Spotlight on NMU Honors Program
The NMU Honors Program was thrust into the spotlight recently with news that a scholarship created by a $5 million commitment from John and Shirley Berry would give preference to students who enroll in the program and pursue a major in the College of Business.
A historical overview on the program's website indicates an early recommendation for an Honors Program came from the Committee on
Undergraduate Programs and was presented to the Academic Senate back in May 1967. Little was done at that time to develop such a program, but the idea was discussed over the years by both faculty and administration. The Honors Program was put into operation in the fall of 1998.
In its revised and current format, the Honors Program begins with a two-year, four-course sequence that allows incoming students to fulfill their liberal studies requirements with guaranteed entrance into small classes taught by top-notch faculty.
“In the third and fourth years, students work one on one with professors within their majors, engaged in individualized courses of research that are generally unheard of at the undergraduate level,” said David Wood (English), who directs the program and also teaches within it.
Enrollment in the program is as high as it’s been over at least the last 12 years, he added. The average number of incoming participants is 35-40. This fall, that figure will rise to about 50.
“The goal is to retain what makes the Honors Program special and much of that has to do with small class sizes that offer the individual attention one might expect from a nationally renowned liberal arts college, but for a fraction of the cost,” said Wood. “Students entering the Honors Program under the Berry Scholarship will pay minimal out-of-pocket expenses. John and Shirley found it appealing that they could invest in an established NMU program that has generated some wonderful success stories.”
Wood points to spring graduate Kirstin Meyer as one stellar example. Meyer completed her zoology degree in three years, published three papers, discovered a few species of freshwater crab and will spend the next year as a researcher at the Alfred Wegener Institute of Polar and Marine Research in Bremerhaven, Germany, as part of the U.S. Student Fulbright Program.
“NMU is just flexible enough as a mid-size institution to offer the broad scope of classes necessary, but also to have an Honors Program that encourages students to work on research that tends to be coauthored, especially in the sciences,” said Wood. “While the Honors Program typically draws students from the hard sciences and humanities, [the Berrys] also saw a new opportunity. Their gift will help to increase the representation of bright and talented business-minded students.”
Wood is the fourth director of the Honors Program. He was preceded by Michael Broadway (College of Arts and Sciences), Robbie Goodrich (History) and original director Bill Knox.