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Oklahoma Christian welcomes a “new” Honors director and program

Scott LaMascus will once again head the Oklahoma Christian University Honors program.

Since 1998, the Oklahoma Christian Honors program has aimed to challenge students who are motivated to excel academically. The program helps students develop critical thinking skills, effective speaking and writing skills as well as encouraging a higher level of participation.

This year, the Honors department has made many changes to its curriculum, an effort led by Jim Baird, the previous director of honors.

“The Honors core as existed when I started was a 47-hour core,” Baird said., “It mainly revolved around six Honors seminars. In addition to that, there was a senior Honors seminar and a catalyst project.”

Baird explained that the new core consists of an additional hour of required credit, as well as some combined seminar classes.

“[Some classes] had a lot of overlap,” Baird said, “Instead, we replaced three courses with two courses: Sacred and Secular Thought I and II.”

Baird continued, saying these two new courses feature lectures on civilizations from all over the world rather than just European culture.

“That was a change that just about everyone thought we needed to make,” Baird said.

Senior Honors student Meredith Eck said she is in favor of the new curriculum changes and is optimistic about the future of the Honors program.

“I like some of the new Honors choice programs where you can direct your Honors experience a little bit more,” Eck said., “It used to be a one-size-fits-all, these are the courses you take, but now there’s a little more direction.”

The seminar schedule decreased from six courses to five with the curriculum change, creating room for Honors students to have more say over the classes they take.

“That empty seminar is going to be an Honors special topics course,” Baird said, “That means any faculty member who has a special idea that they want to try out can pitch to the Honors faculty and say, ‘I want to offer this as a class for next year’.”

Baird said students will be able to choose which special topics course they want to do, giving their schedule more flexibility.

Regarding the Honors program, Baird said he is optimistic.

“Dr. LaMascus was the Honors director before me so he’s very experienced,” Baird said., “He did some of the most powerful innovations to the Honors program before I took it over, so I really got to coast on a lot of his achievements.”

LaMascus previously served as the director of the Honors program from 2010 to 2013. During that time, LaMascus assisted in some of the first changes to the Honors curriculum and program.

“I served as director for the first, gentle revision of the curriculum.” LaMascus said., “We put in place Catalyst grants to help students pay the expenses of exceptional senior projects in their departments.”

LaMascus’s revision of the program also updated field trips, chapels and senior projects as well as enacted the renovation of Davisson Hall.

“We took a condemned dorm and with the help of Al Branch and the late Jay Jones, turned it into OC’s first living-learning community with freshman success programs for Honors students,” LaMascus said.

Under LaMascus’ leadership, the size of the entering Honors freshmen class doubled from 20 to 40, about 10% of the freshmen class at the time.

After LaMascus’s time as the director of the Honors program, he served as Oklahoma Christian’s chief academic officer.

“I worked as chief academic officer from January of 2013 until the planned leave of absence began last year in July,” LaMascus said “Then the president asked me to come back [as the director of Honors].”

Eck said that LaMascus had remained involved in the Honors program despite his change of position.

“LaMascus is very nice,” said Eck, “He’s had Honors students over to his house for Christmas parties every year since I’ve been here, so he’s still been involved even though he wasn’t director.”

Just like Eck and Baird, LaMascus said he is looking forward to the future of the Honor’s program, and he’s looking forward to getting more faculty members, and students, involved with the program.

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