Opinion by Dr. Larry Carver
The Liberal Arts Honors Program (LAH) is about to turn 20.
The LAH program began as an effort to complement the Plan II Honors Program and to provide more honors opportunities for an increasingly talented student body. As a result, the LAH program welcomed its first freshman class in the fall of 1990, five years after the upper division LAH program had been developed.
The mission of the LAH program is to provide students special opportunities for enriched learning and recognition at every level of their academic careers. Currently, some 500 students participate in the program, 120 of whom are freshmen, selected this year from 985 applicants. The students are taking advantage of the academic opportunities the LAH program affords, taking honors classes at the lower and upper division, and many of the seniors are embarked on writing a senior thesis. The LAH program will soon award $3,000 Rapoport King Thesis Scholarships to 15 seniors to support their research.
LAH students are also participating in the LAH Student Council, the Liberal Arts Honors governing body, in “Foot in the Door,” the LAH Theatrical group, and in the LAH Music Ensemble. Additionally, students are beginning to submit work to Echo, LAH’s literary magazine, and soon they will sign up for Ransom Reading groups, reading a book with a faculty member over the semester break.
Thanks to the support of Deans Sheldon Ekland-Olson, Richard Lariviere, and now Randy Diehl, the program has attracted distinguished visiting faculty. Harry Middleton, former director of the LBJ Library, regularly teaches a course on the presidency of Lyndon Johnson, students being privileged among other things to do original research in LBJ Library, to visit the LBJ Ranch and to hear from a number of people who served in the Johnson administration. Steven Isenberg, former editor of Newsday and vice president of the Los Angeles Times, has taught LAH courses for the past five years, and Greg Curtis, former and long-serving editor of Texas Monthly, teaches an LAH course, “Writing Non-fiction: Intensive,” in the fall semesters. Prudence MacIntosh, author and long-time Texas Monthly writer, will also be teaching an upper division LAH writing class this coming spring semester.
The courses offered by Curtis and MacIntosh fit well with the emphasis LAH places on writing. Dean Diehl funds 10 upper class LAH students to serve as writing tutors in our introductory one-hour course. The students, given an audience of peers, write more and write better while receiving abundantly helpful comments on their papers.
While anniversaries are a time to reflect on the past they are also a time to plan for the future. The goal of LAH is to be one of the premier honors programs in the country, attracting first rank students to the university, providing them with award-winning academic advisers and setting them on the path to taking an honors degree.
To do that we will need to increase significantly our scholarship aid. Currently, LAH is able to provide 15 freshman scholarships and 30 scholarships for upperclassmen, each funded at $2,000. We would like to increase each scholarship to $5,000 and offer 40 for freshmen and 60 for upperclassmen.
We would like every student entering LAH to come with a passport and to study abroad. To make that possible for all students we will need a sizable endowment.
We also think that all LAH students should participate in at least one internship. Unfortunately, internships often do not pay. Here, too, we need more funding.
The LAH experience, however, will never depend solely on more funding. That experience takes place when talented students encounter gifted faculty. Perhaps the greatest challenge we face as we look to turning 21 and legal is ensuring that each year we can find the faculty to teach our classes.
To help us celebrate this upcoming milestone for our program and to get a sense of our students—their energy and creativity, their activities and accomplishments, in and out of the classroom—as they pursue a liberal education, please visit our LAH Office, Gebauer 1.206.