Bringing the 2020-21 academic year to a successful conclusion merits more than the usual celebration. Bon mot it may not be, but here’s the best word I have for the occasion: woohoo!
We have abundant grounds for pride at a year of accomplishment, notwithstanding the COVID-19 pandemic, a global recession, and ongoing American racial unrest. Within the University, we entered the year with budget cuts and a hiring freeze, and we faced unfamiliar anxiety about making our entering class and retaining our upper-division students. With socially distanced, facemask-wearing in-person classes joined by quickly designed online courses, makeshift solutions took the place of our comfortable routines of teaching. Those challenges leave unremarked any number of deeply felt personal losses within our community. I would need more than two hands to count the number of family deaths suffered by Honors College faculty and staff. In so many ways, we have had a long, difficult year.
For all that, we also had a remarkably successful year. We matriculated the largest entering class in Honors College history. It was also one of the most academically qualified, diverse, and national classes we have landed. First-year retention of our 2019 GTX and UNSC majors came in at 100%. At the other end of the undergraduate experience, we’ve seen remarkable success in placement of our graduates, including strong numbers of post-baccalaureate award winners.
Our faculty published at a rate and quality worthy of special commendation in any year, including some books expected to be standard reference works in libraries for decades to come. Sponsored research was up; special mention must be made of Phil Donnelly
’s National Endowment for the Humanities grant and Davide Zori
’s Discovery/Explorer’s Club grant. We also landed two Outstanding Faculty awards—Mark Long
(tenured teaching) and Rob Miner
(tenured research)—plus an excellence in mentoring award for Jason Whitt
(more about this one below). Speaking of teaching, five of our colleagues were repeatedly singled out by online only students for helping them to be successful, putting these faculty members within a very select company. They include Erika Abel
, Candi Cann
, Victor Hinojosa
, Sarah-Jane Murray
, and Mike Whitenton
Our staff colleagues rallied marvelously around new challenges. Online Orientation? No problem. Zoom advising? Got it covered. Extending hospitality to office visitors while wearing facemasks, keeping distance, talking through plexiglass shields, and smiling all the while? Sure thing. Holding our work and professional relationships together with confidence and goodwill, whether by Teams, Webex, or Zoom? Done! Moreover, two of our staff members, Charmaine Dull
and Autumn Henneke
, managed to do all of this while working not only their usual assignment, but taking on added responsibilities to cover unfilled vacancies.
Here at the end of the year, we stand atop plenty of other achievements. I am grateful, I am proud, and I am blessed to serve with you. For all of the creative, excellent, generous, hopeful, meticulous, patient, and steadfast contributions you have made this past year, thank you.
In like spirit, join me in notice of the following items in the life of the Honors College:
• Congratulations are in order for Jason Whitt
, senior lecturer in the Honors Program and faculty steward of the Honors Residential College. From among over 150 nominees, Jason was selected as a 2021 recipient of the Elizabeth Vardaman Award for Excellence in Mentoring Undergraduates
. Whether directing theses; sharing life with students in the HRC; or mentoring Crane Scholars, medical humanities majors, and countless others, Jason demonstrates spirited contribution to students’ formation in and out of the classroom. On that note, Baylor Magazine honored Jason for similar reasons in a Spring 2021 story, “Guiding the Way
.” We’re proud of you, Jason.
• Jeff Hunt
, senior lecturer in classics, has been appointed Director of the University Scholars Program. Jeff holds a B.A. in Greek and Latin from Baylor (2003) and a Ph.D. in Classics from Brown (2009). Associated with the University Scholars Program since 2013 as assistant and then associate director, Jeff has demonstrated a capable hand this past year as interim director. Colleagues praise his “ability to nurture and challenge students and [to] encourage their character formation”; his co-authored, award-winning book Classics from Papyrus to the Internet
(2018); and his commitment to “collaboration and bridge-building.” We look forward to your service, Jeff.
• Much appreciation is due to Anne-Marie Schultz
, director of the Baylor Interdisciplinary Core, on the conclusion at month’s end of a significant period of leadership. Anne will transition out of the director’s role, marking more than a dozen years of contribution as director. Her devotion to BIC’s animating spirit, pride in a meritorious faculty and staff, excellence as a teacher and scholar, and advocacy on behalf of a program worthy of our best are commendable. Along with many hundreds of students who have benefited from a brilliantly conceived curriculum under her leadership, we owe her a real debt of gratitude. Thank you, Anne.
• Thirty-two students drawn from all four of our academic programs were among those tapped for Phi Beta Kappa
membership this spring. Established in 1776, this most prestigious of America’s academic honors societies recognizes and encourages scholarship in the liberal arts and sciences. PBK’s emphasis upon breadth and depth of liberal education, together with high scholarly performance, make it an honors society well suited for many of our best students.
• As we cheer on students’ accomplishments, special pride is due to eleven Honors College students who have recently won prestigious post-baccalaureate awards. They include Boren Scholars Amanda Sutton
and Anne Walker
; Critical Language Scholarship recipients Daniel Burch
, Mary Quarnstrom
, Rebekah Sharp
, Kaitlyn Vana
, and Cannon Williams
; Fulbright Scholars Carolyn Carper
, Madeleine Nelson
, and Joelle Kim
; and Goldwater Scholar Kate Rojales
. The Office of Engaged Learning works closely with students to explore post-baccalaureate fellowships and awards. Every academic advisor and faculty member should be familiar with Major Fellowships and Awards
available to our students and should invite students’ interest when fitting.
All the best,
Douglas V. Henry | Dean
Honors College | Baylor University
baylor.edu/honorscollege | 254.710.7689