CSU Opens More Doors to Gifted with Plans to Develop Honors College

COLUMBUS, Ga. — Columbus State University today announced plans to develop an Honors College that’s expected to broaden opportunities for both current and future gifted students.

“We need to provide that extra effort to our highest-achieving students, and we can do it through a college,” said Cindy Ticknor, a mathematics professor who has been leading CSU’s Honors Program since 2009.

Tom Hackett, Columbus State provost and vice president for academic affairs, announced the creation of the Honors College, effective fall 2014, at a luncheon today for prospective honors students, as well as their parents, current Honors Program students and many of the faculty who guide their studies.

 “The tremendous increase in interest and numbers in our Honors Program reflects our faculty's commitment to attracting and supporting the brightest of students,” Hackett said. “Establishing an Honors College is the next step in this commitment to student research and creative endeavors."

Columbus State currently has four academic colleges – Arts, Business and Computer Science, Education and Health Professions, and Letters and Sciences. Establishing an Honors College, with students from all other colleges, recognizes the value of the existing program, its past successes and its potential for the future, CSU officials said.

“They’re doing some amazing things,” Ticknor said of the program’s alumni, who have gone on to earn dozens of graduate and professional degrees. “They have been able to leverage what they do in the program to get into prestigious graduate schools.”

Enrollment in CSU’s nearly 100 enriched honors courses has grown by 182 percent since fall 2009, taxing academic resources affected by the 45 percent reduction in state funding to CSU since then. As a result, it was crucial that the Honors College proposal won early support from the Tower Society, a CSU donor group whose members pledge a minimum $1,000 gift annually. Tower Society members have been the Honors Program’s strongest private supporters since the program’s creation in 1998, with top honors scholarship winners known as Tower Scholars. Also important was earning the endorsement of the Faculty Senate to create a new college that will be an overlay onto the existing academic structure of the university, officials said.

“Creating the college also funds more opportunities for honors classes and seminars that they’re taking to excel,” said Ticknor, who Hackett named the Honors College's interim dean. “By becoming a college and attracting more students and more resources for those students, we’re able to offer a greater variety of coursework.”

U.S. Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, R-Ga., spoke briefly at the luncheon, thanking CSU faculty teaching honors courses for their roles in the future of their students.

“This Honors College is going to broaden the influence of Columbus State University not only in this state but in this region and across the United States,” Westmoreland said.

One immediate result of the change in status is creation of an Honors Academy to serve CSU’s most gifted dual enrollment students — those enrolled in CSU courses while finishing high school. Columbus State is already attracting dual enrollment students from as far away as Atlanta who are taking enriched honors courses on a trial basis.

“Some may choose to stay here and make CSU their first choice,” Ticknor said of the Honors Academy students. “They’re studying with experts in their fields, and that’s a big difference in culture as you move from high school to college. With this academy, we’re going to be able to help the highest-achieving students go beyond what they can get from their high school experience.”

One main goal of the new Honors College will be to boost support for its students who are willing to work with enough diligence to excel beyond what’s expected of them.

“If students get into a national competition, there should not be a question about  funding their travel to compete because they’re working hard to make that happen,” Ticknor said.

The new Honors College would also expand CSU’s ability to support students interested in pursuing more in-depth study abroad, which 90 percent of honors students now enjoy, as well as other school-related travel experiences.

“It doesn't have to be international,” Ticknor said. “It could be sending geology majors to Yellowstone.”

Honors College admission requirements will mirror those currently in place:

  • High school academic grade point average of 3.5 or higher.
  • Combined math-reading SAT score of at least 1,200 with a minimum of 550 on each subsection or an ACT composite score of 26.
  • No college-prep curriculum deficiencies preventing regular admission to CSU.

For more information on the current Honors Program and the future Honors College, visit http://ColumbusState.edu/honors.

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Cindy Ticknor, interim dean of the Honors College, and Tom Hackett, CSU’s provost and vice president for academic affairs, pause after the luncheon announcement in front of a rendering of a banner known as a gonfalon that will represent Honors College at commencement later this year. (High-resolution version of photo)

Related: Full text of Provost Tom Hackett's prepared remarks