HLC Quality Initiative


The Honors College at Marshall University serves the entire university as we have majors in all academic programs. We depend on having collaborative partnerships with faculty and their academic departments in every college at Marshall. That is our most valuable resource—these partnerships. Without healthy relationships of mutual understanding and support, we cannot achieve our mission and will not deliver on our promises to students. We envision the Honors College as a kind of intersection. We want to provide a space where people from all over the university can come together to share ideas outside of the customary confines of institutional structure and disciplinary foci that may limit people’s ability to see the bigger picture and the opportunities for productive collaboration. That’s true for both students and faculty. Ours is a diverse community of thought and practice.

Informed by our core mission, the college has enthusiastically joined with the university’s Higher Learning Commission Quality Initiative as we seek to become a more flexible, stronger, and inclusive college through identifying, recruiting, admitting, supporting, and graduating an increasingly diverse student population. We are proud to contribute to the initiative of “Building a Stronger and More Inclusive Marshall Community.” As part of our Higher Learning Commission accreditation process, Marshall University began this initiative beginning in Fall 2022 semester. An array of projects, intended to promote a strong and inclusive community at Marshall, will engage the campus throughout the coming three years and beyond. To help focus the campus community and assist campus organizations with event planning throughout the Quality Initiative, the initiative includes defined themes over the next three academic years. The first year’s theme, “Complexities of Identity,” will explore the reality that every person has many intersecting identities.

The Honors College affirms this commitment of Marshall University by creating an increasingly diverse community of students, faculty, and staff by all measures. It is a priority of the Honors College to recruit, enroll, and retain outstanding citizen scholars from different backgrounds—particularly individuals from populations that have been historically underrepresented in honors education. Further, because we know that different forms of structural inequalities negatively affect students of historically underrepresented groups, our strategic priorities aim not only to address these inequalities in our policies and practices but also to reduce bias, increase understanding of forms of discrimination, and affirm the complex identities of our students, faculty, and staff.

The Honors College is actively serving as a supportive partner with others engaged with the HLC Quality Initiative in the following specific curricular and co-curricular areas, in addition to updating our internal policies and procedures.

Select Programmatic Alignments with the HLC Quality Initiative

Honors Faculty Fellows

In order to recognize and support faculty who have made a special commitment to the mission of honors education at Marshall, the Honors College has developed an Honors Faculty Fellows program. Our inaugural cohort of Honors Faculty Fellows will be tasked with developing individual projects on which to work as fellows that provide for collaborative intersections that productively explore the HLC Quality Initiative first-year theme of complexities of identity across their respective disciplines. The cohort meets regularly with the college administration and our university partners in appropriate areas to develop and act on plans for this collaboration.

Professor Daniel O’Malley

Building Bridges with the Herd Humanities Program

Project precis: Herd Humanities is a interdisciplinary program at Marshall University being developed with grant support from the NEH and the Teagle Foundation. Among our goals are: 1) strengthening the liberal arts, and 2) bringing greater coherence to the gen-ed experience. While the program ultimately will involve a 15-credit certificate (allowing students to choose among concentration tracks in Science & Technology, Environment & Sustainability, Healthcare & Medicine, Management & Organization, and Conflict Resolution & Justice), it will begin in a more immediate sense with an introductory sequence of two courses anchored in “Transformative Texts.” These courses will leverage Marshall’s undergraduate general education requirements, offering a common intellectual experience centered on issues of “identity & community” (course #1) and “reality & perception” (course #2), while fulfilling multiple requirements. Students will engage with texts that evoke enduring human questions, and these courses will help students develop their skills in reading closely, writing clearly, and speaking effectively. All too often students, can feel dissuaded from studying the humanities. Our culture tends to devalue such fields, and students, understandably, might see it as a more sensible–more pragmatic–choice to pursue a major that seems to lead directly to a particular job. Our project aims not so much to pull students away from those other fields but rather to allow them access to a more robust experience whereby they can appreciate, and benefit from, the connections across disciplines. In Herd Humanities, students will build bridges that connect experience and knowledge across different academic fields and the students within them. Through Herd Humanities, the gen-ed component of a student’s degree might not seem so “random,” so “beside the point.” Instead, students in this program will find a coherent pathway through those gen-ed requirements and, ideally, find that the humanities are relevant to them and, in fact, can make them a more effective contributor in their chosen field.

Bio: Daniel J. O’Malley grew up in Missouri and has been on faculty at Marshall since 2012. He holds degrees in anthropology and fiction writing. His teaching includes a variety of classes in literature, composition, and creative writing. He also serves as an advisor as the English Department’s Coordinator of Undergraduate Programs. His short stories have appeared in Gulf Coast, Alaska Quarterly ReviewNinth LetterMeridianThird Coast, and The Baltimore Review, among other publications. His writing about fiction has appeared in Tin House and online at The Millions. His story “Bridge” was selected for The Best American Short Stories 2016 and was also broadcast on the NPR’s Selected Shorts.

Project Collaborators: Dr. Allison Carey, Chair of the Department of English; Dr. Zelideth Rivas, Professor, Modern Languages and Assistant Provost for Global Education.

For the inaugural Honors Faculty Fellow cohort, both faculty were engaged in the theme in different ways as described below. In Dr. Fain’s case, his work as a fellow will directly connect with the Society of Yeager Scholars here in the Honors College. With Dr. Kinghorn, his work as a fellow will take center stage in the form of the TEDxMarshallU event this Spring 2023 semester, which will focus on the theme.

An Experiential and Collaborative Learning Opportunity: The Black Appalachian Migration Heritage Trail

Dr. Cicero M. Fain, III

This project directly engages the theme of complexities of identity through an examination of the historical presence, experiences, and contributions of African Americans who migrated into the state along the James River and Kanawha Turnpike, Midland Trail, US Route 60 pathway from White Sulphur Springs/Lewisburg to Huntington, West Virginia. Starting with Dr. Fain teaching the third of four required seminars for students in the Society of Yeager Scholars, it will contribute to the theme by explicitly meeting two of the three articulated goals in the Quality Initiative outcomes. First, it will increase students’ readiness to work and live in a global and/or otherwise diverse community by providing them opportunities to grow and learn through contact with others who come from cultures, races, or backgrounds different than their own and second, it will promote student learning through outreach to the community and engagement in such high impact practices as community-based learning and research. Additionally, the project complements and engages the antebellum and postbellum Black migratory processes detailed in Dr. Fain’s book, Black Huntington: An Appalachian Story, one of two books chosen by the Quality Initiative Oversight Committee for campus-wide readership.

An Experiential and Collaborative Learning Opportunity: Aligning TEDxMarshallU to the Mission of Honors Education at Marshall University

Dr. Brian Kinghorn

For the last 4 years, TEDxMarshallU has been a student, faculty, and staff collaboration culminating in a yearly TEDx event on campus (www.tedxmarshallu.com). Students do most of the work and are organized by a peer leadership team mentored by faculty and staff. Beginning in the 2022-23 academic year, we are establishing the internship in the Honors College as an experiential and collaborative learning opportunity. Student roles on the team include co-organizer/executive producer; co-organizer/event manager; curation coordinator; sponsorships, budgets, and purchasing manager; designer; communications, editorial, and marketing director; and video and production lead. TEDxMarshallU will align the 2023 theme of the HLC Quality Initiative. Chosen speakers will share ideas related to intersections and complexities of identity. We plan to have significant diversity in chosen speakers as well as their topics.

Honors Second-Year Seminar on Leadership, Ethics, and Civic Engagement

This required seminar in the Honors College curriculum is purposefully positioned in a student’s second year of study at Marshall. The intention of this seminar is to engage with Honors students who have passed through their first-year spotlight curricular and co-curricular activities and are transitioning to engage with their major departments more fully. We look to enhance a sense of cohort membership among the honors students at this point in their academic career and to help cultivate shared purpose as active members of the college who critically and self-reflectively engage with essential themes of leadership, ethics, and civic engagement through their work in this seminar. To help achieve our goals for this seminar, instructors design their own seminar from a foundational core set of elements and shared learning outcomes.

Each year, there is a shared theme, which is featured in our annual Food for Thought event. This year, our theme will connect with that of complexities of identity. Food for Thought will bring approximately 150 people together as students, staff, faculty, and community members to discuss a common reading and share a meal. We assign student seating to ensure that students will be at tables with peers from sections other than their own. At each table, we place a table host who may be a staff, faculty, or community member that serves to facilitate introductions, discussion, and table conversation during the evening. The event’s design—particularly the intentional seating arrangements and the inclusion of table hosts—facilitates meaningful dialogue and cross-sectional interaction among students, staff, faculty, and community members. This is one strategy for breaking down silos and encouraging a culture of inclusivity and mutual respect. There is also at least one guest speaker who can powerfully address the year’s theme and engage participants in thoughtful exchanges.

Experiential Learning Opportunities for Students

In the Honors College, we believe that honors education should support honorable action. While there is much to learn in the context of the traditional classroom, we believe that opportunities to learn while doing things outside the classroom enhance creative and critical inquiry and elevate respect for others. Through experiential learning, students find ways to readily connect and apply their formal education to real-world conditions in the communities of which they are a part. Honors students at Marshall University have a variety of different types of experiential learning opportunities. Some of these opportunities are institutionally sponsored and others may develop organically through a student’s needs and their own creativity. The Honors College supports both paths to providing experiential learning for Honors students. We want our students to be actively engaged in their learning and to seek out challenges that allow them essential self-reflection.

To show our support to students who engage in these opportunities, we will provide honors academic credit to students towards completion of their curricular requirements in the college. As examples of this support, we are offering academic credit to students in the honors college for the following:

Membership in the Diversity Living and Learning Community

Marshall University recognizes that each student’s educational experience is richer when it occurs in an environment that celebrates diversity. The Honors College joins the initiative to create a unique opportunity for students interested in learning more about the benefits of diversity and inclusion, with an emphasis on providing leadership to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion on campus and in the community through our first diversity themed living/learning community (DLLC) at Marshall University.

Interning with the Fairfield Community Development Corporation

As part of Marshall’s Higher Learning Commission (HLC) Quality Initiative, the university is partnering with the Fairfield Community Development Corporation to provide a student with an internship experience each semester and we are currently looking for a student to take on this rewarding position during the Spring 2023 semester. The Honors College is a major partner in many elements of the HLC Quality Initiative and we want to see our students engaged in this essential work toward our accreditation as a university.

While great for any student seeking a productive experiential learning opportunity while doing good in our community, for those students who have a required/recommended internship in their degree program, you are especially encouraged. This internship is open to students from any college. The Honors College wants to see our students apply given that the work associated with this position is central to our mission as a college. Honors students can earn honors credits toward the completion of their requirements in college by opting to have this experience “contracted” with the college as an Honors Internship.