New dean moves Honors College in a new direction

Christina Thomas

The new honors dean, Don Williams, wants to explore more ways to move the Honors College forward and make it a better program.

Williams, who was announced the new dean of the Honors College Monday, said he can continue with plans he has worked on since he became the interim dean last year.

“During the last year we’ve made a number of decisions that will have the effect of moving forward and improving the Honors College,” he said. “And then what we’ll do is try to continue to push those priorities ahead.”

He said some priorities are to increase study abroad programs among honors students, to increase thesis writing among honors students and to increase the number of honors section LER courses for students.

“So we’ve done a lot to improve the situation of the honors students and now we can further the things we’ve tried to do this last year, as well as try to add new things to the list,” he said.

The new dean said another objective is to try to generate more scholarship dollars to help fund those students who want to participate in those activities. He said he also wants to improve the overall amount of scholarships available to the students.

“We also want to increase our foundation account to generate scholarships in general for students so we can continue to attract the best students to our program.”

Another objective is to look at our curriculum for the Honors College and see if there are things we should do to improve the experience for our students.”

He added he is thinking about the idea of creating a special honors faculty status that would be awarded to faculty members who would be engaged in the honors program.

Williams said one of the challenges the Honors College faces are more long-term problems to keep class sizes small.

“With the university moving to a new budgeting model, there will be pressure for departments to offer larger classes, and the main challenge will to be to be able to continue to offer smaller sections, which are an important part of the honors program,” he said.

The dean spent the last year working with the Honors College as the interim dean and said there are a lot of things he really likes about working there.

“The thing I enjoy most is the diversity in the students and the faculty I work with here because the students come from all across the campus and all disciplines,” Williams said. “As the Honors College dean I interact regularly with students from the arts and from the sciences, and from the liberal arts, and business and architecture, which is very interesting and that is something I really like about the job.”

Staff members in the Honors College, such as Becky Gares, coordinator of advising and communication, were glad to know the new dean was finally chosen. They waited since the retirement of Dean Larry Andrews last year to get a new permanent dean.

Gares said she was happy they announced the new dean because the Honors College had been without one for almost a year. She said now the Honors College could keep working on things like curriculum changes and new ideas about advising because they have a dean.

“Now that we know we have a new dean, we can proceed with new projects and work on new ideas and know that it’s going to be something worthwhile to carry forward because we know we have a dean here to say yes or no about the direction we’re going in,” Gares said.

She said Williams adjusted well to the Honors College even though he hadn’t had a lot of contact with it prior to becoming interim dean.

“Personally I am very pleased he is our new dean, and I am so impressed with what he has done here because he has caught on quickly to life here in the Honors College and our history,” she said.

Gares said that Williams has quickly seen and analyzed issues and needs that the Honors College had, which helped them move forward during the search for a permanent dean.

“As a staff member here, this makes me feel really good about the Honors College and the leadership to know that we are going to move ahead because he really understands what goes on here,” she said. “And I think that he will be a very positive influence on the Honors College and the program.”

Gares said Williams understands the purpose of the Honors College and how it works with the university.

“I think he really has a good grasp on the bigger university picture and where the Honors College fits in with the wider university community, and perhaps some directions that we need to be moving in to make that fit even closer and better for the students and for the university,” she said.

Gares said that with Williams’ academic background, he would also have a good influence on the Honors College and the students.

“He is still actively involved in research in his field of specialty and it is international research,” she said. “And one of the missions of the university is to broaden our outlook internationally, so I think he is going to be a great role model for the students.”

Contact Honors College reporter Christina Thomas at [email protected].