uvm a - z directory search





UVM Notebook


Faculty Voice

Class Notes

Ask an Alum

Extra Credit



Alumni news &







photo by Michael Sipe

Honors College creates connections

As we welcome the Class of 2008, we also usher in a significant new endeavor on our campus, one that promises to enrich not only the undergraduate experience, but also the intellectual spirit of the entire institution. The new academic year marks the inauguration of the University of Vermont Honors College, which enrolls 95 of our top incoming students in its first class.

Honors education, of course, is nothing new to our University. Outstanding students in search of deeper academic challenges have long found them in the honors programs within many of our individual schools and colleges. What distinguishes the new model is that it draws students across all of the disciplines who will simultaneously be enrolled within one of our seven undergraduate schools and colleges and the Honors College.

This approach brings together students of different minds, motivations, and ways of looking at the world in a way that enhances the experience for all involved. Imagine the discussion around a seminar table as an animal sciences major, an art major, a biochemistry major, and a nursing major bring their different perspectives to the same question.

Professors Alan Wertheimer, political science, and Donald Loeb, philosophy, have designed the first-year seminar — a two-semester, six credit class that will be taught to the honors students in five small seminar-like sections (nineteen students each) that will come together at regular intervals for plenary lectures (to which the larger campus community will be invited). “Making Ethical Choices: Personal, Public and Professional” is the provocative focus of the course, notable for its relevance to so many fields. Among the questions that will be under discussion — Do individuals have a moral obligation to obey the law? Were engineers under an ethical obligation to “blow the whistle” on faulty design that led to the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster? What considerations should be taken into account in developing a policy on capital punishment?

We’re especially fortunate to have Professor Wertheimer, a prolific ethics scholar of international renown, involved with building our first-seminar in the final year of his long and distinguished career on our faculty.

In mid-August, 35 of our faculty took the first-year honors seminar for something of a test ride, coming together for a three-day symposium to consider some of the same literature and questions that the students will take on this year. Faculty from twenty-five different departments from across the University participated in the symposium, modeling the very best that a university-wide Honors College can do to build bridges between the academic disciplines. Universities fall short of their full potential when people and departments conduct study, research, and scholarship in isolation. As we shape the future of the University of Vermont, one of our keys to excellence will be taking down barriers, and the Honors College represents an important step in this direction. When I hosted a dinner at Englesby House for the participants in the faculty symposium, I found myself in the midst of a group of faculty as excited about intellectual discovery and interchange across the disciplines as any I have ever seen, and I know that they will carry the electric charge of that excitement into their classrooms across the campus.

While this year’s honors scholars have the privilege of launching a new college, next year’s will move into a new home. The residential complex currently under construction on the former University Heights site will include space for the Honors College starting in fall 2005. That will mark another significant enhancement of the undergraduate experience, as we continue to create new ways to unite the academic, social, residential, and co-curricular experiences of our students.

—Daniel Mark Fogel