University Honors College announces change in leadership

Honors College Dean Ronald Spatz announced that after serving 20 years as the driving force behind UAA's development of honors education and undergraduate research and scholarship he will be returning this fall to his position as a full professor in the English Department.

Dean Spatz was selected by Chancellor Lee Gorsuch to initiate a university-wide honors program in 1994 to serve as "a catalyst for excellence for the entire university."That year, Dean Spatz formed a university-wide Honors Committee and created an academic pilot initiative with undergraduate research and scholarship as the core practice. Four years later, the University Honors Program was officially launched with then professor Spatz as its founding director. In 2000, the University Honors Program received a university-wide commendation from the Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges Commission on Colleges during UAA's re-accreditation review, and in 2001 Professor Spatz was named Dean of Undergraduate Research and Scholarship and Director of the Honors Program. In 2007 the Honors College was established and he was named as the founding dean. Recent UAA Chancellor Fran Ulmer observed: "Ron had the vision and the drive to make this program successful in spite of very limited resources. His energy and enthusiasm were contagious."

The University Honors Program graduated its first students in 2002. The many accomplishments of Honors students include a strong record of original research, authoring and co-authoring publications in peer-reviewed journals and presenting their work at professional conferences and to members of Congress. Additionally, Honors students, with the mentoring of Honors professors, have been the first students in UAA's history to receive many prestigious awards and scholarships, such as the Marshall Scholarship, the research Fulbright Scholarship, the National Consortium for Measurement and Signature Intelligence Research Scholarship and the Rotary International Award. Honors students have received other prestigious awards as well, including the Goldwater Scholarship; notably, UAA's seven Truman Scholars in the last dozen years were associated with the Honors College. Honors graduates have gone on to enroll in the most competitive and highly rated professional and graduate programs in the nation, including Harvard Law School, Harvard Business School, Dartmouth, Carnegie Mellon, Johns Hopkins University, an impressive range of medical schools (including WWAMI) and top-tier Ph.D. programs.

Dean Spatz's vision for excellence was not limited to elite students in the Honors academic program, but rather focused on building the infrastructure for student success with the recognition that undergraduates form the backbone of a strong university. During his 20-year leadership the Honors College developed innovative curriculum including an undergraduate research foundation course that will be offered across UA campuses, 14 undergraduate research and scholarship funding programs for students, and a nationally recognized program to create faculty/student partnerships: Faculty Leadership Expanding Undergraduate Research (FLEUR). Dean Spatz led the development of university-wide traditions including Freshman Convocation and the Undergraduate Research and Discovery Symposium. He established a standing faculty director, faculty associate and a permanent Task Force on Undergraduate Research and Scholarship to advance mentoring quality and rigorous student opportunities as well as a faculty liaison and committee structure to advance major scholarships. In 2010 UAA was deemed a "top producer" of Fulbright Scholars and this year's Undergraduate Research and Discovery Symposium was the largest in the history of the University of Alaska System with 96 poster presentations and 170 combined presentations.

To support these Honors College efforts, Dean Spatz established a stellar Honors College Community Advisory Board and helped raise more than three quarters of a million dollars in corporate and individual donor funds and special funding from the legislature to directly support undergraduate student research and scholarship across all disciplines. "Dean Spatz has created opportunities for students to discover and achieve their highest potential," said Sharon Gagnon, recent chair of the Honors College Community Advisory Board and former President of the University of Alaska Board of Regents and the University of Alaska Foundation.

A former National Endowment for the Arts Fellow, Dean Spatz has been honored with two Alaska Governor's Awards, the Edith Bullock Prize for Excellence, four Chancellor's Awards for Excellence, a Distinguished Teaching Award from the UAA Alumni Association, two Contributions to Literacy Awards from the Alaska Center for the Book and recognition from the White House, the U.S. Congress, the Alaska Legislature and the University of Alaska Board of Regents. As Dean Spatz returns to his role as an English professor, he will continue to lead UAA's nationally celebrated literary journal, Alaska Quarterly Review and LitSite Alaska, UAA's innovative community outreach Web site, both of which he founded.

Dean Spatz will serve as the dean until August 9. Interim leadership of the University Honors College will be decided soon, and will ensure a smooth transition for students in the fall.


Research Opportunities and Announcements

The Office of Undergraduate Research and Scholarship is an excellent resource to help you find interesting projects happening on campus as well as at the state, national and international levels.  Conducting research, whether it is for an independent project you have developed or part of a professor's larger research project, is one of the greatest endeavors a students can undertake.  Honors students have researched everything from causes of asthma to nonlinear dynamics to global warming.  See more by reading students' Thesis Project titles

Check out the listing of announcements.