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Friday, January 7th, 2011 - 2:10 pm

Attracting top students to Purdue Calumet can be filled with ‘Honors’

High school students across the region who graduate near the top of their class have a sea of higher educational opportunities to consider. With scholarships and college acceptance letters flooding their mailboxes, competition is stiff as universities vie for their attention.

Much like students wanting to impress desirable colleges and universities, higher ed institutions seek to attract top student achievers, as the mere presence of those graduation-likely individuals testifies to the schools’ quality of education.

In 2006, Purdue Calumet introduced an Honors Program as a way to attract top achievers. Prospective students having earned at least an SAT score of 1100 (math and critical reading) and high school grade point average of 3.5 (4.0 scale) are invited to apply for the program, though acceptance also depends on other factors, including completion of an essay, extracurricular achievements and letters of recommendations. Qualifying for program admission includes a renewable scholarship valued at $3,000 per year for Indiana residents and $4,000 for out-of-state students.

Impacting retention

Directed by Professor of Engineering Bipin Pai, the Honors Program had 74 enrolled students last fall. Since its inception, the program has attracted more than 166 students. Pai says the program is contributing favorably to university retention (freshman to sophomore year) and degree attainment efforts. The 26 Honors Program students who have gone on to earn their Purdue degree at Purdue Calumet represent a 97 percent graduation rate of program participants.

In fact, Pai calls the program one of the “star components” of Purdue Calumet’s efforts to raise the bar of student success and outcomes in response to state and national objectives.

Honors students must satisfactorily complete seven honors courses to graduate with an ‘Honors’ distinction. As part of the program, honors students also perform community service, attend national conferences and have the opportunity to study abroad. There’s a social component, as well.

Honors Class Roundtable
For Rukes (upper right) the Honors Program, complete with opportunities for roundtable sessions with classmates led by Professor John Rowan, influenced his decision to attend Purdue Calumet.

Program helped him choose PUC

Brandon Rukes of Griffith, who serves as president of the Purdue Calumet Honors Association, the program’s student governance arm, says the Honors Program was the deciding factor in deciding which school he would attend. The scholarship, he says, though a nice perk, wasn’t the top reason for him.

“Being around people who are like you in a lot of respects, while still being able to have fun and attend a lot of fun events, was 100 percent the key factor why I chose  to attend Purdue Calumet,” says Rukes, who also had been accepted to other major residential campuses across Indiana.

As he puts it, the Honors Program challenges him to be an even better student.

“You definitely need to go one step higher than what you think you can do,” he said. “If you do what you think you can do, you’re going to get what everyone else gets. But if you do what you think you can’t do, and you try and you succeed in that, you’re going to get what no one else gets.”

More opportunities to succeed

This translates into a lot more opportunities and success in his field of study, accounting and finance.

“If I were just a normal student, getting normal grades, I know I would get an accounting job graduating from Purdue Calumet,” he said. “But if I graduate from Purdue Calumet as president of the Honors Association, as a new student orientation leader, as somebody on the Dean’s List, I’m going to have a lot more chances of getting a much better job than if I were just a number who graduates.”

Emily Mastej embraces the Honors Program for the chance to be surrounded by like-minded students who share her love of learning. The Highland High School salutatorian and math major plans to attend medical school.

“I like being in classes with others who care about school and actually want to study,” she says.

–Erika Rose