September 8, 2020

Robbyn DeSpain, Director of Strategic Communications

Honors College Provides Unique Opportunity for VSU Students

VALDOSTA — Nestled into a corner of the beautiful Valdosta State University campus is a place helping students reach their full potential. The two-story building sits beneath several trees with a hint of Spanish moss. If you are a Valdosta native, you may know it as the old VSU president’s home. But these days it houses the Honors College, and there you will find some of the university’s best and brightest.

“The Honors College has given me an invaluable opportunity to practice my leadership and professional skills and to apply my creativity in a work setting,” says Lauren Nichols, a senior at VSU and a student assistant for the Honors College.

The Honors College was formed in 2010, and it is a family affair for Nichols. Her older sister was previously enrolled, and in fact, that is how she learned about its many benefits, including priority registration, research opportunities, interdisciplinary learning, and an exclusive residence hall full of like-minded students.

“We want to assist you to be great,” says Dr. Mike Savoie, the first and current dean of the Honors College.

He says the position is unlike any other dean on campus.

“I work across units, including all academic colleges and Student Affairs. We also coordinate with Student Affairs and Housing and Residence Life to oversee Reade Hall, the Honors College’s designated residence hall.”

The research and projects take students outside the classroom and off campus. A VSU Honors College alum is currently working with Savoie and his students on a unique opportunity.

“Dr. Jake Newsome is the manager of College Students Leadership for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum,” Savoie says. “Through Dr. Newsome, we’ve sent students to Washington D.C. to participate in leadership and civic engagement seminars as well as research opportunities. We have presented research from our collaboration at a variety of academic conferences from state, regional, and national venues.”

The group was scheduled to attend an honors conference in the Netherlands this summer, but the COVID-19 pandemic changed those plans. The Honors College also offers a two-week summer study abroad trip to Waterford, Ireland.

“The Honors College has pushed me out of my comfort zone while also helping me find interest,” says Brylie Ritchie, a sophomore at VSU who is also serving as a resident assistant in Reade Hall for the first time this year.

“The coolest experiential learning supported by the Honors College was the history and paranormal research of Valdosta State University,” Ritchie says. “We are studying the gaps in Valdosta's history and researching buildings that are supposedly haunted.”

“My largest and most exciting project has been remarketing the Honors College and creating promotional and informational materials,” says Nichols, who is also the vice president of the Honors

Student Association. “This project has spanned over two semesters, and I intend to finish the project this fall.”

There are admissions requirements to join the Honors College, and all students admitted are expected to have and maintain a 3.5 GPA. Current students with that GPA or higher can apply at any time.

Savoie says the Honors College also focuses on professional skills, the ability to work across disciplines, and problem solving.

“Over the years, we have pushed for greater diversity, inclusion, and equity in the Honors College. One of my goals was to see a broadly diverse population of students working together to solve problems in our communities.”

Both Lauren Nichols and Brylie Ritchie say the Honors College has made a lasting impact on them.

“To be involved in such an extensive, long-lasting project with practical full oversight is something I am honored to do and am humbled by each day,” Nichols says.

“I love the Honors College,” Ritchie says.

And their dean says he is incredibly proud of the work his students do every day.

“Nothing makes me happier than to see students successfully navigate life’s challenges and to see them succeed,” Savoie says.