Date of this Version
Published in Journal of the National Collegiate Honors Council Vol. 12, No.2 (Fall/Winter 2011). ISSN 1559-0151
The Brackenridge Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship, a program administered by the University Honors College (UHC) at the University of Pittsburgh, is one example of the combined tradition and innovation that Scott Carnicom describes in his lead essay for the Forum on “The Institutional Impact of Honors.” By locating traditional disciplinary research projects within an innovative interdisciplinary context of students from all undergraduate majors, this summer research program demonstrates that tradition and innovation are not just compatible but symbiotic. The program also demonstrates that, in providing greater breadth as well as depth in the undergraduate experience, an honors-sponsored program can have a significant impact on the success of the institution as a whole.
The UHC at Pitt is unusual in its institutional context and impact because it is not a membership organization; that is, it has no separate admission or application process by which students gain access to what it provides. While students can participate in UHC in identifiable ways (coursework, advising, intellectual community, and a bachelor of philosophy degree), the overall mission of UHC is to promote extra breadth and depth in undergraduate education and to help those inclined toward such goals find each other. For these kindred spirits, “good enough” does not suffice. They share a willingness to work harder than necessary simply because they enjoy it. The intrinsic curiosity of students sought by and drawn to UHC opportunities does not show up via quantitative measures; there is no SAT score for inquisitiveness. It takes a lot of hard work within the larger institution for us to find these students and for them to find us, but the university as a whole benefits from the mutual quest.