Honors Lounge Celebrates History, Encourages Community Among Honors Students
A new student space on campus provides meeting and academic space to promote a sense of honors community on campus.
A hallmark of the Saint Louis University Honors Program is the disciplinary diversity. Honors students come from all schools and colleges and over 60 different undergraduate majors, which makes for a rich intellectual environment in classes. With honors students dispersed across campus, there hasn’t always been a common area for them to call their own. During the 2019-2020 academic year, that changed with the development of an honors student lounge that celebrates the program’s 80+ year history and provides a welcoming atmosphere for fellowship.
The idea was the product of disappointment and good fortune. When University master planning spelled the demise of a historic building once tapped to be a new home for the Honors Program, Director Robert Pampel, Ph.D. sought new avenues for a common honors space that went beyond an office suite for professional staff members. “When you look at the history of our program, its most loyal alumni often contextualize their affinity by describing shared spaces that promoted conversation among peers and faculty. We knew we needed a similar calling card if we were to promote a similar honors identity on a campus.”
Fortunately, SLU’s newest graduate assistant provided the creative spark to bring Pampel’s vision to reality. Ciara Pink, a graduate from the honors program at Grand Valley State University, was set to begin her master's of social work at SLU and quickly impressed honors staff with her zeal for honors education. Her selection as the graduate assistant for the 2019-2020 academic year was a no-brainer, but what Pampel and his colleagues didn’t know at the time was that Pink was an accomplished artist who earned a studio art minor as part of her undergraduate career. During a conversation at orientation about the desire for an honors lounge, Pink casually mentioned that she could paint a mural on the wall to give the space a distinctive touch.
A few sketches later and the project took off. Honors students were invited to vote on their favorite designs, which Pink crafted by combining SLU and honors program history, relevant quotes related to honors education, and creative touches of her own. After students selected an overall theme, they could contribute to the mural through a “paint by numbers” scheme. Those who participated could sign the wall to mark their contributions to the honors mural.
In addition to the mural, the lounge features couches, a coffee machine and popcorn maker, a mounted multimedia screen, and tables that can be arranged for a classroom setup, small discussion, or individual work spaces. Although the COVID-19 pandemic halted progress towards completion of the lounge in spring 2020, Honors Program leadership looks forward to completion of the lounge and many enjoyable communal events in the future.
The Honors Program at Saint Louis University, established in 1938, engages intellectually curious and academically successful students in a community oriented towards the Jesuit ideals of holistic learning, academic rigor, and community engagement. Through a combination of individually tailored curricula, experiential learning opportunities, and developmental guidance and mentorship, the Honors Program prepares students to become citizens who engage in the process of inquiry and apply their knowledge in service to society.