The Honors Hub and More: Improving Marian’s Honors Student Experience


A picture showing what the potential Honors Hub would look like.

Kelli Bahls, Staff Writer

In late August 2017, more than seventy-five students received word of an important development on campus. The e-mail contained an important announcement from the Honors Program Co-Directors, Dr. Matthew Szromba and Professor Christina Kubasta.

“For the first time since the creation of the Honors Program in 1999, Honors Program students have a dedicated campus space to call their own—the Honors Hub,” wrote the Co-Directors.

Located on the first floor of Regina Hall, the Hub provides honors students with access to study space and a lounge area.

Three years ago, the Co-Directors focused their efforts on obtaining program review for the Honors Program. The timeframe for the initiative could be attributed to Professor Kubasta’s decision to accept the position of Honors Program Co-Director back in 2014.

Program review is crucial for many programs on campus, Dr. Szromba explained. “It’s a process for programs to assess where they’re at. . .in terms of developing their program and new directions that the program can go in.”

The National Collegiate Honors Council (NCHC) greatly assisted the Co-Directors in their efforts by providing program review provisions and guidelines. With a set of standards by which to assess the program, the Co-Directors had what they needed to approach Faculty and Staff Senate and the Curriculum and Educational Standards Committee regarding program review.

One of the provisions outlined in the NCHC Program Review Instrument read: “The program is allocated space for honors student functions as appropriate that may include areas for an honors lounge, library, reading rooms, computer facilities, or other student-related needs.”

Essentially, honors students should have their own space to study and socialize.

The Co-Directors addressed the need for student space, and with support from individuals such as Dr. Russell Mayer and Dr. Kelly Chaney, the program was able to secure space for honors students in Regina Hall.

With the current shortage of offices and student housing on campus, the question of the continued existence of the Honors Hub appears timely. Even though the Hub has only been in existence for five months, a sizeable incoming freshman class in the Fall 2018 semester could prove sufficient enough to place pressure on the Board of Trustees to begin consolidating more offices and reclaiming houses as student housing. At this point in time, however, the Co-Directors aren’t particularly concerned. If the need arises, the Hub may move but will continue to exist in terms of area dedicated to honors student space.

Partnerships, Events, and Plans in the Works

When the Co-Directors attended the 52nd NCHC conference this past November, they returned with ideas centered on improving honors students’ academic and social experiences at Marian.

One of the primary benefits of being an honors student is the opportunity to take honors courses. These courses provide a greater scope of in-depth material than the standard course while allowing students to fulfill general education and core curriculum requirements.

The chance to take interdisciplinary, team-taught courses allows students to receive twice the amount of academic expertise, often engaging in intellectual discourse usually reserved for Sabre Hour presentations or academic symposium sessions. Team-taught courses tend to be popular among honors students, and given the right topic and pairing of professors, registering for classes can become quite competitive.

With the Honors Program’s primary goal hinged on intellectual pursuit through academics, providing more enriching team-taught courses is one simple goal that the Co-Directors have in mind for the future.

Over time, the possibility of developing intercollegiate partnerships with neighboring institutions, such as UW-Oshkosh, Lawrence University, or Ripon College, could also have a profound effect on the types of classes that honors students are able to take.

“At one of those institutions,” Dr. Szromba elaborated, “honors faculty might be able to teach an honors course. . .and then students from multiple institutions could take that course for honors credit. So you could have someone from UW-Oshkosh who comes to campus here and teaches an honors course, and I might be able to visit UW’s campus and teach a course there.”

In addition to improving the academic experience of honors students, the Co-Directors also have a few ideas for fun and creative social events.

Professor Kubasta discussed the idea of a “Dorm Room Chopped” competition. For this college twist on the Food Network’s series Chopped, participating students would be assigned a mystery box filled with standard college food ingredients. With a limited amount of time, participants would compete to create a better dish using their limited ingredients and basic dorm room cooking appliances, such as a microwave, slow cooker, and toaster.

“And then we could have the Co-Directors serve as judges,” Kubasta suggested. “Or even President Manion.”

Dr. Szromba also discussed the idea of hosting “Lightning Lectures,” where a group of faculty, staff, and administrators would be invited to lecture for one to two minutes on any topic that students might find interesting or benefit from hearing. With this format, students could listen to eight to ten lectures in an hour-long time period.

“It might be kind of fun to have the students judge the lectures: award points, determine the best lecture out of the eight or ten Lightning Lectures that were delivered,” Dr. Szromba explained. “We could even have the giant theatrical hook where we hook people off stage if we didn’t like their lecture.”

And for those honors students impatiently waiting for more information about potential study abroad opportunities, there might be an opportunity just around the corner.

For those who are entranced by the idea of study abroad, a “short-term study abroad course” is currently in the works for Spring 2019. The course would focus on the history of the Holocaust and offer an opportunity to travel to Poland.

“The plan is to offer it as a team-taught, interdisciplinary course that Dr. Leichter and I might teach together,” Dr. Szromba said. “One of his areas of expertise and interest is the philosophy of memory and memorialization, and this seems like the perfect partnership when it comes to the history of the Holocaust. I mean, how do we remember and how do we memorialize something like the Holocaust? And the trip to Poland is ideally suited for asking and exploring answers to those questions.”

Although the study-abroad course is still in its planning stage, more information will be provided by the Co-Directors as it becomes available.


Interested in learning more about Marian’s Honors Program?

You can find out more by visiting the Honors Program’s informational webpage.

Follow the Honors Program on Twitter for additional announcements and updates.


Reference Cited:

National Collegiate Honors Council. (n.d.). NCHC Program Review Instrument. Retrieved December 5, 2017, from