Honors College outgrows housing facility

Kara Haight

Because of the substantial growth of Grand Valley State University’s Frederik Meijer Honors College this fall, a second living center has been shaped and organized to fit the needs of Honors students. In the past, Niemeyer Living Center was the only Honors housing option, but Hills Living Center has been converted to accommodate overflow.

Jeff Chamberlain, director of the Honors College, said Hills was a good option.

Although students showed some dissonance with the idea at first, Chamberlain said those he has spoken with love it in Hills. “(Students in Hills) love the close community,” he said. “Niemeyer is large, and Hills is much smaller. You can get to know 110 other people, you can’t connect with 450.”

Students living in Hills are still receiving the benefits of Honors living. Janaan Decker, the Honors student services coordinator, said everything available to students in Niemeyer is available for Hills residents, as well.

“We do a number of things to keep them connected,” Chamberlain said, adding that Honors faculty and advisers make frequent trips to the Hills living center.

With the Honors students enjoying the community atmosphere in freshman living, no plans are in the works to construct additional Honors housing, said Andy Beachnau, director of Housing and Health Services at GVSU.

“Hills will remain an option for freshmen Honors students for 2013-14,” Beachnau said, adding that the living center was chosen as housing for overflow Honors students because of the location within the freshman living centers and because of the apartment-style units.

“We haven’t decided where this is going to go,” Chamberlain said, adding that there are still non-Honors residents living in Hills, so there is still room for expansion. “It’s a growing feeling that Hills is a great way for Honors freshman to get started at GVSU.”

The expansion comes after a steady growth in freshman Honors students over the past three years. The Honors College had 310 freshmen in fall 2010, 350 in fall 2011, and 405 in 2012.

Chamberlain said the growth is both internally and externally, but is not due to the actions of the college. “We have about 100 more students this year than last year, but we don’t go out and recruit people, because the college is a relatively limited group,” Chamberlain said. “We don’t make as many invitations.”

Although the growth will allow the college to be more selective, Chamberlain said it will not become more exclusive or raise requirements.

For admittance into the Honors College, applicants must be accepted as GVSU students with a minimum 3.5 GPA and ACT score of 28, standards that will not change anytime soon. Chamberlain said a requirement change would not significantly alter who becomes a Honors student.

“(GPA and ACT score) are not the only things we look at (when admitting students into the program), there are other factors that come into play,” he said, adding that a previously written essay, self-assessment and prompted essay are all other factors that determine admission. “The statistics stuff isn’t helpful to change because we try and look at all the bits and pieces.”

When the admissions process does begin, Chamberlain said two traits are examined in Honors candidates. “We look for students with motivation and a high level of capability,” Chamberlain said, adding that these traits “aren’t always shown on a test.”

Although the bar will not be raised to make the college more exclusive, Chamberlain said the gap between Honors students and non-Honors students is still distinguishable, as demonstrated by an annual award distribution.

“Every year the Phi Kappa Phi honors society gives out the freshman awards to freshman who receive a 4.0 their first semester,” Chamberlain said. “(On the list of students eligible), one-fifth are Honors students, over 20 percent.”

The director said the yearly recognition might give some insight into how the two groups compare.

“Honors is being over represented, (which means) Honors students are doing better overall,” he said. “You don’t have to be an Honors student to be doing well, but they tend to.”
For more information about joining the Honors College, visit www.gvsu.edu/honor.
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