South Announces Honors College, Names Dean

Posted on June 22, 2017 by Bob Lowry
Bob Lowry

South Announces Honors College, Names Dean data-lightbox='featured'
"Together, I expect the community will create an Honors College that serves the larger University in excellence, diversity, global perspective and the pursuit of knowledge, and that stretches itself in ways it may not even yet imagine,” says Dr. Kathy J. Cooke, dean of USA's new Honors College.

The University of South Alabama has announced the creation of the institution’s first Honors College and has selected a new dean to lead it.

Dr. Kathy J. Cooke comes to South from Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Conn., where she has served as the founding director of Quinnipiac’s University Honors Program. Cooke was chosen following a nationwide search. She will begin her new position on August 1. 

“As an institution, South is relatively new. It has a number of traditions, but it is also continuing to develop its wonderfully enriched and meaningful student experience in learning and research, including the Honors College,” Cooke said. “When I added in the intellectual engagement and welcome that I have found in the people here, and the cultural opportunities in Mobile, I found I couldn’t resist the opportunity to join South.”

“Kathy Cooke has established a strong track record of leadership and innovation in the Honors Program at Quinnipiac,” Dr. Tony Waldrop, University president, said. “She has the skills and vision to match our Honors College with the students who seek this unique academic experience, and we are looking forward to her developing our Honors College to its fullest potential.” 

Cooke, who is also a professor of history at Quinnipiac, joined that university in 1995. Ten years later, she was selected to head their new honors program. At South, she will inherit an honors program that is transitioning to an Honors College.

“My focus during the next few months will be to immerse myself in the South experience so that I can learn what students, departments, colleges and alumni need from the Honors College,” Cooke said. “Based on this feedback, the honors team of students, faculty, and administrators will create a clear mission that will guide everything the Honors College does. Together, I expect the community will create an Honors College that serves the larger University in excellence, diversity, global perspective and the pursuit of knowledge, and that stretches itself in ways it may not even yet imagine.”

South’s decision to elevate the honors program to the Honors College was driven by interest among students and faculty. Historically, the honors program has enrolled 45 new students each year, but has had to turn away many times that number of qualified applicants.

“High-achieving students know that honors programs such as ours have a strong reputation of not only challenging students academically, but also preparing them for a wide variety of rewarding careers,” said Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. David Johnson. “In order to accommodate the increasing number of top students who want to attend South, we needed to develop the Honors College to meet their expectations.”

The Honors College will launch this fall, with ambitious plans to expand to 150-200 new students enrolled each year in the near future. The College will also offer a greater variety of academic options for students, including the development of new tracks of study. .

“Honors brings together all different majors, and can use intellectual synergy and tension to build new ways of thinking — in research, coursework, and on-and off-campus experiences — that will contribute to the larger University and its many colleges,” Cooke said. “Going forward, I expect that as we think together in the Honors College, we will embody the ideals of the University, and add depth to the ways that the University strives to make a difference in the lives of those it serves.”

Cooke received her bachelor’s degree from Calvin College, and her master’s and Ph.D. degrees in history from the University of Chicago. She studies the history of biology, reproduction, and agriculture in American history, especially breeding and social reform movements such as the American eugenics movement of the early 20th century. Cooke has also studied how meditation impacts the brain through her research in the Clinical Affective and Neuroscience Laboratory at Brown University. Her project on the "drive for purity" in the United States received substantial support from the National Science Foundation in the form of a multi-year Scholar's Grant. Cooke has also held post-doctoral positions at the California Institute of Technology and Yale University, and research fellowships at Cornell University and the American Philosophical Society.

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