The directors and deans of the Committee on Institutional Cooperation, CIC (the schools of the Big Ten Conference and University of Illinois at Chicago) programs and colleges meet annually. In 2008 we invited our colleagues from the University of Maryland to join us. They are a similar university in terms of mission, size, and scope. They are now, of course, part of the BIG Conference and the CIC. It was felt to be a great benefit to all and so we began the practice of inviting a different peer institution each subsequent year. It quickly became evident that the current conferences and meetings were not meeting the needs of Research I institutions. We needed a way to expand our annual meetings to allow the larger community to meet and share best practices. Thus HERU was born. As the original announcement stated.
About the Conference
Let’s face it: The place for honors education at research institutions of higher learning seems obvious. Our resources, our faculty, our academic foundations in the sciences and technology, and our emphasis on practical application of research and scholarship define and distinguish us. But it’s not always an easy sell to others in the Academy or to some of the nation’s best and brightest high school students who have a myriad of choices vying for their attention. The truth is, we’re different. Neither better nor worse, but different.
That is why a group of Research I institutions with strong, vibrant honors programs are launching HERU: Honors Education at Research Universities. HERU is the brainchild of members for the Committee on Institutional Cooperation in recognition of the vitality and strength of honors education. By coming together during this two-day conference, we will share best practices and build collaborations that will strengthen the case, and the place, for honors education at research universities.
Penn State University was the host of the inaugural HERU conference in 2013. The Planning Comittee included members of the CIC and Dr. Nancy West, Director, Honors College, University of Missouri. It was determined at the conference that it should continue and plans were made for its establishment as an ongoing professional meeting.
A key decision, agreed upon by general consensus, was that this would not become another society with a corresponding overhead, committees, and politics. Instead it would be a bi-annual meeting with a “daisy-chain” structure of committees, passing along decision making one to another. Thus the 2013 Planning Committee created a sub-committee for Site Selection of the 2015 HERU Conference. Once the new site was selected (Oregon State University) a new Planning Committee was created, with the host serving as the Chair of the committee. When the 2015 conference is complete, the Planning Committee will create a sub-commitee for Site Selection and the process will continue. Finally, it was also agreed that, as the founding members of HERU, each committee would always have representation from the CIC.
It was the hope of the founding committee and inaugural conference that HERU will be an opportunity for our peers to come together, sharing best practices and build relationships that will benefit us all. Furthermore, it is hoped that this structure will allow for organic growth of HERU that is responsive to changing needs without imposing a cumbersome or imposing structure. In the end, HERU belongs to those who attend the conference and choose to participate. It is in good hands.