The J.N. Andrews Honors Program celebrates its 50th anniversary during the 2016-17 school year. Dr. L. Monique Pittman, Professor of English, serves as the current Director for the J.N. Andrews Honors program.
Dr. Paul Hamel and Dr. Merlene Ogden founded the J. N. Andrews Honors Program in 1966 as an effort to provide a community fostering academic excellence in tandem with spiritual and service commitments. They were path-breaking educators in the Seventh-day Adventist church since some believers feared that an Adventist Honors program would promote an elitism not in keeping with church values.
Dr. Ogden, who oversaw the J.N. Andrews Honors Program into a flourishing existence, fully understood that academic challenge could, indeed, support the mission-minded focus of Adventist education. In fact, the J.N. Andrews Honors Program follows in the recommendations of Mrs. White, who wrote: "Our minds should be so trained that if necessary we can present the truths of His word before the highest earthly authorities in such a way as to glorify His name. We should not let slip even one opportunity of qualifying ourselves intellectually to work for God," (Ellen G. White, Christ’s Object Lessons 333-34).
Other important shapers of the Honors curriculum over the years were previous directors Dr. Malcolm Russell, who envisioned the SAGES curriculum as it now stands, and Dr. Gordon Atkins, Adjunct Professor of Biology, who operationalized the SAGES curriculum and increased the research rigor of the program.
Now, as Andrews University celebrates the fifty-year anniversary of the J. N. Andrews Honors Program, the program remains the oldest and largest of all honors programs in the Adventist system. A major strength of the program is that it has remained truly interdisciplinary, with intellectually curious students and faculty from many different majors across campus.
In addition, as a major structure on campus fostering undergraduate research, they rely on the participation of many faculty-research mentors across campus who share the program’s commitment to scholarly excellence and investigation. The interdisciplinary Honors Council of faculty members and student representatives is also crucial in ensuring academic and research rigor as well as policy development suited to the mission and learning outcome goals.
“The incredible student leaders in Honors keep the program active socially and spiritually and responsive to the changing needs of students,” Pittman said. “We rejoice in the opportunity to support the academic and spiritual aspirations of our students and hope with each year to add more services for nurturance in the program.”
Pittman, who has served as Director for the last nine years, expounded on the changes she has seen in the program.
“Over the years, we’ve grown from being a general education curriculum and a sponsor of undergraduate research to becoming a host of spiritual activities such as the Agape Feasts and Honors Church events, to a coordinator of cultural outings to Chicago, to a supporter of professional development with this year’s addition of the Honors Professional events. Our huge network of Honors alumni also provides incredible opportunities for our current students to make connections with professional mentors and advisors.”
Pittman discussed her passion for directing the program and her hopes for the program.
“For me, as a graduate of the program and as its director, it’s an absolute pleasure and honor to be a steward of this program and to do my very best to live up to the Honors heritage of excellence, ensuring that the program continues to change lives for another fifty years,” Pittman said. “I’m deeply grateful to serve Andrews in this way as we prepare young Honors Scholars to follow our loving Savior through their academic and professional lives.”
Ingrid Radulescu (sophomore, English), an Honors Scholar, reflected on her time in the program.
“The honors program has given me a family here on campus and has helped me find my place. The program is my niche and provides me the ability to truly express myself as a growing young scholar,” Radulescu said.
Echoing Radulescu’s praise, Jonathan Doram (senior, music education), who transferred into the J.N. Honors Program two and half years ago, said, “Honors has fundamentally transformed my way of thinking and how I interact with others. I have been so blessed to call the Honors department a home and highly recommend it for anyone passionate about the pursuit of knowledge.”