College is about exploration, learning and growth. It is about knowledge that prepares for life and for productive careers, but it’s also about self-knowledge and the expansion of personal horizons and self-confidence.
Two programs at The W give students exceptional opportunities to challenge themselves both academically and individually, providing unique learning and leadership experiences. The Ina E. Gordy Honors College and the Hearin Leadership Program prove that leaders come in many forms— and there are many ways to step out of one’s comfort zone to develop the “whole” person.
In 2005, alumna Ina E. Gordy, class of 1929, made a commitment to the University, which produces more than $2 million in support of scholarships for top students who are a part of the MUW Honors College, directed by Dr. Thomas Velek.
Students such as Katelyn Calvert have benefited through this program both financially and intellectually. “I am so thankful to have had all of the experiences and opportunities that MUW and the Honors College have presented me with,” said Calvert.
“To this day I still thank Dr. Velek and all involved for giving me the wonderful opportunity to attend The W and receive the Centennial Scholarship. I had received my acceptance letter to The W previously, but if I did not get any scholarship support, I knew that I would be going to Northeast Mississippi Community College just like everyone else,” she added.
The scholarship allowed her to begin her studies at The W, a choice that has opened many doors and presented life-changing challenges.
And, says Velek, the program is intentionally rigorous. "The Ina E. Gordy Honors College is a means of adding depth to undergraduate education,” he said. “It encourages curiosity and initiative and provides an opportunity to apply learning to significant projects. Honors students are expected to exhibit academic excellence, not only in their grades, but also in their willingness to pursue knowledge in various fields other than their chosen majors.”
In addition to living in Grossnickle Hall together, Honors students take classes together, study abroad the summer after their freshman year and participate in field trips and presentations from upper-level student mentors and from faculty.
The Hearin Leadership Program, also a rich and academically challenging program, focuses on developing leadership skills in those students who participate. It teaches students the commitment, knowledge and values that will enable them to blaze new trails in their chosen paths. Specifically, Hearin focuses on scholarship, leadership development and community service.
“Hearin has really helped me to meet new people, especially as a transfer student,” said Julessa Oglen, a junior communication major from Fayette, Ala. “This is a new environment for me and even though I was blessed to bring my friends with me from my community college it still is refreshing to be able to know other transfers.”
She added: “It helps because we are all coming from similar backgrounds and it gives you a feeling of a community because all of us are experiencing the same things.”
Jessica Harpole, coordinator of leadership and service at The W, said the Hearin Program strives to develop “better leaders by focusing on scholarship, personal development and servant leadership.” Harpole, who once was a Hearin leader herself, said “The difference in being a Hearin Scholar and directing the program is getting to see the growth in students and being able to facilitate that growth. Being a Hearin leader was a very transformational experience for me, and now I get to see that happen for others.”
She now helps guide the transformation that allows students to develop self-knowledge, self-discipline, initiative and teamwork. “We emphasize leadership skills through monthly events that highlight components of leadership,” she explained. “Hearin Leaders also participate in numerous community service projects that qualify our leaders to positively impact the workplace and the world around them.”