The VSU Honors Program has transitioned from a program to an Honors College, and Mike Savoie, professor in the College of the Arts, has taken the position as interim dean.
Prior to Savoie’s acceptance of the position, an unsuccessful search went out for a permanent dean for the college.
When the Honors College was still a program in fall 2006, Dr. Ofelia Nikolova held the position as director. Over the summer she stepped-down from the position.
“I like Dr. Nikolova very much, and I think she did wonderful work,” Savoie said. “She was absolutely awesome with the students, and if you could talk to any one of those students that studied under her […] she was very engaged with [them].”
Savoie hopes to carry forward what Dr. Nikolova was doing with the students until a permanent dean can be found.
“I was very scared because they were very close to Dr. Nikolova,” Savoie said. “I am an outsider, and even though I like all the people involved—and I think they’re coming to accept me, and we’re starting to build a good relationship and rapport—that’s a slow, gradual thing.”
“[Dr. Nikolova] believed [honors students] were autonomous students,” Savoie said. “[She believed] that [they could lead].”
According to Savoie, Dr. Nikolova’s theory was right– the Honors College has students willing and ready to lead.
Savoie believes his main concern is “[building] facilities to help people succeed,” even if he is still nervous about taking the position.
“It’s something that I obviously have to learn a lot about,” Savoie said. “I couldn’t [have been] an honors student, or got a scholarship […] My ACT wasn’t good, my GRE—twice—neither one of them were good […]”
Despite his personal luck with schooling before becoming an educator, Savoie is still positive about the learning experience and what VSU can offer students.
Savoie and the Honors College went on a retreat with 23 students, where they had lunch and a four-hour discussion about what can be done to improve the college and move it forward with the new change.
“We got this long list of things from the students, and they just blew me away […] with their comments, because the students have such a vision for their education, and what these programs should be should be,” Savoie said. “And not just Honors, but academic programs.”
Savoie regards himself as an educator first, and, as such, wants to help students continue with their education.
“There are students that are just under the threshold [of getting sufficient financial help], and they’re exceptional,” Savoie said. “And when you ask, you know, ‘If we can’t get you financial support what’s going to happen?’ and the student says, ‘I can’t come back next semester’… Your heart sort of’ sinks […] that’s the depressing part.”
Savoie wants to work with the Honors College, and the students invested in it, to make it something great for current and prospective students.
“I’m incredibly honored to carry on [Dr. Nikolova’s] legacy,” Savoie said. “She deserves recognition—a great deal of recognition—for what she did in honors.”