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 SRU's Growing Honors Program Gets New Director 



May 28, 2004

Contact: Gordon Ovenshine: 724-738-4854;


SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. – Slippery Rock University’s Honors Program has grown seven-fold. It now offers optional honors housing, 30 scholarships a year, independent study options that one student used to write a children’s book, job networking, as well as travel opportunities to Italy, England, Costa Rica and Ireland.

And a new director to keep the momentum going, Associate Professor of Biology Dr. Steven Strain.  A professor at SRU for eight years, Strain holds a doctorate in microbiology from Oregon State University.

SRU’s program has grown from 34 to 318 students, reflecting a trend toward increased enrollment of academically gifted students. While honors programs at many universities focus solely on liberal studies, SRU offers courses in math and science, Strain said. 

“The honors program is an important component of the university,” he said. “It provides an opportunity for students who want to go a little further with their education. These are talented people who want to do more than the minimum.”

Another distinctive component is the honors contract.  Participants take a regular, non-honors course in their major and contract with a professor to do a project related to course content but which "moves the student substantially beyond the parameters of the course" to allow them to master an area in their discipline, Strain said.

            The contract is typically the equivalent of a 20-page paper.  If they complete it successfully, they earn three honors credits.  Last semester, student Carly Dobbins-Bucklad wrote a children’s book on wetland conservation as a contract project and is working to publish it.

Students may also opt for the “Great Books Course” where they study a classic work of literature and then travel to the author’s home country.

Additionally, 10 to 12 students make presentations at national and regional honors conferences each. Two students are also selected every year to participate in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education Honors Conference.

First-year students with SAT scores of 1100 or higher who graduated in the top 10 percent of their high school class may join the program. Participants complete 21 hours of honors coursework to graduate with an honors certificate.

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