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Department: University Honors Program

Dr. Gary Wyatt chosen to lead new Honors College at Emporia State University

April 29, 2014

A significant funding allocation and creation of a key administrative position means the dream of an Honors College at Emporia State University is on the path to become reality.

The education funding bill passed by the Kansas Legislature and signed last week by Gov. Sam Brownback includes $1 million to move Emporia State University’s honors program to an Honors College.

“The Honors College has been a dream of ours at Emporia State University for quite some time,” said Dr. David P. Cordle, Emporia State provost and vice president for academic affairs. “Now with the support of the Regents, Governor Brownback and the Legislature, we have the resources to make it a reality.  Great things are happening at Emporia State, and we expect the Honors College to help us continue that trend.”

With funding in place, Cordle today named Dr. Gary Wyatt to a one-year appointment in a new position — associate provost and director of the Honors College. Wyatt has served as associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences since 2008.

“Gary Wyatt is the ideal person to steer the launch of the Honors College at Emporia State University,” Cordle said. “He is highly regarded for his work as associate dean and for spearheading an initiative with the Kansas Leadership Center to infuse leadership training into the general education curriculum. With Gary leading the way, we hope to leverage ESU’s partnership with KLC to the benefit of the Honors College as well.”

Wyatt said taking the new position has kept him awake nights — in a good way — as he has thought about what the new Honors College should look like.

“How do we make the most of this extraordinary opportunity afforded us by the Governor and the Legislature and create the most effective honors college possible?” asked Wyatt, who led the honors program at Emporia State for four years in the mid-’90s. “What will the curriculum look like? What kinds of mentoring and travel opportunities will be made available to our students? How will we connect students with faculty members in way that maximizes student’s growth potential? Most importantly, how will we teach students leadership skills and motivate them to reach out in service to others and by so doing make their communities a better place to live?”  

“One of the challenges is going to be getting rid of the mindset of the past that everything is done on a shoestring,” Wyatt said. “Imagine this — we go to bed the evening of June 30 with an honors program that has, in the past, attempted to serve our students with only a few thousand dollars. We wake up in the morning at the beginning of a new fiscal year with a million dollars.

“This is an opportunity to create something substantial and extraordinary, something that will change lives for many years to come, and I’m so honored to be able to be a part of it.

“This is not just an opportunity, but a responsibility to spend this well.”

Both Cordle and Wyatt see game-changing potential in the new Honors College:

  • One-to-one mentoring of students by faculty;
  • Unique living arrangements for honors students;
  • Travel for off-campus learning experiences;
  • Additional scholarships for high-achieving students; and
  • Incorporating leadership skills and opportunities into programming.

“With our experience with the Kansas Leadership Center,” Wyatt explained, “we can use the Honors College as a major vehicle for training adaptive leaders.”

And what happens in the Honors College affects the entire Emporia State campus.

“The ability to bring more honors students here and the culture we can create really has the potential to transform the university,” said Wyatt.

Honors students, he explained, will set the bar high and inspire all students to achieve.

“You keep up with the person in the lead,” he said.

Wyatt earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Utah State University and his Ph.D. in sociology from Washington State University in 1988, after which he joined the faculty at Emporia State University.

During his tenure, Wyatt has served on Faculty Senate, including a term as president of the faculty. During his term as director of the honors program, Wyatt worked with Roe R. Cross Distinguished Professors to design and implement the Hershel and Augusta Shepherd Scholars Program.

A professor of sociology in the Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Crime and Delinquency Studies, Wyatt currently teaches four courses and expects to continue a limited amount of teaching in his new role. As associate provost, Wyatt also will assist Cordle in coordinating and supporting the university’s academic programs.

Wyatt begins his new position on June 8, Cordle said, and will spend the summer leading a planning process for the Honors College. Some enhancements will take effect for fall 2014 with full implementation planned for fall 2015.

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