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Epiphanies, presumably, strike suddenly. This vision, however, was not like Saul’s on the road to Damascus; rather, it emerged over 25 years of incremental involvement in creating one of the stronger Honors Colleges in the country at the University of South Carolina. Over the past five years, in particular, my evolutionary experience has been shaped by a growing recognition of an underlying problem confronting the contemporary research university.
In general, the demands faced by research universities have not changed since World War II, though some have fluctuated in intensity. The essential problem, I believe, arises less from external demands and goals than from a certain hollowness at the core of the university. The center most certainly will not hold, if there is no center. Unlike Saul, I did not experience this vision while on a journey; rather, the journey itself built the vision. Moreover, critical colleagues have been accompanying me, constructing and refining what became a major program of academic enrichment for the Honors College—Research Based Learning. Permit me, then, to recap briefly our journey, admitting, though, that this retroactive summary adds a fictive coherence to the lived experience. The journey now has reached a point of recognition of the crisis at the core of the research university, so I then share my response to this recognition.