Stricker delivers first State of UHC Address

By Gretchen Andersen

During the first State of the Honors College address, Honors College Dean Edward Stricker… During the first State of the Honors College address, Honors College Dean Edward Stricker focused on looking ahead to the future of the Honors College, including the plans for the fall 2012 transformation of Brackenridge Hall into an honors dorm.

Stricker, named dean of the University Honors College early in July 2011, spoke to about 50 people Wednesday afternoon in the Frick Fine Arts auditorium. The hour-long address, which he said would become an annual event, chronicled the UHC’s accomplishments and its organizers’ plans to move forward in expanding the college.

Future plans for the Honors College include the possible development of a Research Certificate at the University.. He also noted that the 210-bed Brackenridge Hall would become a second honors dorm — in addition the UHC dorm-style living already available in the West Wing of Sutherland Hall — in the fall of 2012. The honors wing of Sutherland currently houses 408 primarily first-year honors students.

University spokeswoman Patricia White said in an email that Brackenridge Hall’s incoming honors students will pay the same rate for the rooms as do current Brackenridge residents, and the dorm will be open to honors sophomores and juniors. Brackenridge, which holds 210 upperclassmen, was picked because of its central location and suite-style living, White said.

Located on the 35th and 36th floors of the Cathedral, the Honors College — established in 1986 — grew out of the earlier honors program.

In his speech, Stricker described how he researched numerous universities’ honors colleges and noticed that they all are membership organizations, with some honors colleges acting like smaller schools within the larger universities.

But Pitt’s UHC is quite different, because no student is admitted into the UHC and therefore no student is excluded. Stricker said the major goal of the Honors College is to provide the best quality education to students on campus. He defined quality as “the kinds of courses that are intellectually stimulating that inspire students.”

“The Honors College at the University of Pittsburgh is unusual,” Stricker said. “It has alumni, but no students, and courses, but no faculty.”

Currently, there are about 100 honors courses at Pitt, Stricker said. The average honors class size is 18 students.

Any upperclassman can take an honors class, as long as he or she either have a 3.25 GPA or get permission from Stricker. Incoming freshmen who want to enroll in honors classes must have an SAT combined math and English score of 1400 or a composite score of 32 on the ACT and must have been in the top 5 percent of their class in high school.

Stricker said those rules were in place before he obtained the position and that he did not set them.

“These courses are hard, demanding and a lot of work,” Stricker said. “It is a hard adjustment to go from honors high school classes to honors college courses. I don’t mind the harsh standards so students don’t get in over their head.”

The UHC has become a leader in pre-health professional advising, what Stricker labeled as “supplemental advising.” Pre-health majors include students who want to go into medical professions, including medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine and optometry, among others.

“Supplemental advising is needed by students who have majors whose interest don’t fall exactly into their major, such as pre-med students,” he said.

Beginning this spring, the Honors College will be supervising the pre-health professional committee. Juniors can present their qualifications — which include medical school application materials, transcripts and a personal essay — to this committee for evaluation, The committee then writes a letter of evaluation, which students can send to medical schools.

“The University Honors College has room to support both students interested in a traditional liberal arts education and a pre-health professional education,” Stricker said.

Stricker also highlighted how UHC co-sponsored academic events this past year that were open to all students, such as the American Experience Lecture Series and social events like flag football and dances.

“I like his policy, because each individual’s aptitude is different, and college can be a life-changing experience,” said Dillon Haas, a senior who has taken honors courses. “It could be true that someone at first may not be capable of the Honors College, but two years later may be a fantastic candidate for taking honors courses.”