University’s Honors Program continues to grow, recognizing student success in diverse majors

When Jeffrey Law, PhD became director of the Daemen University Honors Program last year, he attended a conference hosted by the National Collegiate Honors Council (NCHC).

Tasked with re-energizing the program following disruption by the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Law was drawn to what the NCHC calls inclusive excellence. This approach to forming an honors program recognizes the diversity of honors experiences in higher education and seeks to better align the program with the mission of the college or university. Dr. Law saw the perfect fit for such a program at Daemen.

“In the past, one may have thought of an honors program as an elite group of students earning straight A’s and finishing each semester at the top of their class,” explained Dr. Law, an associate professor of biology. “While there is, of course, an academic requirement, the key to Daemen’s Honors Program today is diversity. Like the campus itself, our program aims to bring students from different backgrounds and majors together to share knowledge, interact in the community, and enhance the total college experience.”

Students who attend the annual Scholars Day at Daemen are invited to apply for the Honors Program, and others can apply, typically in their first year. Once enrolled, they must maintain
a grade point average of 3.3 or better and earn 24 credits in honors courses to graduate with an honors degree. There are also social requirements in which students attend meetings with others in the program and participate in community service projects.

Dr. Law created an oversight committee made up of a broad cross-section of faculty, staff, and administrators at the university to bring a broader perspective to the Honors Program.

Dr. Law noted that half of the program is focused on academic excellence, with the other half dedicated to building community outside of the university through service projects that are most meaningful to the honor students. Recent project examples include awareness and fundraising events for Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

To further foster a sense of community and inclusiveness within the program, Daemen offers an Honors Program lounge area in Duns Scotus Hall where students can study together and get to know one another. Because the university is a member of the NCHC, students in the Honors Program can apply for scholarships available through the national organization.

Under Dr. Law’s leadership, the number of students in the Honors Program has nearly doubled, with a range of majors including animation, art, psychology, and social work. He notes plans include developing more honors courses to provide more opportunities for students in various disciplines to earn the necessary credits for an honors degree.

“The Honors Program is really a community – a diverse range of students who are like-minded, interested in learning, and open to new experiences,” Dr. Law concluded. “We look forward to growing the program and getting more students involved.”