University Honors Programs Best Practices:
A Comparative Study

I. Project Overview

This proposed research project is entitled "University Honors Programs Best Practices: A Comparative Study." I will be performing a best practices assessment of honors programs nationwide to determine what practices work best and which do not relating to four areas of the program. The information gathered from this research will ultimately benefit Northern's Honors Program. I hope to discover what is working best at other universities similar to NIU with hopes to apply these practices to Northern to enhance the current program.

II. Project Description

1. I am very interested in this research topic for two reasons. As a current student employee and very active participant of the Program I want to see the Honors Program excel and perform to its potential. The second reason is academic. I am currently an accountancy student and will be pursuing a Masters degree in Marketing in the future. I feel that this project will not only assist the Honors Program but myself as well.

2. Relevant sources to be used

  • "Atypical Profile: The Honors Program Student"
  • "Comparison of Characteristics of Selected College and University Honors programs Throughout the US." Alan Neidich
  • "These Things Called Honors Programs." Maynard Mack Jr .
  • "Building Bridges Between the Segments-A Study of Community College Transfers." Frankie Santos Laanan
  • "Enrollment management: A Campus Response." Josephine Johnson
  • Successful Focus Groups, David Morgan
  • Focus Groups-Theory and Practice, David Stewart & Prem N. Shamdasani
  • Essential of Marketing Research, William G. Zikmund

3. This capstone project will collect qualitative information from both NCHC accredited honors programs and other programs within a close geographic proximity to Northern. A total of 25 universities will be included in the sample. The criteria to select the sample size were based on three general areas: the program, the university and key competitors. The program had to be a "program" and not a separate college at the university. It also had to be available to all colleges and not just Liberal Arts & Sciences. The university criteria were public universities similar to NIU in size and cost. The third selection was for key competitors of Northern or those known to have good honors programs. The other universities included in the sample will be identified through a modified snowball technique by asking program directors what programs they feel are good.

The information gathered will be used to determine best practices in four specific program areas. These areas are administration, academics, extracurricular activities, and enrollment. Administration will look at mandatory office visits, registration processes, advising processes, etc. The next area, academics will view courses offered, professor selection criteria and types of classes available to students. I will also look to see if extracurricular events in the forms of social and service projects are used and who coordinates them. The final area, enrollment will analyze the criteria to join the program and the requirements to remain a member, such as GPA requirements and the number of honors courses taken.

This information will be attained through e-mail, phone interviews and questionnaires. The program director and if applicable, other office staff will be contacted. When feasible I will visit the universities to conduct one-on-one interviews with the program directors and focus groups with the students.

For schools that I will not be able to personally visit, I will reach the director via e-mail, follow that with a phone call, and then send a questionnaire. The focus groups on visited campuses will be similar to the focus groups performed at NIU in a separate but related project.

The information will then be analyzed to identify similarities and differences between NIU and other universities. I also will identify what program elements tend to work best and which do not.

4. Timeline

Research and select university honors program population 1/15/01-1/26/01
Create questionnaire and contact the population 1/29/01-2/2/01

Complete campus visits and finish all correspondencewith universities
2/5/01-3/9/01
Analyze data 3/12/01-3/19/01
Make comparisons with group members' findings
3/19/01
Write rough draft 3/21/01-4/12/01
Paper Submitted to Dr. _____________ 4/12/01
Revisions 4/14/01
Paper submitted to Dr. _______ 4/16/01
Meeting with Dr. ________ 4/17/01
Final Revisions 4/18/01
Presentation to Honors Committee 4/20/01

III. Proposed Budget

A. Travel

Ground Transportation (2200mi @ .325/mi) $715.00
Air Transportation to 2 universities 400.00
Car Rental for 2 universities 80.00

B. Non-Personnel

Transcription for focus groups 750.00
Incentive for focus groups (6 @ 50) 300.00
Telephone 100.00
Printing 50.00
Supplies 50.00
Postage 10.00

TOTAL $2455.00