MBU Honors pushes students to strive for excellence, not only in academics but every aspect of their lives.



MBU Honors is much more than just an honors program, it’s an experience that will shape the lives of participants for years to come.

“We’re looking for excellence. We’re looking for students that want to not just excel in their academic world and their academic minds but they want to excel in their professional lives and so it’s not just a program, but it really is an experience,” said Amanda Staggenborg, who is serving on the MBU Honors taskforce.

The MBU Honors program launches in fall 2016, under the direction of Dr. Larry Smith, chair of the Fine Arts Division.

Dr. Arlen Dykstra, MBU provost, asked Smith to head up the MBU Honors program.

“Well initially, I said ‘no,’ but after he [Dr. Dykstra] came to me again and told me about the possibilities for it, I said, ‘That sounds like a program the university really needs, and if I can be of assistance and you think I’m the right person to do this, I’ll give it a shot,’” said Smith, director of MBU Honors.  

The honors program will be accepting 15 incoming freshmen for next year’s class, and Jan. 31 was the application cutoff date. Out of 27 applicants, 15 were invited to attend an on-campus interview.

Smith said MBU Honors will be made up of students from across the spectrum: “We have students that represent many different majors, we have athletes, music majors, theatre majors, nursing majors, just about every different part of the campus is represented in this first class.”

With MBU Honors students being involved all over campus, the program has the opportunity to have an impact on the university as a whole.

“The Honors program gives a student a more in-depth intellectual experience and so as a university as a whole, it increases the quality of the program and the quality of the entire education that the student will have, making the university more visible as an academic competitor,” said Staggenborg, MBU assistant professor of public relations and communications.

Smith reiterated the positive effect the program can have on MBU.

“Well, I think it will have an influence on the overall academic perception of the school. These are high-achieving students,” Smith said. “We certainly already have a lot of high-achieving students here, but the Honors program puts them in a group where they can really feed off each other and their talents and their skills and I think that will spill over into the broader campus. These students are likely to be campus leaders, who are likely to be tutors and trying to encourage other students.”

MBU Honors has been a work in progress for the past year, with Smith traveling across the country visiting schools and assessing honors programs at other universities.

“It started with a year of me visiting schools and corresponding with other honors directors around the country to find out what honors programs look like. And I discovered that every honors program looks different from the others, that no two schools are alike in very many ways,” said Smith, a Texas native. “So I had to come up with something that I thought was appropriate for MBU but also met the national expectations and national standards for honors programs.”

After Smith had researched other programs and brought back information, the university formed a taskforce last summer to help him design courses, craft the program and develop a process for student application.

Since the program was approved in November 2015, it has been a sprint to have the program ready for students to begin in fall 2016.

With such a short time-frame, the taskforce had to pull together to produce a quality program and at times there were struggles to get it done so quickly.

“I think it’s really communicating what exactly we want and how we’re going to build it on a very short time frame, so getting everything done in a couple months has been challenging but with the help of the entire team we’ve been able to do it,” said Staggenborg.

The program will allow students to experience a more graduate school atmosphere.

“The design we have of the program is that it is really based on something of a graduate school model. We’re giving them the kind of research opportunities and training and experience that will really make them graduate school ready regardless of their major,” Smith said.  

Applicants were brought in to participate in a group interview Saturday, Feb. 13, and discussed the details of the program and pieces of work by Aristotle.

Within the upcoming months, applicants will be reviewed and decisions will be made concerning their future with MBU Honors.

By Christian Robinson

Christian Robinson is a staff journalist for MBU Timeline. He is a public relations major. He is originally from West Frankfort, Ill. Robinson works for Student Activities here at MBU. During the summer, he works for a non-profit organization traveling around the country. After graduation, Robinson hopes to pursue a career working with a non-profit organization.