FHSU Honors College adapts to student influx

Tiger Media Network

The Fort Hays State University Honors College is preparing for a “new normal” post-COVID.  At 126 students, Fall 2023 represents one of the largest student bodies in Honors College history – second only to Fall 2022.  After the surprise influx last year, Director Kevin Amidon is hoping to streamline the FHSU experience for Honors College students.

“Post-COVID, school districts have been working hard to think about what gets students engaged with their education,” Amidon said. “That’s also the goal of the Honors College.” 

Despite rising numbers, getting into the institution is no small feat.  A 3.5 GPA minimum is suggested for admittance, although according to Recruitment & Outreach Coordinator CJ Gibson, the subsequent questionnaire is also vital reference material.

“Numbers aren’t that important to us — we want to know what drives you, not how well you’ve mastered test-taking. We want the students who persistently, unashamedly seek out what they enjoy. Those are the students who will succeed here and after they graduate,” Gibson said.

Everyone is in the Honors College for different reasons, and Amidon prides himself on its increasing diversity.

“[We have] more Hispanic-Americans, for example.  Those numbers have been growing very rapidly.  We have an international student–just one; we also have two fully online students,” he said.

The sole international student, Colombian junior Lucas Gonzalez, has been in Kansas for two years.

“Everything is different,” Gonzalez said. “The people are different; the environment is different; the classes are different; the professors are different; the language, of course, is different.”

Gonzalez was a tennis player at Seward Community College when he caught FHSU’s attention.  Now equipped with an Honors College scholarship, he hopes to earn a cybersecurity degree and help the rest of his family join him in America.

“I had the opportunity to study at one of the best universities in South America, but I just quit because I realized that, even if I get a major there–and the title was going to be really good because that university is really good–it doesn’t matter because the future there is just nothing,” he said.

Not everyone in the Honors College is as decorous.  Sophomore Chesney Cunningham grew up in Russell, and she’s been on the honorific warpath for most of her academic life.

“I thought it would be really hard to get in, and like, the application process is pretty extensive, but at the same time, it was like, ‘oh, it’s just one little thing,’ and I’m in,” Cunningham said.

Cunningham’s plight for a business marketing career is far from over, but she owes how far she’s come to a positive work environment on campus.

“Everybody is willing to help you get ahead.  So many connections I’ve made in the Honors College I’ll probably have until I die,” she said.

Regardless of where students come from or where they’ll go, Amidon strives to make Honors College a welcoming place.

“We do not want to emphasize – ever – that Honors College students are selected because they’re special, and elite, and excellent in some way that other students are not,” he said. “They’ve done a lot; they’ve achieved a lot, but our Honors College students see that as something that enables their own calling-to-service.”

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