SAU Honors College

The SAU Honors College was founded in 2003 by Dr. David Rankin, president of SAU. Dr. Lynne Belcher served as founding director and recently retired from SAU. The Honors College seeks and admits qualified students who seek to pursue a serious academic program with equally gifted peers and committed teachers. Honors classes are small and provide academically enriching opportunities for students and the faculty who teach them. Currently, SAU enrolls over 175 honors students and graduates about 66% of admitees in four years or less. Anyone interested in applying to the Honors College or seeking further information should contact the director, Dr. Edward P. Kardas at or at 870 904-8897.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Southern Arkansas and Appalachian State Travel to Cuba

The following document was submitted today for consideration in the 2017 NCHC Program. That meeting will be held in Atlanta in November.

Submitted to NCHC Meeting in Atlanta, November 2017
Cuba and Honors: Two Colleges Experience International Education
Edward Kardas, Southern Arkansas University
Joseph Gonzalez, Appalachian State University
Laura Nash, Southern Arkansas University
Paige Anderholm, Appalachian State University
Kenyon Jeffrey, Appalachian State University
Two professors and three students from two schools describe their experiences in traveling to Cuba. For SAU, traveling to Cuba required two week-long preparatory visits, attendance at an international conference in Havana, two 8-day tours with students, personal contact with Cuban officials, and overcoming much red tape. Speaking and writing Spanish well were important in many ways to ultimately getting permission to visit and to work with Cuban faculty and students for a week on their campus. The result was the creation of a large mural on their campus. The student from SAU traveled there during the third trip visiting several cities on the island. The short time spent there felt like several weeks, she said. She found Cuba beautiful, clear, and clean and noted that Cubans scrimped and saved for their cars, farms, and daily lives. She was struck on how much the Embargo had slowed progress. She wishes to return to continue learning about the unique experiences Cuba has to offer. ASU's visits were part of a course on Cuban culture (including music and dance). The first trip showed mixed results in that students treated it more like a vacation than a learning opportunity. Thus, changes were made during the subsequent trip (increasing academic rigor and recruiting serious participants). Those changes were successful and will be reported here. Students acted more like travelers, not tourists. They avoided the tourist sites, slept in private homes, and traveled in buses and taxis. They  reported that Cuba offered friendship, spectacle, music, dance, and food, but the language barrier was a challenge. At the same time, they realized their responsibility to act as ambassadors from a country many Cubans still viewed as an implacable enemy. The trip made them view themselves in new and more mature ways. 
General Session
Topic Areas
    International Education
    Honors Pedagogy
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Description for the conference program
Professors and students from two colleges describe the challenges, opportunities, and rewards of traveling to Cuba. Getting there requires overcoming much red tape and a working knowledge of Spanish. Cuba offers unique cultural, agricultural, historical, and artistic opportunities for Americans, especially for those who come as travelers not tourists.
If you have presented a similar session at NCHC or a related conference in the recent past, please indicate why the topic is relevant for presentation in 2017.
Submission Date
9th Mar 2017, 10:27am EST
Latest Update
9th Mar 2017, 11:49am EST
Submission ID

Friday, March 3, 2017

SAU Honors College Founding

I found this old e-mail recently. It speaks to the founding of the SAU Honors College. Neat!

From: Donald Watt
Sent: Wednesday, December 4, 2002 3:47 PM
To: Ben Johnson; Betty McCollum; Bob Terry; Bradley Herzog; Cassandra Cooper; Claudell Woods; Dan Skelton; Dave Martinez; David Murphy; David Sixbey; Debi Rago; Donnis Taylor; Douglas Waterfield; E. Birmingham-Pokorny; Ed Kardas; Elizabeth Davis; Gina Bates; James Reppert; James Willis; Jan Duke; Jane Becnel; Japhet Makia; Joe Bates; John Cary; John Dudley; John Otey; Judith Vasser; Juping Wang; Kathleen Mallory; Kristin Larson; Linda Selman; Lynne Belcher; Margie Farris; Mark Fichter; Mary Thurlkill; Michel Hallot; Natalia Murphy; Paul Babbitt; Paul Shaver; Richard Ambler; Scotland Stout; Shannin Schroeder; Stacy Clanton; Steven Ochs; Tommy Milford; Yonghu Dai
Subject: Honors College - Programs

This afternoon at Deans' Council, I was asked by the VPAA to get input from LPA faculty regarding whether or not we would like to see and Honors College or Honors Programs at SAU.  I need this prior to next Wednesday's Deans' Council meeting.

Please give me your thoughts (brief or comprehensive) as to whether or not you would like to see SAU start:

An Honors College (more comprehensive program)

An Honors Programs (departmental honors)

Some other type of Honors opportunities.

Thanks for your help.  Good luck with finals!


Wednesday, December 14, 2016

December Grads

From L to R: Cobyn Brakebill, Ehvan Johnson, Lauren (Clai) Morehead, Mattison Carter, Cody Mashburn, and Preston West. (Not pictured: Morgan Johnson)

The Honors College congratulates its seven graduates. All received their diplomas on Friday 9 December.

Dr. Deborah Wilson, chair of the Behavioral and Social Sciences Department and 2016 Honor Professor gave the commencement speech. (View it here)

The Honors College is proud of all of its students but especially so of its latest crop of graduates. We know they will continue on to better and bigger things. Godspeed!

Friday, September 23, 2016

Lanoue Visits Honors Seminar

Dr. David Lanoue, Provost and VPAA, Southern Arkansas University

Dr. Lanoue became the first person to visit the 2016 Honors Seminar class today. He assumed the position of Provost and VPAA on 1 July 2016. Previously, he was Dean of Liberal Arts at Hawaii Pacific University.

He began his talk listing the many duties and responsibilities of his office. He is responsible for anything that falls under the label of "academic" at SAU. However, unlike the CEO of a business he is constrained by tradition, shared governance, and academic freedom, meaning that unlike a business leader he cannot rule by fiat. He noted that was a good thing.

He pointed out that his was a small office consisting of himself, Associate Provost David Crouse, and administrative assistant Keisha Crisp. He hoped that none in the audience would ever need deal with Dr. Crouse given that his main role is meting out discipline for academic dishonesty.

Next, Lanoue listed some of the duties of his office:

  • Academics
  • Meeting with Deans and Department Chairs
  • Meeting with the President and other Vice Presidents
  • Academic Personnel Issues
  • Coordinating Plans by Multiple Colleges
  • All Aspects of Student Success
  • Coordinating with Academic Support Units (Library, Graduate School, and the Registrar)
  • Re-Accreditation

Many of these topics will be covered by the Honors Seminar later in the semester.

Lanoue then described his professional life as a political scientist. He lamented describing himself as such to the public (especially to chatty airline passengers) because he argued that political scientists are not pundits but are often perceived as such. His interest in the science of politics.

He went on to discuss the history of polling, its methodology, and some of the statistical and probabilistic science behind it. He confessed that in the 2016 election he and some of his fellow political scientists have failed to stick to their science in analyzing Trump's successes in the Republican primaries. We should have followed the numbers, he said.

Polls work, he said. But, there can be problems including sampling error, rogue polls (those that, by chance, fall outside of the 95% confidence interval), and worst of all, bias. Sampling errors and rogue are easily cured by additional polling. Bias, however, is a different story.

The 1936 Literary Digest poll predicting the election of Alf Landon over FDR was one of the first examples of a biased poll. Unlike for sampling errors or rogue polls, once a bias is introduced it cannot be repaired by additional polling.

In the 1936 example the Literary Digest polled its subscribers by telephone. Unfortunately, most of those subscribers were Republicans. Thus, the poll missed the mark widely when FDR won in a landslide. He added that sources of bias include: non response, undercoverage, and lying.

He reminded the class that polls are snapshots. He illustrated that by the polls in a recent election in Hawaii. There, the incumbent was 18 points behind a few days before the election but lost by nearly twice as many points on election day. Independent voters, he said, made up their mind in the interval.

Modern pollsters have learned from the mistakes of the past and are much better at gauging public opinion. They also possess more useful models of voting behavior than in the past. He finished by showing the famous photo of Harry S Truman holding up the Chicago Tribune's headline: Dewey Defeats Truman. Of course, that did not happen. When all of the votes were counted, Truman won.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

2016 Entering Class

The 2016 Honors Class
The Honors College welcomes the 56 members of its class admitted in Fall 2016 and wish them a happy four years (or less) here at Southern Arkansas University.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Matriculation 2016

Southern Arkansas Board Vice President Edgar Lee

Edgar Lee addressed the 2016 Honors College first year students Sunday in the annual Matriculation Ceremony. Lee spoke of the need for service. After, all moved from Foundation Hall to Grand Hall for a reception. There, the students matriculated by signing the Honors College's record of enrollment.

The new students gathered outside of the Reynolds Campus and Community Center for a photo:

The Honors College welcomed 56 new students in 2016 and now enrolls a total of 175 students.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Teaching Honors Contract Courses

From L to R, Dr. Abraham Tucker (BIOL), Dr. Deborah Wilson (PSYC), and Dr. Paul Babbitt (PSCI)

The SAU Academy hosted a session today entitled: Teaching Honors Contract Courses. The session was designed to answer faculty questions about how to teach honors students who are in the same classroom at the same time as regular students. Most of SAU Honor Colleges' honors courses are of the contract variety.

Dr. Kardas, Honors College Director, opened the session by briefly describing honors education and honors colleges. After, he differentiated between full honors classes (all honors students, smaller class size, and taught differently) from contract honors classes.

Most of the Honors College's classes are of the contract variety. Students contract with their instructors to elevate a regular class to honors level. Today's speakers have all taught a number of contract honors classes and agreed to talk about their methods, successes, and problems.

Dr. Paul Babbitt led off and spoke mostly about his course PHIL 2403, Introduction to Philosophy. He noted that when he first taught that class as honors he did so as a full honors class. But, as demand for that class grew his department quit offering it as honors. So, Babbitt began to teach the class as a contract honors class.

Before describing his teaching, Babbitt said he found most honors students in his experience were "wannabe good students" and "risk averse." Kardas agreed and added that such descriptors were often repeated at honors meetings. Babbitt went on saying that he had a predilection for group projects and made honors students work together. To alleviate some of their anxiety, he made those projects pass-fail. Early attempts were less successful than later ones, he stressed, because he assumed students would communicate with each other more. One example, he said, was when two groups were supposed to debate, but both chose the same side. But, they learned from that mistake.

Babbitt ended by talking about how he taught upper-level honors contract courses. There, he said he simply assigned them research papers that were graded in the usual fashion.

The next speaker was Dr. Deborah Wilson. She spoke about her experiences in teaching statistics as an honors contract course. Her first experience antedated SAU's Title IX efforts (Wilson now serves on the Title IX Committee). She needed data about how other Arkansas colleges and universities were dealing with Title IX issues. So, she assigned that to her honors students as a group project. She was extremely gratified because those students later submitted their results to the National Collegiate Honors Council (NCHC) meeting in Boston and their work was accepted. In Boston, they led a student panel discussing their research and its results. Wilson was also happy because not only did the students get to present they also got to travel. Some, for instance had never left Arkansas before, others had never been on a plane.

Since then, Wilson has continued to offer contract honors credit in statistics. She has also offered such credit for research methods, domestic violence, and psychological measurement courses. In the former, a student conducted original research related to Title IX issues. He will present those results in Seattle this October at the NCHC meeting. This past summer, Wilson taught an online course in domestic violence and had an honors student contract for it. There, Wilson had the student create a brochure designed to highlight Title IX resources available on campus and in the community. Wilson's psychological measurement class honors contract involved four students. Each student self administered a battery of psychological tests and then developed a personal personality profile.

Last, Dr. Abraham Tucker spoke on how he used 23 and Me genetic tests for honors students in his genetics class the last three years. Unfortunately, the cost of those tests has doubled leading him to now purchase 23 and Me and cheaper Ancestry. com tests. The cost for those tests has, in some years, exceeded $1,000. Fortunately, those costs have been borne by the Honors College and the College of Science and Engineering, thanks to the generosity of the dean, Dr. Scott McKay.

The honors students in the genetics class get the test kits, use them, and return them to the company for the results. A few weeks later, those results come back to them online. Tucker stated that once he hands the students their kits they, and their associated data, are the student's property. They may share, or not share the data as they wish.

At the end of the semester, the honors students in the genetics class make presentations and write papers of human genomics using they data they received. They are free to reveal as much as they are comfortable. All students have an option to not test themselves (for obvious ethical reasons) and to look at random unknown data instead. Interestingly, no student thus far has chosen that option.

At the end, the audience asked questions. Two faculty in the audience, Dr. Juping Wang and Dr. Svetlana Paulson shared their experiences teaching full honors courses in Spanish and World History, respectively. Dr. Natalia Murphy also spoke of her experiences with honors students in her geography contract honors classes.