A University of Central Arkansas Norbert O. Schedler Honors College education is equipping students to be lifetime learners who can make a difference across the United States and around the world.
Dr. Rick Scott, dean of the Schedler Honors College, has been involved with the program for more than 30 years, directing it the last 16 years following the retirement of founder Dr. Norbert Schedler.
The overall goal of the Schedler Honors College has been to develop students as “citizen-scholars,” according to Scott. “We not only want them to develop skill sets about how to research important issues and how to understand a topic and come to a reasonable conclusion about it, but then to be able to take what they know in the public square and engage the broader community in some way to make a difference.”
Students develop leadership skills that never go out of date. “Whatever you learn as content in a particular field of study could well be changed in five or 10 years. In the sciences, knowledge doesn’t last very long because there is so much research. It’s constantly changing,” he said. “These skill sets don’t really go out of style. That’s the importance of a Schedler Honors College education.”
The Schedler Honors College has grown throughout the last 30 years, from 120 students to 300 and from two faculty members to seven. “We have a really extraordinary core faculty,” Scott said. “They are all accomplished professors.”
Still, the curriculum has remained consistent. “The courses change because the topics change, but the themes don’t.”
Each year, the Schedler Honors College selects 75 high school seniors from about 400 applicants. A Schedler Honors College education includes core classes, seminars, research, writing and a senior thesis. There is also a mentoring program and a living learning community in Farris Honors Residence Hall.
“I realize the rich history I learned was valuable, but the friendships I made and the memories I have at those locations are irreplaceable. The places we visited are famous across the globe because of their historical significance, but those places have taken a whole new meaning for me since I have lived experiences and shared memories in those places.”
Grayson Owens, Fall 2015 Travel Abroad Grants (Tag) Program Recipient
For those who qualify, there are also Travel Abroad Grants (TAG) and Undergraduate Research Grants in Education (URGE) available for juniors and seniors. UCA financially supports both, but the Schedler Honors College has also raised money and grown a multi-million dollar endowment for the programs.
TAG is aimed at getting students into global settings, with grants typically funding 60 to 75 percent of the trip.
URGE helps students in their development as scholars, project managers, educators or as artists. Grants can be used to go to another school to study, become involved in a major research project or work with a UCA faculty member.
“Norb said to me 20 years ago or so that he thought TAG and URGE were the most important developments in the Schedler Honors College since its inception,” Scott said.
While the Schedler Honors College graduation rate is already high, students who receive a TAG or URGE grant are about 30 percent more likely to graduate.
“I learned about sustainable living and gardening, but I also was encouraged to always keep learning, and to spread kindness and education everywhere that I can…it was one of the best times of my life (cliche, but true). I would like to thank the Honors College so very much for helping me make this trip a possibility. It’s likely that I will pursue a career with the Forest Service.”
Emily Roberts, Summer 2015 Undergraduate Research Grants In Education (Urge) Recipient
“It is a very complicated thing to be a 20-year-old and be in Europe or Japan, especially if you don’t speak the language. I know it can be scary sometimes. I also know it can be scary if they are at Oxford, and they are in courses with students from Harvard, Yale, Duke and Stanford, but they are hanging in there, and they are getting the A.
“Those things are very empowering in terms of how broad they are willing to cast their horizons.”
With many going on to medical, law or graduate schools, Schedler Honors College graduates are “literally all over the world” in a variety of vocations, from business and higher education to health care, law and the arts.
Scott, who will retire after the 2016-17 academic year, said it is difficult to keep up with the nearly 1,600 Schedler Honors College alumni but many still care about the program. “It tells me this has been, for a lot of our alums, a very meaningful experience that persists years and decades later. I think that if any honors college is doing its job right, the teaching approaches and pedagogies are high impact and transformative. That’s what we’re aiming at, and I think we have a lot of good evidence that it’s working.”
With tenured Schedler Honors College faculty, an outstanding assistant dean in Dr. Patricia Smith, a living learning community and strong curriculum, Scott thinks the program is in good shape. “Our fundraising and development are going well. We’ve got a good endowment and good physical space. Our reputation in the national honors community is extremely strong.”