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Scholars Invitational Offers Early Orientation

This spring the Honors College collaborated with the University Office of Admissions to host the first Scholars Invitational, an event that allows high-caliber incoming students to fulfill their orientation requirements and register for classes before all other incoming students. The landmark event occurred on April 20th and was attended by over 200 University scholarship recipients. About 180 of these students are now part of the Honors College. 

In previous years, the Honors College offered early academic advising to students through the Spring Invitational. That event, which hosted up to 70 students each spring, was not considered an official orientation, and although students left with courses in mind, they still had to return to attend Orientation and register for classes. This year’s Scholars Invitational marked the first time that the spring event also served as an official University orientation. 

“This event means that the Honors College is not only locking in high-quality students in April, but that these students are registered for courses and free from any summer orientation obligations as is the tradition at most other universities,” stated Brenda Rhoden, director of student affairs. “Additionally, each of these students was assigned an Honors Mentor that they can contact throughout the summer if they have questions or concerns. All of the different parts of this event display the amazing support services available to these high-achieving students through Honors.” 

Attendees experienced much of the traditional programming offered at summer orientations, including university workshops, small group activities, campus tours, and advising. Honors also continued its tradition of personalized peer-to-peer advising by employing the help of over 50 student volunteers. These volunteers trained under the guidance of Andy Little, the coordinator of academic services in the Honors College. “We couldn’t have done this without our amazing student advisors—they turned out in record numbers and made this a great experience for all our incoming students,” Andy Little affirmed. Student advisor Daniel Sierra agreed: “This type of individualized advising has great benefits for both the advisor and the advisee. I got to know some of my advisees and gave them a feel for what Honors is all about and how close we can be as an Honors family.”

To facilitate advising for the immense number of students who attended, the Honors College used the Hilton Grand Ballroom, where attendees were paired with student advisors based on major. Students then registered for classes on the spot using portable computers and tablets. “It is a great opportunity for these new students because it allows them to get in before many of the University courses are filled,” said Little. As an added benefit, the size of this orientation means that later summer orientations will be substantially smaller, and therefore easier to manage when students invariably encounter more closed courses.

Honors welcomed students the night before the Invitational, partnering some attendees with current Honors students for an overnight stay in Honors housing and inviting them to a social event called the Honors College Coffeehouse, a talent show sponsored by the Student Governing Board. The event gave incoming students a chance to see campus life and meet current Honors students in an informal and relaxed setting. “Coffeehouse is one of my favorite social events because it not only showcases Honors talent but displays how multifaceted our student body really is,” said Joehan Garcia (12, English), Coffeehouse coordinator. “The event is great for the new students because they meet a lot of current students and get a sense of the events they can participate in while attending the Honors College.”

The Honors College plans to continue the partnership with the Office of Admissions to offer the Scholars Invitational in future years. Honors administrators are confident that this initiative will enhance the new student experience and lead to other successful partnerships throughout campus to meet the needs of Honors students.