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Kevin Gustafson
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Institution: University of Texas Arlington

Location: Arlington, Texas


Institution Type: 4-year public, research (40,000)

Program Type: institution-wide

Program Enrollment: 450

Present Position: Interim Dean of the Honors College (2016-) and Director of Service Learning (2015-)

Previous Honors Positions: Associate Dean of Honors for Academic Affairs (2008-2016)

NCHC Member Since: 2008

Program Reviews and Consultation

NCHC Activities Related to Honors Program/College Assessment & Evaluation:

I taught my first Honors course almost twenty years ago, and for most of the past decade I have been an administrator in a fully developed Honors college with a staff of ten at a large research university. While I have participated in all aspects of the college (budgeting, recruitment and retention, scholarships, alumni outreach, development, Honors study abroad), my main focus has been curriculum. I substantially revised our required senior capstone to include more experiential options, which are especially attractive to students in professional majors that require field work or a practicum. I have also developed and implemented initiatives in service learning, including a summer fellowship program in community-based research and an intensive seminar in service learning theory and practice. During my tenure as Associate Dean, my college went through NCHC-affiliated program review. I have consistently attended both national (NCHC) and regional (GPHC) council meetings over the past nine years, and have published on experiential learning in an NCHC-sponsored journal.

Activities in other areas or organizations related to assessment or site visits, workshops, etc.: 

I have served on the internal team for a number of periodic academic (non-Honors) program reviews in my university and am currently on the team that is developing the university-wide quality enhancement plan (QEP) leading up to our decennial accreditation review by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). As Interim Dean and Director of Service Learning, I am in charge of program assessment for both units.

Self-Identified Areas of Special Interest and Experience

  • Honors Curriculum
  • Honors Administration and Assessment
  • Honors Recruitment and Retention
  • Undergraduate Research
  • Service Learning
  • Honors Study Abroad
  • Honors Extracurricular Programs

The Role of an NCHC-Qualified Site Visitor 

I am interested in serving as an Honors program reviewer for two main reasons. The first is somewhat selfish: the chance to observe, evaluate, and advocate for other Honors programs will undoubtedly make me a better administrator and give me ideas on how to improve Honors education at my home institution. This experience will be particularly useful this coming year, as I step into my new role as Interim Dean. The second reason is less selfish: I am legitimately interested in promoting best practices for Honors education, and in helping other administrators make the most compelling case for developing robust educational opportunities at their institution. Advice and advocacy are to my mind the chief goals of any external review, and not just in Honors. It is all about resources. I know from my experience of being reviewed that an Honors program can benefit greatly from having a pair of fresh eyes examine how financial and current resources are being used‐‐and might be better leveraged. I know, too, that administrators higher up are often more readily swayed when someone from the outside validates current efforts in Honors and makes the case for additional resources.

I also believe that, while NCHC best practices provide excellent guidelines for Honors education, the contours of Honors are bound to be somewhat local. For this reason it is important for an external reviewer to have a sense of different possibilities and models for Honors. I am fortunate to have been involved in two quite different approaches. As an undergraduate, I was in an program that featured a sequence of team taught interdisciplinary core courses mostly focused on the liberal arts and social sciences. In my seventeen years at UT Arlington, and especially in the past eight as Associate Dean, I have been involved in an Honors College in which students take a mix of Honors‐designated, cross‐listed, and contract courses, and then complete a substantial senior project in their major field of study. These quite different experiences give me a good sense of the range of possibilities for Honors education, and as a reviewer I believe I would be able to appreciate the value of what is being done, even while making recommendations about how it might be done better, or what else might be done. My greatest strength as a reviewer would be in curriculum. Over the past eight years, my chief responsibility in Honors at UT Arlington has been academic affairs, and early on I developed and implemented three experiential options to complement the traditional required thesis or creative project. This work resulted in a co‐authored article in Honors in Practice, as well as an offer by our provost to house the center for service learning in the Honors College. My work in Honors curriculum in general and experiential education in particular will make me a useful resource and advocate for Honors programs looking for curricular innovation and ideas on how to create synergies with other units on campus, and with the community. 

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