Breanna Hill, Features Editor
Jacksonville State University first introduced the Honors Program in 2009. At the beginning, it was under the direction of Steven Whitton, a JSU English professor who retired in 2017.
The organization was established to follow a number of goals and objectives. They are as follows: to foster critical thinking and intellectual curiosity, to promote the open exchange of ideas, to value the strength that comes with inclusiveness, to encourage innovative and interdisciplinary classroom instruction, to embrace service and social responsibility and to prepare students to be leaders in their chosen field.
“The Honors Program prioritizes creating enriching opportunities for community involvement,” said Lauren Usrey, president of the JSU Honors Program.
As recent as the fall semester the organization partnered with the Red Cross to organize a successful blood drive.
The pandemic caused a blood shortage and the organization contributed their time and dedication to the cause. The pandemic has also dimmed the practice of social interaction, causing people to feel isolated.
In efforts to brighten up campus, the organization created an Encouraging Poster Campaign where posters were posted across campus to shine a positive light.
“We have an ongoing partnership with the local animal shelter, Rockin’ “P” Rescue, where students can go any day of the week to volunteer,” said Usrey.
Before the pandemic hit, the program also volunteered at the Boys & Girls Club, worked serving tables with Jacksonville Christian Outreach Center and frequently delivered goodies to brighten residents’ days at Legacy Village of Jacksonville. The group is also known to hold donation drives for various operations.
“On a day-to-day basis, members of the Honors Program participate in quality Honors Courses, which consist of smaller class sizes and one-on-one interactions with peers and instructors,” said Usrey.
Members of the program are also allowed access to the use of Honors facilities for computer use, printing and studying. The organization has also made it a priority to be flexible for the members of the group. They offer four monthly meetings that are spread out through various days of the week and times.
“We also offer at least three social events every semester, from pajamas and pancakes to movie nights,” said Usrey.
The Honors Program brings extensive service-learning opportunities for the students involved with the organization and the members have more to accomplish than just being an individual role within the group.
“Students within the program are able to fulfill their intellectual and interpersonal potential, while also expanding their skills to become leaders within the community,” said Usrey.
The Honors Program hosts weekly meetings online due to CDC and JSU guidelines. Social events as well as service opportunities have been designed to meet the requirements and restrictions given by CDC and the university.
The staggering days and times of the meetings is very beneficial for the organization that currently has over 300 active members.
There are requirements to be inducted into the program and students may apply for the program at any time.
Incoming freshmen interested in joining the program must have either a 25 ACT composite/SAT equivalent score and a 3.0 high school GPA. If they do not have a test score, they must have a 3.3 high school GPA. If a current JSU student wants to join, they must have at least a 3.5 JSU GPA. The application for the program is online.