Florida Gulf Coast University’s much-heralded Honors Program has graduated into a full-fledged college serving almost 900 high-achieving students.
The Honors College offers a challenging curriculum that affords top students opportunities to take advanced courses in their majors, conduct research, study abroad and access resources aimed at helping them excel and succeed.
“The Honors College encourages and supports students increasingly taking an active and creative role in their education, gaining skills and experiences that will transform their lives,” says Honors College Director Clay Motley.
“Honors students engage in research and creative activities, study abroad, create substantive service projects and become leaders,” he says. “By the time they graduate, they have much more than good grades and a diploma; they are able to demonstrate that they are self-motivated scholars and leaders who make a difference in the world.”
While FGCU has operated an Honors Program since 1998, it has grown substantially in recent years in both enrollment and resources, so that it is now ready to become its own entity.
“People often ask about the real difference between an Honors Program and an Honors College,” says Undergraduate Studies Dean Dawn Kirby. “In addition to gaining increased visibility and resources, an Honors College is able to offer students more options for participating in a wider array of programs.”
With input from current Honors students and the Honors Executive Board, and an understanding of national best practices, the college is expanding how students experience Honors courses, helping to recruit top-notch faculty and working toward exciting options such as study away/abroad courses, Kirby says.
An Honors College typically serves as a way to attract high-achieving students who are looking for a challenging curriculum with opportunities for national awards, scholarships and greater chances to study abroad and conduct research. Previous FGCU Honors standouts have been awarded international Fulbright fellowships and gained acceptance into elite graduate programs at institutions such as Oxford University in England.
“The Honors College will help us enrich students’ academic experiences, community involvement and connections with faculty,” Kirby says. “In short, the Honors College will serve as one of the signature elements of the learning environment here at FGCU.”
Nora Johnson, a senior finance major from Lithia, Fla., was attracted to the program for all of those reasons and for the sense of community it fosters.
“It’s a family away from home in truly every sense,” says Johnson, who is the assistant director of the Honors mentors this year.
In addition to serving as a mentor, she has traveled abroad to study Irish identity through literature and culture and conducted research that she presented at a national conference and subsequently published. She also serves as director of community outreach and emcee for the annual St. Baldrick’s Day event, which raises money to combat childhood cancer.
Johnson completed two summer internships at Massimo Zanetti Beverage USA, a large coffee company. When she graduates, she plans to specialize in coffee commodities, “analyzing the coffee futures market and then executing transactions to develop high-quality products for mass consumption,” she says.
Johnson believes her FGCU experience has been invaluable.
“I’ve had so many opportunities at FGCU,” she says. “I’m truly not the same person I was when I walked in the door.”
Honors College members represent the top 5 percent of students at the university.
Students may enter FGCU as Honors College students, provided that they meet the criteria, or may be invited to join the college once they have completed some coursework and demonstrated academic excellence and a desire for personal growth. Transfer students are also eligible for admission.