July 23, 2015

Jessica Pope
Communications and Media Relations Coordinator

VSU Faculty Share Joys of Working with Governor’s Honors Program

VALDOSTA — Six Valdosta State University faculty members and one retiree dedicated four weeks of their “summer break” to molding the next generation of global critical thinkers, innovators, and leaders.

It started on June 21, when 676 rising juniors and seniors from public and private high schools across the state moved onto the VSU campus for the 2015 Governor’s Honors Program (GHP). Sponsored by the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement, the summer residential program concluded on July 18.

Representing the best and brightest in Georgia, these gifted young scholars lived in Blazer residence halls and learned in Blazer facilities, bringing an energy and intellectual vitality to VSU while acquiring the skills, knowledge, and attitudes necessary to become independent, life-long learners from some of the state’s most talented educators and professionals. They attended classes in the mornings and afternoons and participated in a wide variety of social and instructional opportunities in the evenings.

“The students are highly motivated and so enthusiastic that it is a pleasure working with them,” said Dr. Fred A. Ware Jr., retired professor of management at VSU who taught an elective executive management course to 15 GHP students. This was his second summer working with the program.

Ware introduced his GHP students to some real-world entrepreneurs and franchise managers, discussed the importance of study abroad during a Skype session with VSU students living and learning in Spain, and invited several of VSU’s Harley Langdale Jr. College of Business Administration faculty members to discuss the basics of their academic disciplines. His GHP students developed business ventures that survived Small Business Development Center evaluations similar to those seen on ABC’s “Shark Tank.”

“Our brightest high school kids need to know more about the free enterprise system and be encouraged to start and/or manage businesses,” he said.

Clyde L. Edwards, an associate professor of art at VSU, taught visual arts painting. This was his 21st year serving as a GHP faculty member. He said that he enjoys seeing the high school students work hard at their art, especially when things start to click or come together for them, and celebrating their creative endeavors with an exhibition.

“This was my fourth year to have the honor of teaching these incredible students,” said Craig Hawkins, assistant professor of art at VSU. “The highlight of every summer is seeing students discover artists and movements they’ve never fully understood and realizing how powerful the elements and principles of composition are, no matter what they create. When they ‘get it,’ it’s as if the truth has always been hiding in plain sight and they’ve now been empowered to create greater works of exploration and self expression.”

Dr. Howard P. Hsu, assistant professor of music and director of orchestral studies at VSU, has worked with GHP as a guest instructor since 2009. This was the first summer that he taught the violin, viola, cello, and bass majors in orchestral, string, and chamber music for the entire four weeks.

“We performed [Pyotr Illyich] Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings, a work that none of the students had played in its entirety, as well as other classical orchestral and chamber pieces,” he said. “I enjoyed working with these talented, motivated, and intelligent students who were able to process, adjust, and improve so quickly.”

Hsu said that he was delighted to discover that many of his GHP students were talented in more than just music. One violin student proved to be an accomplished ballerina and performed a routine in which she played violin and danced. She “brought the house down,” he added.

David Springfield, assistant professor of piano and director of jazz studies at VSU, worked with a small group of jazz majors this summer, his 12th with the Governor’s Honors Program.

“There are only six to seven jazz majors each summer, playing together as a self-contained combo,” he said. “They come into GHP as very talented individuals but must quickly learn how to work together as a group. My role as their instructor is to guide them and point them in the right direction but eventually let them figure out how to communicate and perform together themselves. The students are different every summer, but the process is the same, and I enjoy it every time.”

Other participating faculty members were Dr. Lyle Indergaard, professor of piano, who has served as head of the GHP Music Department since 2006, and Dr. Christina Coons-Yates, an associate professor in the speech communication area at VSU.

The Governor’s Office of Student Achievement received thousands of applicants for the 2015 Governor’s Honors Program. Each student began the process with a nomination from his or her teacher in a specific instructional area in which their abilities, aptitudes and interests lie — agricultural science, communicative arts, languages, mathematics, science, social studies, dance, music, theater, visual arts, engineering and design, and technology. Transcripts and records, nomination forms, endorsements, essays, and other pertinent information were submitted to substantiate the nominations. Semi-finalists were sent to statewide screening interviews or auditions. Finalists were selected and notified in mid-March.

Less than one-half of one percent of eligible high school students across Georgia are accepted into the Governor’s Honors Program.

The Governor's Honors Program is designed to provide intellectually gifted and artistically talented high school students challenging and enriching educational opportunities not usually available during the regular school year.

VSU has hosted the Governor’s Honors Program for more than 30 years.

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Valdosta State University’s 2013-2019 Strategic Plan represents a renewal of energy and commitment to the foundational principles for comprehensive institutions.

Implementation of the plan’s five goals, along with their accompanying objectives and strategies, supports VSU’s institutional mission and the University System of Georgia’s mission for comprehensive universities. 

The story above demonstrates VSU's commitment to meeting the following goals: 

Goal 1: Recruit, retain, and graduate a quality, diverse student population and prepare students for roles as leaders in a global society.

Goal 3: Promote student, employee, alumni, retiree, and community engagement in our mission.

Goal 4: Foster an environment of creativity and scholarship.

Visit http://www.valdosta.edu/administration/planning/strategic-plan.php to learn more.