As Fresno Pacific University graduates succeed in graduate school, in business careers, in local non-profits, in the arts and in many other venues, it is gratifying to see how many were members of the University Scholars Program (USP). These particularly high-achieving alumni live out both the university’s purpose as a community of learners, and Luke’s admonition that “To whom much is given, much is expected.”
Fresno Pacific has an unusual approach to an “honors” curriculum, both because of the high standards that we set throughout our programs, and because of our Anabaptist roots in an egalitarian community. What might be called “honors” elsewhere is here the “University Scholars Program.” These opportunities are primarily, but not exclusively, found in the traditional undergraduate offerings.
The USP includes lower-division courses designed to not necessarily be harder than other parts of the curriculum, but to be more student-centered and discussion-oriented, as well as organized around a culminating experience. Upper-division courses are an opportunity to go deeper into the subject and work collegially with the faculty member teaching the course. You might take a journey to the Inferno with Dante in Pam Johnston’s lower-division Civilizations class, or discuss cutting-edge scholarship on the Dead Sea Scrolls with Brian Schultz.
Within the USP are a growing number of honor societies. We have had a chapter of the interdisciplinary society Alpha Chi for several decades, and we have been one of the most notable chapters—a Star Chapter—for over a decade. Each year we take a delegation of Alpha Chi students to the national convention (this year it was in Portland). There are many advantages for our Alpha Chi members:
- Leadership—This year Rhoda Anderson, attending her second convention, was our student delegate.
- Competition—Colton Taylor and ChoFai Wong were the national winners in their categories.
- Camaraderie—We enjoyed taking in some of the sights of Portland together. The advantages don’t end with the convention, either. This year, Maranata Zemede won a regional scholarship!
About 10 years ago we chartered a chapter of the history honor society Phi Alpha Theta, and three years ago we added the mathematics honor society Kappa Mu Epsilon. Last year the social science honor society Pi Gamma Mu became part of our campus through the hard work of Rolaine Castro, Darin Lenz and many others. These societies give students a chance to network with other high-achieving students both within their disciplines and across the curriculum, and the disciplinary societies are open to enthusiasts (for which the criteria vary) as well as to majors in the relevant disciplines.
In addition, USP helps implement a number of student activities, from Undergraduate Research Day (including posters and oral presentations) to the Honors Banquet (recognizing the best students in every major). We will inaugurate a freshman Scholars Banquet this fall. We also help fund research projects, especially ones where students work closely with faculty. We want to be sure that outstanding students are given connections that help them learn, venues to show their abilities and recognition for special accomplishments.
Many other opportunities are supported by USP. Every month a professor goes to the Central Valley Town Hall with students interested in that month’s speaker—it is a perfect way for motivated scholars to unify around a shared interest. USP is overseen by the Honors Council, including a faculty representative from every undergraduate division. The newsletter Halcyon Tidings reports USP doings every month as we work individually and corporately to engage the cultures and serve the cities. Please let me know if you would like to have it sent to you so that you can read student reports on their impressive activities.
Membership in USP helps students make the connections and develop the skills to achieve their dreams and is an important example of the one-on-one mentoring and genuine care about the whole person that leads FPU students to often accomplish even more than they thought they could. USP is in a sense the university magnified: we give opportunities to students who have shown themselves to be especially academically gifted, and we expect—and receive—great results.