50th Anniversary for honors program coincided with new Honors College designation

50th Anniversary for honors program coincided with new Honors College designation

Dr. Brian Newsome
Dr. Brian Newsome
S ince 1970, Georgia College nurtured and developed bright minds through its honors program. In time for its 50th Anniversary celebration in November, the program transformed into an Honors College—complete with its own dean and plans to make the honors experience even more dynamic for students. 

“Moving to an Honors College adds prestige. It’ll position Georgia College to compete in an ever-tighter marketplace for honors students in the region, the state, the nation and even in the world because we have something really special here at Georgia College,” said Dr. Brian Newsome, inaugural dean of the Honors College.

The naming of the college after Dr. John E. Sallstrom was approved by the University System of Georgia Board of Regents in October in time for the program’s 50th Anniversary celebration during Alumni Weekend. Sallstrom founded Georgia College's honors program.

There are no specific criteria to meet when forming an honors college. A national honors council dictates best practices for such units—the key practice being appointment of a dean. This raises the honors program as an equal among colleges at the university. Newsome attends Council of Deans meetings and reports directly to Dr. Costas Spirou, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs. 

A distinguishing feature of an honors college is “robust financial support,” Newsome said. A substantial financial gift was donated for the new Honors College by Professor Emeritus Dr. Ken Saladin.

Ribbon cutting ceremony in October with Honors College Dean Brian Newsome, GC President Steve Dorman, Provost Costas Spirou and Professor Emeritus Ken Saladin.
Ribbon cutting ceremony in October with Honors College Dean Brian Newsome, GC President Steve Dorman, Provost Costas Spirou and Professor Emeritus Ken Saladin.

With the naming gift, Transformative Experience grants will be available to support study abroad and internships. In addition, a new Saladin Scholars grant program will offer additional support for students seeking to use transformative experiences as a springboard for graduate school or national scholarship applications. Students interested in honors typically seek a higher-level of engagement with critical texts and tough questions. They “want to be engaged enthusiastically in the pursuit of ideas,” Newsome said. The naming gift makes these intellectual adventures possible.

“It’s about raising the profile of honors at Georgia College,” he said. “An honors college means having the resources for transformative experiences. When I interviewed here, I found a deep appreciation for that type of honors community, and that appealed to me.”

The Augusta, Georgia, native came armed with lots of honors experience and plenty of ideas. He has a background in modern European history and international relations and was dean of curriculum and assessment at Elizabethtown College in South Central Pennsylvania. 

From my perspective, honors isn’t about doing more. It’s not about piling on work for the sake of piling on work. Rather, it’s about doing things differently. Tackling tough questions, engaging in material and doing it as part of a community of peers and faculty members.
– Dr. Brian Newsome
Newsome praised the work of his predecessors: Sallstrom, Dr. Doris Moody and Dr. Steve Elliott-Gower. Gower, especially, spent many weeks helping Newsome transition into the job. 

To start off, Newsome talked with Admissions, Advancement, the Honors Faculty Council, Registrar’s Office, Advising, University Housing, Outdoor Center, the Leadership Program and GIVE Center to come up with strategic priorities for the Honors College. He held ZOOM listening sessions with honors students to be certain their needs were met. He’s also solicited input from honors alumni for their perspective. 

“From my perspective, honors isn’t about doing more. It’s not about piling on work for the sake of piling on work. Rather, it’s about doing things differently. Tackling tough questions, engaging in material and doing it as part of a community of peers and faculty members,” Newsome said.

Humber-White House
Humber-White House
His plans are multi-faceted. New honors students will be grouped in cohorts for icebreaking and teambuilding activities during orientation and beyond. They’re encouraged to live at Bell Hall into their sophomore year for additional bonding and gather at the newly-renovated Humber-White House for honors activities. Space includes a kitchen for food receptions, lounge and study areas and a conference room for “dynamic conversations.” The program’s longstanding, popular book discussions and presenters series are also held there. Students are being encouraged to do more community service, as well, and round out senior capstone projects for honors credit. 

Newsome hopes the John E. Sallstrom Honors College will help boost recruitment and retention rates. He plans to develop an honors pathway for students from two-year colleges to transfer to Georgia College, and he’s working on establishing an admissions pathway for first-generation and ESL (English as Second Language) students, as well. 

The 50th Anniversary served as a wonderful jumping off point to the future and gave us a way to honor the work of my processors and the wonderful programs they’ve led over the years and use them as a springboard to the next 50 years of honors.