Honors Program Turns 50 The program thrives as it hits the half-century mark

UL Lafayette’s Honors Program marks its 50th anniversary this year.

Since its inception in 1968 as an eight-member “honors community,” it has given “bright minds more room to use that brilliance,” said Dr. Julia Frederick, the program’s director.

To be admitted to it, students must meet required ACT or SAT scores and maintain minimum GPAs – 3.0 for freshmen and 3.2 for sophomores, juniors and seniors.

Students take some classes with only fellow Honors Program members. In courses they share with non-Honors students, program members complete additional projects and assignments to receive honors course credit. Before earning an honors baccalaureate, they must complete and present a thesis.

The Honors Seminar, a weekly intellectual exchange between faculty and students, remains the program’s centerpiece. It was one of the first courses the nascent program offered. Seminar tackled subjects in a freewheeling, immersive style that differed from traditional lecture courses.

Honors operated as a “community” until 1975, when it became a formal program with 50 students. That year’s L’Acadien yearbook listed topics the Honors Seminar explored: music, human biology, drama, computers, dance, movies, black culture, firearms, pornography and philosophy.

“Students often asked members of the Honors Seminar to explain what Seminar was,” the yearbook’s editors wrote. “All answers were different.”

When the program marked its 30th birthday during the 1998-99 school year, the yearbook again asked for a description. The program’s director had her answer down pat.

“The purpose of the seminar is to build community among Honors students, and to provide practice in discussion and leadership,” said Dr. Patricia Rickels, who helped formalize the program in 1975. She became its director four years later.

“She was Honors,” said Frederick, who succeeded Rickels in 2007. Rickels died in 2009.

Honors’ Fall 2018 semicentennial class has an enrollment of nearly 1,600. Frederick said class members share a quality with the students who preceded them.

“They think in different ways. That’s the wonderful part of Honors. It lets you dive into a subject, dance with it and then think about doing new things with what you have learned. That’s what you do with knowledge. You open doors and windows and lift shades and decide what you want to do.”

This article first appeared in the Fall 2018 issue of La Louisiane, The Magazine of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

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