Introductory Thoughts

As I prepare this opening blog post, I am keenly aware that, as the new Director, I probably know less about the program than many of the people reading this blog!

So, rather than write a detailed, philosophic treatise on pursuing college honorably; I decided to share some of the things that I’ve learned since my connection with Ferris began, to highlight the great work the program has accomplished in its 15 year history.

The program started in 1997 with 132 students, 81 of whom were 1st year students. Since then, there has been astounding growth – averaging around 10% annually. This year, the 16th, Ferris welcomed 335 first year Honors students — our largest incoming class — making this year’s enrollment of 767 the largest ever. The average GPA – and I reiterate, the average – for graduating seniors is 3.7!

Our current students hail from eight states other than Michigan. Of the 466 zip codes in Michigan with a population greater than 5000, 270 (or 57%) sent us at least one current student. We have 65% of the zip codes with populations larger than 25,000.

Here is a Google Map of population density by Zip code for current honors students.

Our students represent 97 different programs — from the 176 students in Pre-Pharmacy and 65 in Pharmacy to the solitary representative of Pre-Mortuary Science — our students pursue an impressive variety of degrees, careers and interests.

We have 62 college athletes in the program, or about 8%. This is important because, at least according to the numbers I can find, only about 4% of the total population are student-athletes- you are twice as likely to meet an athlete within the honors program as you would be in the general population. 15% of all student-athletes are in honors.

In the cast of last year’s production of ‘Legally Blonde‘ there were 14 honors students. Over the past 15 years, honors students have logged over 235,000 service hours, volunteering through events like ‘The Big Event’ as well as the free Children’s Dental Health Fair organized by our chapter of the SADHA or ‘Student American Dental Hygiene Association’.

This year alone, the honors programming board has raised funds for the Hope Network and ‘adopted’ a family for Christmas through Women’s Information Service (WISE).

Some of the biggest RSOs on campus: Stars for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Up Till Dawn, Ferris Recyclers, and Crafter’s Anonymous were founded by the initiative of honors students.

This year, we awarded travel scholarships for students to travel to El Salvador, South Korea, Mexico, Italy and Russia.

We’ve graduated 641 honors students in the past decade with a Bachelor’s degree and another 30 with an Associates’.  Many of whom continue to exemplify the principles of the honors program long after they left Ferris. If I may highlight a few:

  • Lisa Fortin (2001) found time during medical school to work for Habitat for Humanity and travel to the Dominican Republic with the World Health Student Organization to provide medical care in remote villages.
  • Dani Ryskamp Alexis (2004) after earning a J.D. from U of M decided to do what she loved and became a freelance writer and book critic, who describes herself on her blog as “a disabled feminist freelance writer bookseller/book scout/book collector amateur-genealogist non-pot-smoking hippie cat lady. I’m also left-handed. And a figure skater.”
  • Carrie Ziegler Thomas (2001) is now a lawyer working in Madison Wisconsin and specializing in immigration law. She was recently profiled as a 2012 ‘Up and Coming Lawyer‘ by Wisconsin Law Journal after winning a major victory.

In sum, the honors program is full of wonderful, inquisitive, engaged scholars who embody that commitment to service and leadership for the public good that we aspire to encourage.