By Matt Blaylock and Kevin Webster, Graduate Teaching Assistants of the Chancellor’s Honors Program
The 2014–2015 academic year has already marked some important events and significant enhancements to the Chancellor’s Honors Program. This fall we hosted our fifth annual Anne Mayhew Distinguished Honors Lecture with renowned economist and former US Secretary of Labor Robert Reich; the Honors Living and Learning Community has moved into the state-of-the-art Fred D. Brown Jr. Residence Hall; and we made some special augmentations to the CHP curriculum.
One of the benefits of the Chancellor’s Honors Program is the chance to be involved in first-year experiences. Because we see community development as part of our overall goal, we work hard to bridge the academic component of our program with social activities. This effort begins even before our students arrive on campus. The summer before they begin, each freshman student has the option of signing up for an honors mentor who can answer questions about UT and the CHP. Once school starts, mentors serve as friends and guides by taking freshmen to events and providing insight into life at UT.
The Honors Living and Learning Community is another way freshman students become part of the CHP community. This group is housed in the new Fred D. Brown Jr. Residence Hall and has a number of events just for them. Each year, students in the LLC volunteer to be part of the Freshman Advisory Committee and offer suggestions for events. Not only do they brainstorm about their community’s programming, they also help implement it. Thus far, the LLC has taken a tour of Neyland Stadium and organized multiple movie nights. Other events open to any first-year student are the CHP Book Club and the CHP Theatre Club.
“I primarily joined the CHP Advisory Committee to make connections with fellow honors students across diverse majors and interests. The committee also provided a chance to shape my first-year college experience as well as that of my fellow CHP peers.”
—Cullen Sayegh (Chancellor’s Honors Prgoram, Class of 2014)
The CHP has added some important elements to the curriculum for the incoming class. Now students are not just involved in a demanding and enriching academic curriculum. They also provide service to the community and receive a multifaceted honors experience. Each academic year, CHP students will engage in twenty-five hours of community service to foster a service presence in the Knoxville and campus communities.
Also new to the CHP curriculum this year are Becker Seminars, which engage CHP students in academic and intellectual discussions and expose students to topics across academia. The seminars encompass academic lectures from distinguished educators and leaders to film discussions led by UT professors.
The Becker Seminars are named in honor of Professor Emerita Susan Becker, who was the first director of what was then called the University Honors Program. Born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, she spent some time as a high school history teacher before returning to graduate school at Case Western Reserve University for a Ph.D. in history. She came to UT in 1974 and was the first person in the school’s history to teach women’s history. In 1979 she earned a UT National Alumni Association Outstanding Teacher Award, one of several honors over her long career. In 1981, her book The Origins of the Equal Rights Amendment: American Feminism Between the Wars was published and received several positive reviews. After a distinguished career as a professor and a writer, Becker retired in 1999, but she remained active in the history department and in Knoxville and national politics. She died on October 10, 2010.
CHP is grateful to have the opportunity to name the seminar series after her.
Thanks to Bruce Wheeler, Director Emeritus, for his contribution about Susan Becker.