Honors Director - Danielle Smith
Dr. Danielle Smith

To the Community of Honors Program Alumni,

The losses and traumas of this year have made it profoundly challenging for all of us and have pushed us beyond what we imagined we could endure. Students, faculty, staff – we have all struggled. In October, we were devastated by the passing of Trevor Daley Pierce (AS ’24). As an incoming first year student, his family had just left him with us in August, when they dropped him off at Sadler Hall. We have extended our sympathy to his family and we will work to honor the memory of this young scholar.

We admitted 250 first year students to the Class of 2024 (Trevor’s class). While many aspects of the typical college first year experience are not possible this year, we are also working to make sure that students are part of building the Honors community, a huge part of the Honors experience. In April, we spent a few weeks reviewing student applications. While the world as we knew it had already changed radically from what it was even a year ago, we were proud to have such bright and energetic applicants and were so inspired by their accomplishments. A student started a non-profit organization that cooked and delivered Thanksgiving meals. This organization began with this student baking pies as part of a community outreach effort to provide food for people without homes. Another student was a mediator for middle school students as they addressed various conflicts. Many students were science mentors for their high school peers and middle school students. Another student conducted research in a hospital this summer, before coming to campus, while working in the community garden.

As we respond to Covid-19, many events could not be held on campus this year. In a more traditional year, the Honors Program would have welcomed students to campus in August with the annual incoming student reception, which provides space for the incoming class to meet with faculty and current students, and experience other aspects of the Honors Program as a community.

In October, I attended the virtual Honors Research Fair. A panel of students and faculty shared their research experiences and provided advice for first and second year students as to how to get started with research. In August, I also attended the week-long Summer Work in Progress Symposium, sponsored by the Office of Undergraduate Research and Creative Engagement (the SOURCE). I was particularly impressed to see such young scholars so committed to their work, as they shared about the impact of Covid-19 on their research agendas, and how they worked to shift the agenda so that they could continue to work during the summer.

We continue to enhance the Honors curriculum so that it responds to the academic needs and professional aspirations of our students, and also addresses the social, economic and political issues and events of our times. In Professor Jeffrey Rodgers’ Tell Your Story Walking course, students are curating and editing original work from Honors students and alumni for a new publication. Students in Prof. Melissa Chessher’s HNR 100: First Year Seminar, visited the historic Oakwood Cemetery, a short walk from campus. Students spent the afternoon climbing hills and drumlins, and learning about abolitionists, philanthropists, entrepreneurs, and robber barons and the Cardiff Giant!

I end my message with hope. We are faced with ever changing new realities, yet we are resilient, and we know that we will work through these challenges together as a community.

Take good care and my very best wishes. Happy Holidays!

Danielle Taana Smith

Director, Renée Crown University Honors Program

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