MONROE, La. — So many faces, so many families, came together at ULM’s graduation commencement. Many students were singled out for special recognition during the ceremony for not taking the traditional route to graduation.
A designated number of these graduates dress in more than just a black, floor-length robe; they add on colored cords as an embellishment in honor of exceeding the status quo. To the honors graduates, walking across the stage means more than obtaining a degree.
Since its inception in 2006, the Honors Program at ULM has grown from 30 students to currently more than 100 students. The success of the program is due to the academic offerings and wide range of benefits.
Some of the benefits include early registration for classes, close contact with faculty, scholarships to study abroad, research opportunities, exciting extra-curricular activities, and smaller classes.
The Honors Program is designed to enrich students’ educational experience with lessons of leadership, scholarship, and creativity.
“Participation in the honors program offers a challenging yet rewarding college experience within a small community of active and engaged students and faculty,” said Dr. Joshua Stockley, Honors Program Director.
Whittney Plunkett, the 2016-17 President of the Honors Program, has applied her leadership skills not only within the program, but also within the community. A political science major, she is involved with the Wesley Foundation and volunteers for many other organizations.
“You don’t necessarily have to be on the leadership council to be a leader in the program. It’s how you carry yourself and work as a team. It’s less about the position and more about how you work with others around you,” said Plunkett.
The program encourages involvement on campus as well as excelling outside the classroom. Many students in the program volunteer at nursing homes and several recently provided aid during the recent flood disaster relief.
Students are required to participate in four honors options within their major. Honors options encourage students to work one-on-one with a university professor within their major and develop a paper, project, or presentation to submit at the end of the term.
Honors options are designed to turn a regular class into an honors level course through a more demanding curriculum and course load for a student. “Honors options allow me to work on projects with my professors. It lets me apply my knowledge in my field of concentration and push the boundaries of what I already know in that field,” said Plunkett.
Plunkett is planning to graduate in December and pursue law school in fall 2017. “In anticipation of law school, I can honestly say that my honors options have prepared me for the course load,” said Plunkett.
The Honors Program offers three different types of certificates: honors in major, honors in the college, and honors in the university. This program also encourages students to apply for scholarships throughout their college career. Honors scholarships are available on a competitive basis for students pursuing honors certificates in their major, college, or university.
“The scholarships we hand out to students help ease the financial burden that comes with attending college,” said Stockley. “Since receiving scholarships are competitive, students push themselves harder in order to qualify and receive them.”
Every year, members of the Honors Program have the opportunity to attend the Louisiana Collegiate Honors Conference.
At this year’s annual conference, a panel entitled “Building Community in Honors” was conducted.
The panel addressed the importance of reaching out to the community through locally sponsored events and community service. The majority opinion was that the community shapes the student body, and that the more involved an individual is the more positive the atmosphere will be in the present and the future.
Annually, the Honors Program holds an honors banquet to award the students who go above and beyond the expectation set for them. Many of the guests who attend include faculty members, parents, honors program alumni, and friends and family of students in the program. Students who received honors within their college include: Christine Foto, Lindsay Moore, Maggie Jones, Kaitlin Minchew, Shelby Russell, and Sarah Sellers.
Completing an honors thesis is the final accomplishment of honors graduates. To complete an honors thesis, a student must find a topic of interest and a teacher as a mentor. After their topic is approved, the student must generate a 15-20 page paper and a short presentation in front of a panel at the Louisiana Collegiate Honors Conference.
“Doing a thesis takes pretty much the whole year to complete,” said Plunkett. “You have to go through multiple rough drafts and practice presentations before you get it right. But in the end all the hard work is worth it.”
Students who completed an Honors thesis include: Lara Crawford, Kady Coulon, Shelby Russell, Rachel Maddox, Cameron Irby, and Lucas McHan.
The spring 2016 semester highlighted the many graduates in the Honors Program who have big plans for their future. Some of the student’s plans after graduation are as follows: Lara Crawford, attending medical school at the University of Arkansas; Kady Coulon, attending Law School at Michigan State University; Lucas McHan teaching math at Episcopal Collegiate; the #2 ranked private school in Arkansas; and Lindsay Moore and Christine Foto plan to attend ULM School of Pharmacy in the fall. The program is wishing these graduates the upmost success in their future.
The Honors Program is expecting a surplus of new freshmen in the fall and expects to grow exponentially in the upcoming years.
For more information about the Honors Program, visit http://www.ulm.edu/honors/.