Date of this Version
Honors programs (and honors colleges as they are called in some institutions) exist to provide enhanced learning environments for outstanding undergraduate students. The benefits for students are many: small and often more challenging classes; access to professors (as opposed to graduate students or teaching assistants); early enrollment; special honors housing; research opportunities; and scholarship money. But what are the benefits for the faculty who teach in such programs or who serve as administrators (directors or deans) of these programs? Many faculty members find personal satisfaction by working with small groups of talented students, but is honors work a help or a hindrance for gaining tenure or promotion? What value do institutions place on faculty work with honors students?
A review of the literature over the last twelve years provides a varied perspective on the institutional value of honors work and the translation of that value to faculty promotion and tenure. These perspectives are included in the “existing views” sections of this article. The “perceptions from the surveys” sections are based on survey assessments of the current perception (spring 2002) of the value of honors work and how this work counts in the promotion and tenure process. For this assessment I surveyed two groups: (1) honors administrators who are members of the National Collegiate Honors Council electronic mailing list and (2) Oklahoma State University faculty who, during the spring 2002 semester, were teaching honors sections of courses or directing honors thesis projects. Eighteen honors administrators responded to the national survey, and 34 faculty members responded to the OSU honors faculty survey. Participants provided written responses to the surveys using electronic mail and postal mail. The survey instruments, composed of open-ended questions, are provided in the appendices.