University Scholars offered choicessSept. 25, 1996
University Scholars offered choices
By Neal Suit
Imagine being able to pick the best professors and classes without ever having to worry if it fits your major or minor.
For University Scholars Program students, there is no major in a specific field and hardly any required classes. This frees the students to pursue whatever disciplines interest them.
'We are trying to create individualized programs for the highly motivated, intelligent student,' said Bruce Cresson, director of the University Scholars Program and a religion professor.
Students in the program must maintain a 3.5 grade point average and must complete 124 semester hours. The major for the students in the program is listed as University Scholars since no specific field has to be designated as the major.
The only required class is Political Science 2302, though Cresson strongly encourages all students to enroll in a foreign language, lab science and math class. All other classes can be chosen by the student, though most students concentrate in two or three disciplines. Currently there are 64 students in the program, the largest enrollment ever, he said.
'I have very different interests in very different fields that didn't necessarily have a B.A.,' said Brooke Smith, a University Scholar and a Houston sophomore.
Collin Cox, a University Scholar and a Waco senior, said he chose the discipline so he could take advantage of having many University professors.
'There are so many great teachers at Baylor and this [program] allowed me to get those [teachers] that would not have been in my discipline,' Cox said.
Students entering the University and those with no more than 36 completed semester hours are eligible to apply to the program. To apply, a student must submit a letter to the director, have three letters of recommendation and must have SAT or ACT scores that indicate superior ability and motivation. Some applicants may be asked for a personal interview or to submit an essay.
Students who enroll in the program and later decide to choose a different major may find themselves behind in courses required for the major.
'You have to be pretty sure you want to stick with it through graduation [before enrolling in the program],' Smith said.
There is also a concern about how graduate schools may perceive the program since students graduate without a major.
'I don't know that anyone has ever had problems,' Cresson said. 'I have, at the request of students, written a letter to go along with the application [to explain what the program is]. I do know some schools that are very impressed with our program.'
The majority of the students in the program do continue their education, whether it be graduate, law, business or medical school.
'I tell students up front that we are not preparing them for a slot in the job market,' Cresson said. 'It is really preparing them for further study.'
Last year nine students graduated from the Program, all with plans to continue their education. Since the inception of the program in the mid-1970s, only 10 to 12 students have failed to complete the program, he said. The majority of participants, however, he said, are committed to the program.
'There are some students who come here for the program,' Cresson said. 'I don't know of one like this [anywhere else].'
Cox said he thought it was an interesting concept for a program.
'It allows a student to concentrate on many areas,' Cox said. 'In many ways it is the traditional liberal arts education reinforced.'
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