Wright State University will merge its Graduate School and University Honors Program into the College of Graduate Programs and Honors Studies, creating an innovative new college designed to elevate the visibility of both programs and ensure student success.
Merging the two programs will create a pipeline for undergraduate honors students who want to pursue a graduate degree at Wright State.
For the past three years, on average 22% of students who graduated from the University Honors Program returned to Wright State as graduate students.
Many honors students come to Wright State to do research and establish a connection with a professor, said Shu Schiller, Ph.D., interim dean of the Graduate School.
“And they can naturally move on to a graduate program at Wright State,” she said. “It’s a natural pathway.”
The College of Graduate Programs and Honors Studies will officially launch at the beginning of spring semester. Schiller will serve as interim dean of the College of Graduate Programs and Honors Studies until a permanent dean is identified.
“The goal of this merger is to elevate both units together to increase the visibility and the status of these units and to create synergy and new opportunities between the two,” said Provost Amy Thompson, Ph.D. “It’s a win-win for our students. It helps with efficiencies as well as recognition and elevation.”
While many other higher education institutions in Ohio have graduate or honors colleges, Wright State administrators say the new model will be unique in the state.
“This would be the first college of its kind in Ohio in bringing together honors and graduate programs,” Thompson said. “This is our opportunity to be unique and innovative.”
One area of emphasis for the college will be providing better support for students.
The university will create two graduate assistant positions for Ph.D. students to work on student success, mentoring and supporting co-curricular activities. Existing scholarship funds will be used to support the new positions.
The graduate assistant in honors in residence will support honors students through co-curricular experiential learning activities on campus and in the community and in the honors community.
The graduate student success position will support the academic needs of graduate students, which can help with retention and completion rates said.
One goal of the new college is to create opportunities for learning and working together among and between undergraduate honors students and graduate students in living-learning communities.
Schiller hopes that bringing together high-achieving undergraduate and graduate students will spark creativity and innovation, especially around research.
“Part of what the new college will do is create opportunities for students to collaborate, to truly understand interdisciplinary fields,” Schiller said. “When we have undergraduate honors students and graduate students working together, I think the sky is the limit.”
The college will also help graduate students develop a sense of connection with each other and the Wright State community. While the university offers many campus activities and events for undergraduate students, more campus programming and activities geared toward graduate students are needed, Schiller said.
“I think a sense of belonging has to be created in the program and in our campus community,” Schiller said.
The new college also presents an opportunity to review the honors studies curriculum and find opportunities to add new interdisciplinary academic programs.
“Curriculum innovation is critical,” Schiller said.
Schiller also plans to form a graduate and honors student advisory board to provide feedback to the Dean’s Office.
The university’s plan for the new college was developed in a very consultive manner, Thompson said. A survey soliciting feedback from faculty and staff was open for two months, and numerous discussions about the plan were held during Faculty Senate and Staff Senate meetings. The Student Government Association was also involved in the planning and passed a unanimous resolution in support of the new college.
Rahul Shah, a biological sciences major, said he loves the university’s plans for the new college.
“As an honors student planning to continue my studies at Wright State pursuing a Ph.D. in biomedical sciences, I can truly see how this new college will not only increase recruitment to Wright State but also increase retention of graduating honors students at Wright State with these students becoming more inclined to pursue graduate school,” said Shah, who is also a student trustee on the Wright State Board of Trustees.
The Wright State University Honors Program is designed to meet the needs of the university’s brightest, most ambitious students. It is open to students of all majors and provides a varied curriculum consisting of honors sections of Wright State Core courses, service-learning courses, interdisciplinary core courses in the humanities and social sciences and interdisciplinary upper-level topical seminars.
The primary mission of the Honors Program is to produce graduates who are well-educated, socially conscious and capable of assuming leadership roles in society.
Almost 800 undergraduates are registered in the University Honors Program.
Wright State’s Graduate School serves more than 2,700 graduate and professional students in 70 master’s and doctoral programs and 50 graduate certificate programs.
Embodying the university’s spirit of innovation, the Graduate School offers groundbreaking research, award-winning faculty, and nationally ranked programs in which students can engage in innovative scholarly work and advance their careers.