Opportunities abound with FHSU Honors College

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By Diane Gasper-O'Brien
University Relations and Marketing
HAYS, Kan. -- Kaylan Lagerman wasn't aware of the Honors College at Fort Hays State University when she made her college choice.

After just one semester at FHSU, the Great Bend freshman is so impressed with her experience with the program that she now serves as an ambassador for the university's Student Recognition Program. The SRP is a multi-city tour in three different states that recognizes prospective FHSU students and their families.

Lagerman agreed to be an ambassador because she wants other students to be well aware of the benefits of the Honors College.

"I want to help get the word out to prospective students," Lagerman said. "There are so many great opportunities with the Honors College."

The program is in just its second year, but it has already seen rapid growth.

From 28 students in its first year in 2015-16, the Honors College now is comprised of 44 students, with the possibility of as many as 35 more joining for the 2017-18 school year.

The Honors College -- whose application process features several specific requirements such as a 3.5 grade point average and a 28 ACT score -- offers students a myriad of opportunities ranging from enhanced curriculum to professional development. More information about the Honors College can be found at www.fhsu.edu/honorscollege.

"There have always been lots of bright students at Fort Hays State," said Matt Means, the program's director. "They just weren't in an Honors College."

Members of the Honors College come from all walks of life and feature a multitude of majors.

A segment of a residence hall is designated specifically for Honors College freshman housing, and students are exposed to enhanced curriculum and research projects, as well as an abundance of leadership opportunities through the Personal Development Institute on campus.

"Seventy-five percent of our Honors College students are involved in two or more extracurricular activities," Means said. "They are out in the community getting involved and making a difference. That is something I stress very strongly."

Several Honors College students are senators for the Student Government Association, while 20 percent participate in intercollegiate athletics.

"I think nearly every club and organization has one of our students in it," Means said.

A lot of leadership takes place in day-to-day decision-making in the program.

"The majority of those decisions are shaped by students because I believe in learning by doing," Means said. "They are learning leadership by helping the program succeed and grow. It gives students a tremendous emotional buy-in to the program. They are intricately and intimately involved, so it means more to them."

Lagerman said she adjusted to college life quickly as an Honors College student.

"I made 40 friends right off the bat, being on the same (dorm) floor," she said.

Clayton Capra is a senior who can attest to the benefits of being involved in the Honors College. He is a senior vocal performance major from Dighton who was in his junior year at Fort Hays State in the program's inaugural year.

Capra has maintained a perfect 4.0 GPA throughout his high school and college careers but was busy with other organizations and didn't participate in the Distinguished Scholars Program, the predecessor to the Honors College.

Capra heard there would be scholarship opportunities through the Honors College, so he decided to apply.

The rewards have been so much more than just monetary, however.

"The Honors College has opened up a lot of networking opportunities for me and others, both on campus and in general," he said. "I get to meet so many different people through some of the honors level courses that involve people from all kinds of majors. It's connected people who might not have had the opportunity to meet otherwise."

While one of the requirements to be accepted into the program is a 3.5 grade point average, the average GPA of the current group at FHSU is 3.8.

While Means smiles when he talks about the program's high GPA, he is even prouder of another Honors College feat -- retention rate.

"We have not lost one student to another university," said Means, who added that support from faculty and staff has been vital to the success of the program.

"You talk about this being a team thing; this is a university-wide successful project," he said. "We have 40 faculty, staff and students involved in one of our committees to keep this ship moving.

"This is great for the university in so many dimensions," Means added. "These are students who are going to be successful in life -- and think of what kind of alumni they are going to be."

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