New director wants MU Honors College to reach more majors

Friday, September 2, 2011 | 4:27 p.m. CDT; updated 4:35 p.m. CDT, Friday, September 2, 2011
Nancy West, the new director of MU's Honors College, laughs after reading a passage from "Jane Eyre" in her class, The Victorian Novel, on Thursday.

COLUMBIA — Among the meetings, interviews, phone calls and emails, Nancy West has hardly had time to move into her new office as director of MU's Honors College. Boxes heavy with books still wait to be unpacked — but where will they go? The shelves are already full.

West moved into 212 Lowry Hall on Monday and started her job Thursday. Although she has not had much time to herself, West has begun to plan the direction of the Honors College.


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“We have a listserv, and we plan to use it on a more regular basis, where we’re sending out more information, more announcements,” West said. “But also, maybe telling some stories — like we just heard one of the students got this fabulous internship in New York City or we just heard from somebody who graduated five years ago.”

An Honors College blog is another possibility.

"We have a Facebook, and we hope to use it even more — one for alums and one for current and prospective students," West said.

West succeeds Stuart Palonsky, who stepped down after 20 years as director. He is on leave with plans to return to teaching in the College of Education.

West has taught English literature at MU for 16 years and has served as associate chairwoman of the English department. Her specialty is 19th century British literature.

The MU Honors College was founded in 1959. Honors College courses are typically smaller than non-honors classes, and additional scholarships and research opportunities are available for honors students.

“One thing I feel very strongly about is that the Honors College continue producing students who achieve academic excellence, ” West said. “I’m also interested in putting emphasis on undergraduate research — I think that’s a field that’s really burgeoning.“

Earlier this year, West was presented with a 2011 Outstanding Undergraduate Research Mentor award.

She also wants to see the Honors College reach out to different colleges and schools at MU.

“In the months ahead, I plan to have as many meetings as I can with people across campus,” West said. “There aren’t as many honors students in business, for example, or in engineering, as there are, say, in journalism. So, how do we get more engineering students to enroll in the Honors College?”

Honors College ambassadors, MU students who are the liaisons between Honors College students and the director, had their first collaboration with West Monday night.

“We want more visibility among the campus, and we want (the Honors College) to be a hub for all majors on campus,” said Brittany Zatz, one of three leaders of the Honors College Ambassadors. “One of (West’s) biggest ideas was to update the listserv. She’s excited about social media and using her skills as an English professor."

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