SRU’s Honors College revamping leadership as growth continues
Slippery Rock University’s Honors College is undergoing a leadership change with the addition of Jason Hilton, associate director, who will succeed George Brown as director when Brown retires following the spring 2019 semester.
Feb. 5, 2019
SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - With more students, class offerings, activities and an elevation from a program to a college, the Honors College at Slippery Rock University keeps getting bigger and stronger. Much of the credit for the growth goes to George Brown, who guided the Honors College as its director the last four years. Although Brown plans to retire after the spring 2019 semester, the future of the Honors College looks even brighter with the addition of a second manager to continue the college's upward trajectory.
Jason Hilton, associate professor of secondary education/foundations of education, was recently appointed associate director of the Honors College. He will succeed Brown as director following his retirement at which time SRU will appoint a new associate director to replace Hilton.
"Our Honors College has undergone significant growth and improvement under the leadership of Dr. Brown and we thank him for his service to the University," said Philip Way, provost and vice president for academic and student affairs. "We're fortunate to have Dr. Hilton ready to guide the Honors College to even greater heights and we're excited to see how his vision will further enhance opportunities for our students to grow and learn."
The Honors College, which changed from a program to a college last fall, is an interdisciplinary community at SRU that provides students the opportunity to further develop and expand their education within and beyond the classroom. There are more than 420 students in the program this year, compared to 250 just three years ago, thanks to record-breaking freshman cohorts of 135 in 2017 and 158 this year. Early recruitment projections indicate that the Honors College will have nearly 500 students for fall 2019.
"We continue to grow and I was able to accomplish a lot during my time as director," said Brown, a professor of political science who's been on the faculty at SRU the last 22 years, including two years as part-time director and the last two years as full-time director. "But I wouldn't have been able to do it without the support I've had, from admissions and financial aid to the deans, faculty and the administration. It's a lot of growth, but I wouldn't take credit for it all."
The quality of the students has increased as well, as the most recent freshman class had an average 3.87 high-school GPA and 1,227 average SAT score, eclipsing the 3.8 GPA and 1,220 SAT requirements. However, there are even more areas that Hilton is looking to develop as he steps into a role where three quarters of his time will be leading the Honors College and the other quarter teaching a class.
"I have a desire to make an impact in a broad way rather than teaching regular classes in my department, so this is an opportunity to really influence and empower students who are going to be even more impactful as honors students," Hilton said. "I would like the Honors College to more accurately represent the entirety of our students at SRU. The vision I have for the Honors College is to make it more diverse and create opportunities for diverse students, whether that be from under-represented minorities or low socio-economic backgrounds, and for those students to be empowered and impact their futures as well."
Part of Hilton's approach to achieving better diversity will be reexamining the high-school GPA and SAT requirements, which he said have built-in biases, and to think of other ways to identify students who would be a good fit for the Honors College.
Another diversity objective for Hilton is to attract more students from the College of Business, the College of Education and students majoring in the performing and fine arts. According to Hilton, it is sometimes challenging for those students to enroll in the Honors College because of honors course offerings and commitments within their programs.
Hilton's vision for the future of the Honors College also includes a model that has separate focusses for underclassmen and upperclassmen. In the first two years, students would focus on widening their experience and body of knowledge by attending presentations or cultural events, and then in the last two years, concentrate on becoming leaders within their field of study, whether it be through research, community outreach or leading a student organization.
"I want (the experience) to morph as the student grows," Hilton said. He'll work with an advisory board of faculty and current honors students to review how honors students earn points, which are accumulated by taking honors classes, leading projects and organizations and participating in extracurricular activities. "We want students to feel that they are earning those points by doing things that matter rather than doing things they just have to do (to remain in the Honors College)."
Hilton also wants to implement an entrepreneur fellowship as a minor within in the Honors College, which is something that many larger universities offer in their honors colleges. This type of interdisciplinary minor can be picked up by honors students taking classes from all four of SRU's colleges and conclude with a capstone course before they graduate.
"This would be an experience-rich, focus on the big picture of innovating, working with professionals and community partners, and being confident to set out on their own within their field of study," said Hilton, who will spend the next year developing the curriculum for the minor with a potential launch by fall 2020.
In addition to having a second administrator as associate director, the Honors College will have upcoming enhancements outside of Hilton's vision for the future. For example, the Honors College offices and meeting space will be housed at Watson Hall after renovations are completed this summer. Additionally, fall 2019 marks the start of the University's revised general education program, called Rock Integrated Studies, for all first-year students, which Hilton said will align better for the honors curriculum to offer students a more in-depth experience.
"I'm always one who is excited about new challenges and opportunities," said Hilton, whose been on the faculty at SRU for the last seven years. "This aligns with what I'm trying to do, and that's helping people. I was able to do that teaching teachers, because they go out and empower people, but as (the Honors College director) I can help even more people."
For more information about SRU's Honors College, click here.
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