Planning is underway for Ferris State University Honors Program offerings during the 2021-22 academic year. The planning focuses on group cultural events, community service outreach and research collaboration opportunities.
Honors Program Director Peter Bradley said a change in the Residential Life Scholarship could factor into their current field of prospects, as COVID-19 lessened the impact of that offer since all Ferris students lived in single rooms.
“We anticipate having around 200 first time in any college (FTIAC) students this fall, which is fewer than our peak numbers, from the 2018-19 academic year,” Bradley said. “Our emphasis remains on recruiting those students who qualify for the program, based on their high school grade point average and college test scores, who also agree to our academic requirements, along with service learning and leadership training, for the advancement of the public good and engagement in a global society.”
Bradley said 2021-22 represents the 25th year for the Honors Program, which has changed to represent a more diverse group of participants.
“There was a time when more than one-third of the Honors students were enrolled in Pre-Pharmacy studies,” Bradley said. “We still have dozens of students in that curriculum, but the College of Engineering Technology’s degree paths are now more prevalent within our cohort. The College of Business’ Digital Animation and Game Design program also offers our students an opportunity to broaden their collegiate experience.”
Bradley said students who took part in the dual enrollment program through the Rockford Public Schools make up a significant subset among Honors students and those who pursue degrees from Ferris’ College of Arts, Sciences and Education.”
Added Bradley, “We are asking Honors students to take up intentional service projects with nonprofits and other deserving organizations in West Michigan, as part of our Honors 100 freshman sections. We see this as an excellent way to connect these students with groups they can collaborate with while modeling an intentional effort to be active participants in service and learning opportunities. This August, our Days of Service and Learning facilitators will join other program leaders for a retreat at Camp Newaygo, which should be a great benefit to structure this aspect of their learning.”
Adjusting their activity schedule because of COVID-19 required flexibility and imagination for Honors Program staff and students in the 2020-21 academic year.
“We were decorating and delivering the sack supper bags used by the Kids Food Basket program in Grand Rapids and Muskegon,” Bradley said. “We also had a group of students go to the KFB farm at its Grand Rapids headquarters to weed some of their growing areas. Arranging cultural events and meeting the 15-hour-per-semester community service requirement should be more straightforward in the year to come, as we anticipate fewer personal safety requirements for our participants.”
Bradley said another significant Honors Program advance is greater collaboration with the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs.
“We have established an Honors contract, which calls for our students to conduct and complete a research project, in addition to their other requirements,” he said. “Learning what it takes to make a compelling and thoughtful presentation can only help Honors students move toward their academic goals and to achieve excellence.”
Bradley said the program’s 2021 Senior Symposium was also a vivid learning opportunity, as they turned to the gather.com platform to offer up and safely communicate during poster presentations.
“There was substantial research involved to produce their findings, then present that work in Gather’s virtual exhibition venue,” Bradley said. “Those attending the symposium were able to learn from our students, in video conference conversations where our seniors could demonstrate their skills to peers and supporters.”
Finally, the Honors Program hopes to enlist greater support from its alumni, who learned through and gained from their experiences as some of Ferris’ top students.
“We have an eight-member alumni advisory board, who help us to support current students while reaching out to those who apply what they learned in their communities,” Bradley said. “We recently surveyed alumni, who were sentimental about the diverse cultural enrichment we provided them, from ‘Lunch and Learn’ sessions to concerts and stage plays. As we look forward to once again having live performances available to our Honors students, program alumni remember fondly how they would attend those shows at no charge, in a peer community they still regard as friends.”