curricular innovation; we trot out statistics regarding the positive impact of honors on recruitment and retention; and we show what good citizens our students are, how they engage and serve the larger community.
Some remain unconvinced, however. In good years these doubts can handicap honors programs in their struggle with other units for adequate funding, and in lean times, as universities seek to protect their “academic core” with fewer resources and staff, these familiar criticisms can be crippling. To better insulate themselves as well as to better fulfill familiar mandates, honors programs must continually strive to place themselves at the core of the university’s mission, not only as that mission relates to the development of the university itself but also as it relates to the university’s commitments to state and regional initiatives. What follows is how the honors program at Louisiana Tech University sought to position itself to participate in a state and regional initiative to develop an area that is ideally suited to the strengths of honors education: the emerging field of cyberspace (see the 2009 JNCHC “Forum on Honors in the Digital Age”). In initiating studies in cyberspace, the honors program drew on traditional strengths of honors education but also charted some new venues for exploration that might be of use to other programs and colleges.