In the beginning, San Antonio College had a small honors program (the Raul Murgia Presidential honors program) of about 30 students. In 2011 the previous director stepped down to become the chair of the English Department, and the program faced termination in light of budget cuts brought on by the Great Recession.
Drs. Jon Lee and Erik Anderson, both professors of history, (who had been teaching the equivalent of capstone classes) spoke to SAC College President Dr. Ziegler about taking over the program and transforming it into a large Honors Academy that would be able to service much more of SAC’s diverse student population.
The goals of the new program would be to: create a community of success that reflected the student population at SAC, promote graduation and transfer among all students, and prepare students for success following transfer to senior institutions. The Academy would serve all SAC students, but would target those from the underserved high schools in the area.
In the fall of 2011, 33 students and four honors faculty began this journey. The main challenge during this time was a lack of space and funding.
In 2012, Lee and Anderson were approached by SAC’s grant committee to apply for the Jessie Ball Du Pont grant, an award of $152,000. The program was approved and was able to purchase technology, office supplies and compensation for faculty as well as release time for the coordinator, Dr. Lee. Also that year, the program was given the former Disability and Support Services computer lab to use.
With each passing year, the program has grown and been successful in its goals. As of December of 2014: 54% of the first year cohort and 26.2% of the second year cohort have graduated with an associate’s degree. According to THECB, the graduation rate for all SAC students that year was 11.2%. The cohort students have also dramatically increased from an initial size of 33 students to 241 students in 2014.
This year, between previous and new cohorts, the program supports roughly 350 students. The space has been renovated, and a new honors center opened in January of 2015. Also, in 2014, SAC administration provided funding for a part-time advisor. Ten new faculty members have joined the team and continue to work diligently teaching honors courses, becoming better advisors, and providing better resources for the honors students.