Dr. Jeff Walker, a professor of Communication Studies in the Department of Communication at the University of Montevallo, has been named the new Director of the UM Honors Program. Following in Dr. Cathlena Martin’s footsteps, who currently holds the role of Honors Program Director, Walker will begin his new position after May 7.
Walker, an alumnus of UM, is passionate about the university, its students and the presence of an honors program. The UM Honors Program aims to provide students with unique and challenging classes, opportunities and individual recognitions, which Walker will guide beginning in fall 2023.
Walker is clearly excited about his new role as director of the UM Honors Program, and his love for helping students across the board is present as well. He said, “Anyone who knows me knows how much I love Montevallo. I have such incredible memories of my time as an undergrad here and have a passion for helping all UM students find their home and sense of belonging on campus. I’m excited about helping Honors students in that way.”
Having previously worked with honors students, which has primarily included instructing honors classes at several universities, Walker already has experience as a leader within honors programs that has fostered his excitement for his new position.
He said, “I see the Honors Program as a place for high-achieving students to be both rewarded and challenged. First, I think the Honors Program should celebrate students who go above and beyond academically. Second, the Honors Program is a way for those students to challenge themselves by taking on interdisciplinary, thought-provoking, and rigorous coursework.”
At UM, Walker has taught honors classes such as “The Haunted South,” in which students wrote and designed a book about the hauntings of UM and its surrounding ghosts, and “College Night,” in which students delved into the history and quirks of UM’s famous homecoming tradition.
Although there may be questions as to whether Walker will strictly be taking over the role of Honors Program Director, he will continue to adjacently teach, research and provide service to the Department of Communication. Aside from his current office in Strong Hall, he will also have an office in Ramsay Hall, the Honors Program Residence Hall.
Walker reflected on his previous experience with honors students specifically. He said, “I have always loved the rich, thought-provoking discussions I’ve had with Honors students in the classroom. So, the idea of working with Honors students from their first semester all the way to graduation was really appealing to me!”
Beginning this fall, Walker is adamant about continuing to offer the diverse opportunities that the UM Honors Program offers. However, he is also committed to growing the presence of honors students within other university organizations.
He said, “What I can say is that I want the Honors Program to be diverse and inclusive. I want every department on campus represented in the program, and I also want our students to be involved in athletics, College Night, Greek Life, The Alabamian, SGA, and everything in between.”
Regarding existing Honors Program procedures, Walker does not have any immediate plans to alter processes such as admissions or enrollment, but he does have goals of seeing what direction the Honors Program students themselves would like to head towards.
Engaging with and listening to students is important to Walker and, beginning this fall, he is excited to host a series of listening forums for both current and future Honors Program students. These forums will allow students to give Walker feedback on the current and past Honors Program draws as well as a space to offer recommendations and requests for new opportunities.
In addition to hosting listening forums, he said, “I also have plans to host both community-building and professional development events that will help prepare students for their careers and post-graduate studies.”
Walker is committed to continuing preexisting programs as well, adjacent to other goals he has. The Honors Peer Mentor Program, for example, which allows current honors students to mentor and support incoming freshmen within the Honors Program, is set to continue into the fall.
Walker said, “I want to continue developing community within the Honors Program and I think peer mentors are an important piece to that puzzle.”
Encouragement for higher attendance at Honors Program conferences such as the Southern Regional and National Honors Conferences is also on Walker’s agenda. However, opportunities for honors students can be found elsewhere as well. He said, “Not just Honors conferences, but Undergraduate Research Day and other academic conferences. They’re all incredible opportunities to network and share ideas.”
Walker is happy to accept his new position and looks forward to continuing and cultivating the opportunities and sense of community that the UM Honors Program has to offer.
In short, he said, “Dr. Cathlena Martin has done a lot of fantastic things with the Honors Program in the decade that she served as Director. I hope to continue that momentum over the next year by recruiting faculty to teach new and innovative Honors courses, planning professional development events related to graduate studies, and cultivating community within the program.”
For more information regarding the University of Montevallo’s Honors Program, you can visit the official website at https://www.montevallo.edu/academics/experiential-learning/honors-program/.
Lucy Frost-Helms is the copy editor of The Alabamian. She’s majoring in social science and minoring in philosophy. She enjoys being a goober, eating chicken salad for breakfast, watching “National Treasure” and telling you that she will “definitely pay you back for that.” Lucy has the worst memory of all time and will forget major, important details of stories you tell her.