University of Vermont

The Honors College

Message from the Dean

Abu Rizvi

When higher education began in this country, only male students from the elite strata of society went to college. They took a prescribed and uniform set of courses and were destined for occupations after graduation that were, in the main, predictable. Fortunately, things have changed, but with change has come complexity. UVM students come from a diversity of backgrounds and many are the first in their families to go to college. Students from whatever background find the transition from high school challenging. All of our students must navigate the multitude of opportunities available at a university such as UVM as they begin to discover academic interests suited to their talents and abilities. What should their major(s) be? Should they pursue internship or research experience? What about the thesis? Of course, students are not expected to make these decisions all alone, and thus academic advising has evolved as a crucial part of the experience of higher education.

Students find much of their academic advising in the schools and colleges that grant their degrees, and specifically in the departments in which they declare a major. However, all students, and Honors College students especially, since they straddle two colleges and carry with them at least those two identities, have to get used to the idea of receiving academic and career advice from a variety of sources.

The approach to advising in the Honors College is multifaceted. It begins with our residential community at University Heights North. The links formed among a group of students who share Honors coursework are reinforced by other curricular and co-curricular programming. We plan many of these events during the critical first six weeks of the fall semester, that make-or-break time that research has shown to be crucial to the transition process for first-year students. The University Heights residence hall facilitates support for our students in many ways. The 400 students who live in UHN can find in it our offices, classrooms, and public meeting areas. They are able to interact here with ten resident advisors (R.A.s), a first-year mentor, a writing tutor, three resident faculty members, the residence hall and Honors College staff, and three faculty members. The resident faculty members also serve as special advisors to students of color and those who are in the first generation of their families to attend college. In the UHN living room, I meet with groups of a dozen students each week for pizza. First-year students are paired with an upper class Honors College student as part of our peer-mentoring program. Students also form study groups, meet with graduate school counselors, attend study skills sessions, and the like. We get a sense of how students are doing through weekly meetings with the first-year faculty and the Honors College and residence hall staff and through quick surveys at the beginning, middle and end of each semester.

Students in the Honors College and throughout the university receive two sorts of special advising from us. Our Associate Dean, Lisa Schnell, and Fellowships Advisor, Brit Chase, identify and assist students who aspire to compete for nationally competitive fellowships and scholarships, such as the Fulbright, Truman, Rhodes, Udall, and Goldwater awards. This effort has been very successful, with UVM students regularly winning or achieving finalist status in competition with the finest students from across the country. Another office, devoted to promoting undergraduate research, matches students with professors who work with students in their labs and studios. This office also runs a number of grant and funding programs and helps to organize the annual student research conference that is coming up on April 22.

This newsletter and the ones that have come before it bear witness to what can happen when motivated students receive supportive advice. I hope you enjoy the newsletter and look forward to hearing from you.

Last modified March 31 2010 11:43 AM