National Collegiate Honors Council


Date of this Version



Published in Journal of the National Collegiate Honors Council, Fall/Winter 2015, Volume 16, Number 2.


Copyright © 2015 by the National Collegiate Honors Council.


As president of two public research universities (University of Maine and Ball State University), I have had the pleasure of working with excellent, long-standing honors colleges. At each institution, the honors college has earned a place of distinction as the intellectual heart and soul of the university. That place of distinction has much to do with an evolution of honors culture at each campus. I learned a great deal about honors and honors culture from my colleague Charlie Slavin, the iconic Dean of the UMaine Honors College. In 2008, Charlie, who was a close friend, wrote an essay called “Defining Honors Culture” for the Journal of the National Collegiate Honors Council focusing on the role such an experience can have on developing a mindset of “intellectual risk-taking.” As Charlie wrote about honors students:

Students in honors are willing to take intellectual risks both in their discipline and outside of it: they enjoy the challenge. They are the exceptional English students who revel in discussions of quantum mechanics and the outstanding engineers who can’t read enough history. Their personal economies guide them to get the most out of their undergraduate education. . . . they are willing to explore and often find themselves surprised at their interest. They’re willing to take the risk. (16)