FVSU launches honors and undergraduate research programs

Dr. Andrew Lee and Dr. Meigan Fields

September 5, 2013 – Fort Valley State University’s high achieving students will have two brand new programs to challenge, motivate and inspire them to do their very best within the classroom.

This fall, the campus has launched the Honors Program and the Undergraduate Research Program. FVSU’s president, Dr. Ivelaw Lloyd Griffith, announced the implementation of the two initiatives recently during the 2014 Faculty/Staff Institute. He also announced that the university would begin a brand-new fundraising initiative called Dreamers Fund for Excellence Engagement (Dreamers FEE) to support the two projects. The president’s goal is to raise $100,000 by November 2013 and $2 million over three years.

Below is an overview of the two programs:

Honors Program

The Honors Program is the first of two programs proposed by President Griffith. Dr. Meigan M. Fields, an associate professor of political science, will serve as the director for the program. The new unit officially kicks off this semester.

“It is a program that will reach across the university and across disciplines,” said Fields. “We want students from all majors to be a part of the honors program. All of our professors are committed to making sure that our students receive a top-notch education. We’re putting in place, challenging programs and different opportunities that might take [students] to different places.”

Fields spearheaded two important retention programs on campus. The new director served as co-principal investigator for the African-American Male Initiative and as the director for the Women’s Learning Community on campus. In her new role, Fields promises the new honors program will challenge young people.

“We will identify classes that will be designated for honors students, and those classes will parallel the abilities that these students have already demonstrated and get them to a higher critical-thinking level. [The coursework] will certainly be filled with challenges to help them rise to the occasion.”

The Honors Program, which will be under the direct purview of interim Provost Dr. Linda Noble, will reside in Carnegie Hall. Plans are underway to refurbish and repurpose the facility for the program. Fields stated that honors students will continue to be housed at Ohio Hall. Incoming students will be placed into groups to take the same courses together.

Fields is also organizing an advisory board. The program director is also traveling to New Orleans this November, for the National Collegiate Honors Council Conference. She will consult with administrators from various universities to learn how to establish a similar program on FVSU’s campus. The committee will also determine what classes are appropriate for the new initiative.

Fields says that she believes that the honors designation on an FVSU diploma will give program participants an advantage after graduation.

“I would like to think that when I look at a transcript, and its stamped ‘honors,’ then I would think that graduate schools (and even those who are going to go straight into the workforce) will be getting someone who is a cut above the rest, and seriously committed to academic achievement,” she said. In the future, Fields hopes the program will be able to offer scholarships to participants.


Undergraduate Research Program

The Undergraduate Research Program (URP) is the second initiative proposed by Dr. Griffith. The new unit, which launches this semester, will be headed by founding director Dr. Sarwan Dhir, an FVSU professor of biotechnology, and Dr. Andrew Lee, an FVSU professor of speech and mass communication, as the associate director.

“I am honored to be appointed as the founding director of the undergraduate research by Dr. Ivelaw Lloyd Griffith, president at the Fort Valley State University,” said Dhir. “As a director, my mission is to foster linkages among faculty members and campus collaborators, so that we can infuse the cutting-edge research and ‘hands-on experience’ into classroom teaching and foster gains in the form of national and international recognition for our undergraduates and graduates academic programs.”

The new unit, which will report directly to the Office of the President, will help prepare students for research within their chosen fields.

“I plan to attract more and more students to the center’s ties with faculty in order to identify new strategies for connecting students with mentors and research opportunities and exploring grant opportunities that include a significant undergraduate research component,” Dhir said. “It is my desire that FVSU is known as a premiere institution in the State of Georgia that prepares its students to be more competitive in today’s demanding, global community of research and scholarship. I will work closely with the Dr. Andrew Lee co-director of center.”

Lee stated that the research program is also designed to attract high-achieving undergraduate students who are conducting outstanding scholarship in their chosen fields.

“We’re going to encourage students across all disciplines to conduct research,” said the associate director. “I think that the [Undergraduate Research Program] will help raise the bar of excellence that President Griffith envisions. He has talked on several occasions about moving education [on campus] to the proverbial mountaintop; I believe that both the Honors Program and Undergraduate Research Program will go a very long way in helping to strengthen what President Griffith calls the three Rs: recruitment, retention and release (graduation).

Although the URP has officially launched this semester, it is still in its early planning stages. Its prototype will model similar undergraduate research programs that Dr. Griffith helped to initiate or administer at York College and Florida International University. Organizers say the program will have an interdisciplinary focus that will not only target science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) majors, but the humanities, as well.

In addition to Dr. Griffith and interim Provost Dr. Linda Noble’s input, the URP will also receive advice from faculty. An advisory council consisting of FVSU professors, administrators and other stakeholders is being formed to establish preliminary criteria for admitting students into the research program.

Dhir and Lee explained that the new initiative will showcase the exceptional scholarship and research endeavors of university’s students. The pair says that the URP would recruit students with outstanding research to serve as undergraduate research ambassadors.

“We want our exceptional students [to] publish their research via an institutional undergraduate research journal and via other peer-reviewed journals and present their scholarship at professional conferences on the state, national and international levels,” Lee said.

Dhir and Lee believe the URP will position FVSU undergraduate research scholars to meet and exceed the anticipated and real challenges of working in the fiercely competitive, global workforce.

“We’re excited that President’s Griffith’s Undergraduate Research Program initiative will help students to realize some of their greatest dreams,” said the professor. “Through the auspices of the URP, the university will help students transform their awesome potential into undisputed academic excellence in their respective areas of undergraduate research,” Lee concluded.




Christina D. Milton,writer

Fort Valley State University

Office of Marketing and Communications

(478) 822-7589, miltonc@fvsu.edu