Evolution of an Honors University

Published: Sep 23, 2002

A Place to Learn Together

Diane Lee is vice provost for undergraduate education and associate professor of education.
Diane Lee is vice provost for undergraduate education and associate professor of education.

Evolution of an Honors University

Diane Lee, vice provost for undergraduate education and associate professor of education, takes UMBC’s tagline, An Honors University in Maryland, personally. Lee works to ensure that the honors mission has practical meaning in everyday lives for UMBC students, faculty and staff.
Lee came to UMBC in 1986 as a visiting professor. After teaching large lecture classes at another institution, she was excited to find small, seminar-style classes at UMBC. “This campus speaks community to me,” says Lee. “It’s large enough to be diverse and small enough to get to know students beyond their names, as individuals and scholars.” UMBC brings teaching, research and service together, which is very rewarding for me,” says Lee. Her background is human development from prenatal to death and dying.
When UMBC adopted the honors university mission, Lee again revised her method of teaching. “I asked myself, ‘how do I need to teach at an honors university?’ I made a conscious effort to honor my students and what they bring to the classroom. I lectured less and listened more. My student advising focused less on course selection and graduation requirements and more on the students and their career and academic goals,” she says.
Now in her role as vice provost for undergraduate education, Lee continues to ask: “What does it mean to be a student at an honors university?” She meets with students, faculty and staff from across campus and across the disciplines, explaining, “It’s this kind of challenge and opportunity to make a difference that brings us together as a community. It’s the reason I work here. I enjoy working on things I believe in with people I respect.”
Lee is proud of the programs the Provost’s Office has initiated through a university-wide Honors Task Force Report. “The Honors Task Force Report recommendations represent a charge defined by UMBC, and values we share as a university community,” says Lee. These programs include developing an environment of academic integrity, first-year seminars, introduction to honors university seminars and a writing advisory board.
“We’re looking at the entire experience—from Orientation and Welcome Week to Commencement. We’re examining the traditions that hold us together, tweaking existing programs and creating new ones. It’s exciting to be at a university that is open to possibilities.”

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