Honors College administration anticipates benefits of new facility

Trevor Ivan

Students choosing to live in the current honors dorms in Van Campen, Heer and Harbourt Halls often face a 10- to 15-minute walk to destinations on the other side of campus.

Next fall, the Honors College will be moving into Johnson Hall, which is more centrally located on campus. The faculty of the Honors College feel that the move will benefit the students in many ways.

“We feel that our offices in Van Campen Hall work very well,” said Vicki Bocchicchio, coordinator of curriculum for the Honors College. “We feel very comfortable that we can serve our students well from these offices.”

However, Bocchicchio said that many honors students don’t often want to live in the honors dorms due to the distance. She said that for the past several years, only about 30 percent of the residents in those halls were honors students.

“Incoming honors freshmen often think we are so far away from the other places on campus,” Bocchicchio said. “When they look at a campus map, it seems like we’re on the other side of the moon.”

The location of the current honors facility often affects many students’ decision on whether or not to participate in honors social activities, Bocchicchio said.

“Participation in social events is not what we’d like it to be,” Bocchicchio said. “Students tend to come out to events at the beginning of the semester. However, as the semester progresses, student participation tends to decline.”

She also said that honors students have indicated in surveys and evaluations over the years that the reason they tend not to participate in honors events is due to the far distance of the Honors College.

Bocchicchio went on to say that more students tend to participate in honors activities if they are held in a more central location, like the Student Center.

The Honors College has tried to recruit more students to live in their dorms, Bocchicchio said. They have used testimonials from students who have lived in the dorms to try to recruit new members. The Honors College also holds their yearly orientation program for freshman at their facilities in Van Campen Hall.

Larry Andrews, dean of the Honors College, said that this move has been in the works for several years now. He said the Honors College has been housed in its current location since 1989. In 2000, Resident Services conducted a survey of residence halls to determine the need for renovations.

Andrews said that they determined it would be more costly to renovate the current Honors College facility than to move it to another location. The high cost was due to the need to make changes that would make the buildings compliant with standards for students with disabilities.

The university decided to relocate the Honors College into Johnson Hall, which was being constructed in the center of campus.

“The university thought we should be showcased. We will now be at the academic heart of the campus,” Andrews said. “Honors symbolizes academic excellence. We will now be centered in the academic core of the university.”

The facility is geared to allow for a social as well as an academic experience, Bocchicchio said.

There will be three classrooms and a separate library for the Honors College in the new facility. Their current facility doesn’t have any “official” classrooms.

Three professors currently use the library in the Honors College as a classroom to teach freshman honors colloquium, the foundation English class of the program. They are hoping to hold more of the colloquium classes in these classrooms.

They also think that more honor students will move into the honors dorms when they are in Johnson Hall, Bocchicchio said. This will allow honors students to take some of their honors classes in Johnson Hall facility.

Andrews said the idea is that “students can come to class in their robe and fuzzy slippers.”

There already seems to be a high level of student interest in the new facility, Bocchicchio said. There will be approximately 250 beds in Johnson Hall. She said there may be a high level of competition to live there.

Bocchicchio went on to say that main purpose of the new facility is to be of the greatest benefit to students in the Honors College.

“I think that honors students face special challenges,” Bocchicchio said. “They do better when they are able to bond together. They feel more comfortable when they know there are other people that they know they have something in common with.”

Contact honors and international affairs reporter Trevor Ivan at [email protected].