UW-Stevens Point: New honors program draws high-achieving students

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Sydney Richetto looked for a college that would challenge her academically, be a good value and also allow her to continue swimming competitively.

Nick Pretto, a student-athlete scholar of the year among Illinois wrestlers, was excited to learn he could pursue a natural resources major and wrestle at a Wisconsin university.

Neither was looking for an honors program, but both were high achievers in high school. Both chose the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point and are among 126 students in its inaugural University Honors Program.

“I know how to work hard. I know how to manage my time,” said Richetto, who took full IB (International Baccalaureate) curriculum at Wausau East High School, where she also competed on the swim team. She learned discipline as a student athlete.

“Swimming alerted me to the school, but academics is very important to me,” she said. The English major plans to be a medical doctor.

UW-Stevens Point initiated the University Honors Program as both an academic challenge and financial incentive for first- and second-year students. These high-achieving students take more academically rigorous General Education Program classes, then participate in research, experiential learning and honors internships as they move through their major areas of study.

Joshua Hazard, of Thorp, Wisconsin, knew he wanted to major in music at UW-Stevens Point. When he was invited to join the Honors Program, he saw the opportunity to advance his academics even further. “The benefits are incredible,” he said. In addition to rigorous Honors courses, he’s excited about opportunities to intern, study abroad and specialize in his field of study.

The University Honors Program has several benefits. Students receive specialized advising, priority course registration, special Student Affairs programming and may apply for housing incentives. They have opportunities for research or travel grants, community engagement and a culminating honors experience in their major.

UW-Stevens Point’s wrestling coach first told Pretto about the College of Natural Resources program. After a day with the wrestling team, he was sold on UW-Stevens Point.

“I love the outdoors,” Pretto said. He researched his options and learned about the fisheries and water resources program at UW-Stevens Point. “I’m excited to continue with other students who have the same mindset and want to work hard.”

He took rigorous AP and Honors classes at Wilmington (Illinois) High School and welcomes the challenge of Honors college courses.

Honors Program participants who write an essay and opt to work five hours weekly as ambassadors with the Tutoring Learning Center may be selected for a half-price discount on their residence hall room in their first year. Both Pretto and his parents were happy about that.

Richetto was considering six public and private colleges. She ruled out Marquette University, UW Madison and University of Minnesota because of cost and size. A UW institution was the best value.

She narrowed her choice to two with honors programs and said she felt most welcome at UW-Stevens Point. “The coaches and (swim) team were much more genuine. The faculty on the recruiting trip were friendly and helpful,” she said.

For high-achieving students who want the curriculum of a larger research school, but who cannot afford it or are not comfortable with the size of the school, UW-Stevens Point is the right place for them, said Nancy LoPatin-Lummis, associate dean, General Education. “The Honors Program delivers that kind of challenge, with all the economic and size advantages of a smaller comprehensive school.”

Students in the University Honors Program will have educational opportunities that enrich their college experience and prepare them for the next step in education or career development, LoPatin-Lummis said. They will be recognized as part of an Honors Program on their transcript, diploma and at commencement.

“For graduate schools and future employers looking at that designation on the transcript, it says the individual works hard and values learning and greater challenge.  The UW-Stevens Point Honors Program designation will open doors,” she said.

UW-Stevens Point faculty and staff have been kind and inviting, Hazard said, helping him feel like he belongs. “As a singer, performer, gay youth, American and human, I have an idea of my future, and the Honors Program is helping make my dreams become a reality.”

First-year students with high ACT or SAT scores are invited or may apply to the Honors Program. They must maintain a grade point average of 3.5. Continuing students with a GPA of 3.75 or higher may apply after their first academic year. For more information, visit www.uwsp.edu/ucol/honorsprogram.

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