Major Donation Transforms Wingate’s Honors Program Into an Honors College

Features Writer: Savannah Phillips

Wingate University’s Honors Program has transitioned into a Honors College in the past year.

Dr. Allison Kellar, the founding dean, has directed the program for eight years and says that it is growing thanks to a generous donation.

Former Wingate Board of Trustee member, Evelyn Taylor, passed away and left a donation to the university. “A part of the funding went towards honors,” said Kellar, “to strengthen what the program can offer.”

Kellar says that it is important for students to have a memorable experience and have the opportunities to widen their horizons through honors. This includes securing culture events, offering experiential learning and travel, research presentation opportunities and more.

“The Honors Program has helped me to excel in college by expanding my confidence in what I’m capable of achieving,” said senior accounting major Trevor Grant.

“Yes, there is more work on the plate of an honors student. But this little push of extra, meaningful work has motivated me to apply the same type of work in other areas of my life. Just like success in the classroom, nothing worth having or achieving in life comes easy,” said Grant.

With 100 students currently enrolled in the Honors College, class sizes are smaller and more intense, guaranteeing class discussions to be highly engaging.

“I was amazed at the professionalism of my classmates and the depth of the discussion that took place,” said biology and history major Ethan Hancock.

“As I progressed through the Honors Program, I was able to conduct research in my major that helped set my pharmacy application apart from others,” said the senior.

The small community of honors students at Wingate will not grow exponentially in the coming years, predicts Kellar. In three years from now, she anticipates having 130-140 members enrolled.

The Honors College is now offering an incoming freshmen experience as well, so that students can immerse themselves in the program before they arrive on campus. The application was launched last week and Kellar says it has created a “buzz”.

Current students must be nominated by a faculty member or nominate themselves at the end of the semester. The suggested GPA is 3.4 because “college is hard and students are adjusting,” Kellar says. There is still room for Wingate students to join the Honors College, but Kellar is focusing the space on incoming freshmen.

“We’re really working on the process and procedures right now,” said Kellar, “and I’m excited to see where it goes, the adventure and the journey of moving forward.”

“I’m interested in how things grow, not in numbers, but in what kind of experiences we can bring to students and what students can bring to the Honors College and university,” she said.

Kellar opened up about her inner struggles when it comes to balancing being a professor and the Dean of the Honors College. She had only been at Wingate for two years when she was asked by the prior Dean of Arts and Sciences, Dr. Don Merrill, to take over.

As a new faculty member, Kellar wanted to show her co-workers that she was a solid choice for the position. “I really wanted to do a good job,” she said, “and it was important to me that I made sure I worked hard. Though honored and excited, I experienced imposter syndrome.”

Though Kellar cannot teach as much as she used to, she expressed how crucial it is that she continue no matter what. By working with honors students in the classroom, Kellar says that she gets to know them better.

The honor course offerings, primarily taught by full-time faculty, are built from the needs of the students. Various options, such as honors contracts and upper level research, are available to help tailor to each individual student’s needs as best as possible.

“I have been exposed to new topics outside of my major, more discussion-based classes led by students and a lot of stimulation in classes,” said senior criminal justice major Heather Morse.

“I never would have conducted research by myself if it wasn’t for the honors program. I’m so grateful to have worked closely with one of my favorite professors on a topic I feel so passionately about,” said Morse regarding Dr. Geneice Monde, assistant dean of the Honors College. “She has been so helpful and supportive throughout my entire time at Wingate.”

Departments on campus usually rotate who teaches honors courses each semester, but the speciality of each professor must be relevant and impactful. They should have a “my door is always open” attitude and a caring mindset, says Kellar.
“Honors students are life-long learners and are intellectually curious individuals,” she said. “It is meaningful to teach. I will do the best I can and the rest will take care of itself. Not teaching is a lost connection with students.”

Kellar looks forward to seeing the places these honor students will go in the future and what kind of scholars they will become.

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