• Clemson at its Core

    Honors College has a new home

This past year, the sound of construction permeated nearly every part of campus. Memorial Stadium, Littlejohn Coliseum and the Doug Kingsmore Stadium have all reopened with additions and renovations; the new Watt Family Innovation Center is bustling with activity; and the new Douthit Hills development, which will change a main gateway to campus, is scheduled to open in the fall of 2018.

This past fall, the project known as Core Campus opened for business, with residence halls for 700 students, a large dining facility, and a new home for the Honors College and the Calhoun Honors Residential College. Core Campus breaks down into four buildings: A, B, C and D. Buildings A and B include a residence hall for about 290 first-year students and a 76,000 square foot dining facility, which replaces Harcombe.

With the building of Core Campus, the Calhoun Honors College is now literally on the map at Clemson. Buildings C and D house approximately 400 Honors College students. Classrooms, a small library, the Great Hall (a study/social space), study rooms and administrative spaces for National Scholars and the Honors College help complete the picture. As you wander down the halls of the ground floor of the two buildings, you see students studying in groups of two and three, working on group projects, checking email and just hanging out.

Professor Bill Lasser, who is director of the Calhoun Honors College, and Sue Lasser, who works with PEER (Programs for Educational Enrichment and Retention) and WISE (Women in Science and Engineering), serve as the faculty-in-residence for the Calhoun Honors Residential College. They live in a two-bedroom apartment on the first floor and enjoy the frequent interactions with students that come with living on-site.

While the residence halls house 400 Honors students, there are a thousand more who live off campus. These Core Campus spaces provide those off-campus students an on-campus home as well, particularly during the day between classes. All of the public spaces in the Honors College, according to Bill Lasser, are open to all members of the Honors College, whether that’s a small study room, the library, the Great Hall or conversation spots around the building. And these spaces are available to them 24 hours a day.

As the name implies, the Honors College isn’t for everyone. The students who get accepted into the program have an average SAT score of 1460 or an ACT score of 32. They have to maintain a 3.4 grade point average to stay in the program. It’s a group of academically talented and intellectually curious young men and women. Their curriculum includes 18 hours of Honors courses, which are smaller in size than the non-Honors version of the courses and which are specifically designed to fit the interests of Honors students. They participate in Honors seminars and can apply for grants to cover research, internships and study abroad. In addition, they complete a department-specific Honors project that typically is a thesis. The goal of all of this, according to Bill Lasser, is to expose them to a range of experiences that will inspire them and increase their confidence, with the end result being to help these students realize their potential.

Honors students also have access to the engaging personalities of the Lassers, who clearly thrive in their roles as faculty-in-residence, always looking for more ways to increase interaction with students. According to Sue Lasser, one of the secrets of their being successful faculty-in-residence is that they are night people. She and Bill have hosted drop-ins for students at their apartment. The first one, she said, was scheduled from 4 – 6:30 p.m., and attendance was light. So they shifted the next one to 9 p.m. – midnight and had a crowd, some even staying past midnight. Before the holidays they served latkes and introduced students to playing dreidel, experiences that were new for many.

Sue and Bill have developed the habit of wandering around the public spaces in the Honors College on occasional evenings, handing out cookies and chatting (Sue calls this “Cookie Ninja”). When the students were studying during exam week, she says, it was like they were providing water in the dessert. The Lassers encourage students to drop by their apartment and visit, although Sue laughs that they are at a distinct disadvantage among the various faculty-in-residence since they have neither a small child nor a dog.

One small episode reveals a lot about Bill Lasser’s view of his job as a professor and mentor. When the architects were designing the Honors College offices, he was offered the prime spot — a corner office with what will be a great view once Johnstone comes down. However, he realized that his office would be in a spot where students would have to come looking for him. So instead of settling into the big corner office, he asked if he could have an office that looks out on the lobby where he can see — and interact with — students as they drop by the home of the Honors College.

 

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