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University-Wide Honors Program Will Supersede UNI

New program proposes broader reach, interdisciplinary study by 2009

President Emeritus Aram Chobanian chaired the ad hoc committee that recommended a new, university-wide honors program to replace the University Professors program.

Boston University President Robert A. Brown last Friday announced his decision to create a new, University-wide honors program that would offer BU’s best undergraduate students the flexibility to major in disciplines from across the University, and to disband the University Professors Program as a freestanding unit. In letters sent to UNI faculty and UNI students, Brown said his decision was based on the recommendation of the ad hoc committee on the University Professors Program.

That committee, chaired by President Emeritus Aram Chobanian, urged administrators to create a broad-based honors program that would give undergraduate students a four-year curriculum with the flexibility to major in disciplines throughout the University. The ad hoc committee also proposed that the faculty of the new University Honors Program be drawn from across the University, and not be limited to a faculty hired specifically for this purpose.

Brown said in his letters that all students entering UNI in Fall 2007 will graduate from UNI, and their diplomas will reflect this fact.  

“We recognize that the University has important obligations to all current UNI students and to those entering this fall,” says Brown. “Consequently, we will move gradually and deliberately, with full attention to students’ needs and concerns. Our obligation — and our commitment — is to maintain the highest possible quality of instruction for our students and for graduate students from the program in which they started.”
Brown says faculty members whose primary appointments are in UNI will become full-time in their respective academic departments in the College of Arts and Sciences, and UNI faculty whose primary appointments are already in other schools or colleges will continue in those appointments. Sir Hans Kornberg, a University Professor and College of Arts and Sciences professor of biology, has been appointed director of UNI through 2009.

“I appreciate that change is inherently discomfiting,” says Brown, “but it is also renewing and stimulating. I believe we will be able to offer new generations of students the kind of interdisciplinary range that has been a hallmark of the UNI program while, at the same time, simplifying our structures and ensuring programmatic coherence.” 

The 10-person ad hoc committee on the University Professors Program, which included six UNI faculty members, agreed that UNI provided outstanding students a curriculum and environment that has been extremely rewarding, according to Chobanian. Chobanian says the committee concluded that it would be best to develop a program that has many of the positive features of UNI and also provides access to other areas of the BU community.
“The committee wanted to insure that the program would have sufficient intellectual and financial resources to provide a UNI kind of experience in a much wider universe,” says Chobanian.

This fall, says Brown, a committee formed by Provost David Campbell will design the new University Honors Program, which will be administered by CAS on behalf of the University and will subsume the current Honors Program in CAS. Brown’s letter reports that the ad hoc committee had not made explicit recommendations for the graduate program, but he would ask Campbell to work with UNI and CAS to determine the need for retaining some aspects of the UNI doctoral program, and if so, how best to structure that program.

Campbell says he intends to develop an exciting and challenging honors program that will attract the most talented students. “We hope to allow them to pursue honors-level courses in specific disciplines and to design their own interdisciplinary curricula, as is currently done in UNI,” says Campbell. “Our goal is to retain the best features of the current UNI experience, while expanding the reach of the program to all undergraduate schools and colleges and increasing the number of students involved. President Brown and I hope to have the new honors program approved by fall 2008 and to admit students for the fall of 2009.”
In addition to Chobanian, a University Professor, the ad hoc committee on the University Professors Program included David Barlow, a CAS professor of psychology, James J. Collins, a University Professor and a College of Engineering professor of biomedical engineering, Bonnie Costello, a CAS professor of English, Charles Dellheim, CAS history department chair and professor, Paula Fredriksen, BU’s William Goodwin Aurelio Professor of the Appreciation of Scripture, Sheldon Glashow, a University Professor and BU’s Arthur G. B. Metcalf Professor of Science, Charles Lindholm, a University Professor and CAS professor of anthropology, Stanley Rosen, a University Professor and BU’s Borden Parker Bowne Professor of Philosophy, and Rosanna Warren, a University Professor and BU’s Emma Ann MacLachlan Metcalf Professor of the Humanities.

Art Jahnke can be reached at jahnke@bu.edu.