Dr. Lindsey Panxhi, assistant professor of English, was recently named director of OBU’s honors program. Panxhi follows Dr. Tawa Anderson, associate professor of philosophy, who served as honors director the past five years. Anderson will continue serving the honors program as assistant director.

Panxhi joined the OBU faculty in 2016. She earned her bachelor’s degree from John Brown University. She then earned both a Master of Arts and Ph.D. from the University of Arkansas. Over the past three years, she has helped plan and lead several study abroad opportunities for students in the OBU honors program.

Anderson joined the OBU faculty in 2011. He graduated with honors from the University of Alberta with a bachelor’s degree in political science. He then received his M.Div. in pastoral ministry from Edmonton Baptist Seminary. Anderson then earned his Ph.D. in philosophy from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He has also studied philosophy, apologetics and world religions at various other seminaries throughout the United States and Canada.

Under Anderson’s leadership over the past five years, the Honors Program at OBU has seen record numbers, with 40 students in 2016, 31 students in 2017, 45 in 2018 and 34 in the class of 2019. The program has also made progress on many fronts, including an online application process, updated website with digitized handbook and video-recording all honors thesis presentations for archives on the honors website.

Panxhi desires for the honors program to continue its growth under her leadership. She has enjoyed assisting with the program for the past few years and is excited to take the helm as honors director.

“Some of my best memories at OBU over the last 3 years have been made during my time working with honors students,” she said. “I have spent time fellowshipping with our outstanding students during the fall and spring retreats, at welcome banquets and graduation banquets, in honors thesis presentations, and while studying abroad in London.”

Panxhi says that participating in the honors program helps new students quickly forge strong relationships and find their way as college students.

“It can be hard to form friendships in freshman year of college, but year after year I’ve seen students who join honors form close, deep friendships in the fall of their freshman year,” she said. “This is because of the time they spend together in orientation, in honors classes, and at the fall retreat. Godly, wise friends are one of the most valuable things you can acquire in college, and the honors program opens the door for students to cultivate those friendships from their first moment on campus, to their final days as graduating seniors, and for a lifetime beyond.”

Over the years, Anderson has implemented numerous changes and additions to the honors program.

“Students in the honors program have had the opportunity to enroll in special ‘honors learning communities’ since 2015,” he said. “These allow students to gain a close-knit community and enrich their time at OBU. Since students enroll in these learning communities before their freshman year, they enable students to walk through Welcome Week activities in their honors cohort and even have multiple classes together.”

Since these communities began, students have gained the opportunity to fellowship not only with their classmates, but also with students in the entire honors program. These opportunities have come both on and off campus, as students participate in a fall honors freshman orientation at the Sullivant Retreat Center in Norman as well as the spring honors retreat.

OBU honors students have also recently enjoyed the opportunity to participate in the honors corporate study abroad program. The first trip was to London, England, in summer 2018, where Anderson and Panxhi, along with their spouses, took 15 students to teach two courses and an honors colloquium. A similar study abroad trip to London will take place this summer with 16 students, as well as a study abroad trip to China in 2020 led by Anderson and Dr. Jessica Rohr, assistant professor of English, TESOL.

The honors program also recently underwent an exhaustive curriculum review and enhancement. Beginning during the 2016-17 academic year, the honors committee began to examine the mission, purpose and vision of OBU’s honors program, ultimately revamping all three statements.

The purpose statement for the honors program is to, “Expand the Mind. Enrich the Soul. Explore the World.”

The honors program mission statement states that, “OBU honors elevates scholarly experience by cultivating and building upon a Christian intellectual heritage; broadening transdisciplinary encounters; and inspiring innovative research, service, and global engagement.”

The committee also updated the vision statement, concluding that, “The honors program fulfills its purpose and pursues its mission through fostering a vibrant multidisciplinary honors community, faithfully engaging diverse intellectual perspectives, maturing servant leadership, facilitating study abroad experiences, and mentoring scholars in independent research.”

Anderson also launched a comprehensive honors program assessment that resulted in a full honors curriculum revision. This process was undertaken through a major research project into honors programs, colleges and degrees at 43 regional and national post-secondary institutions. The collected data was compiled into a 152-page document in fall 2017. That research was utilized to conduct a two-year honors curriculum revision process, beginning in August 2017 and concluding in May 2019.

As a result, a new 24-hour honors program core will launch in August 2020, replacing the previous 12-hour core. The 24-hour core will be covered in four semesters of six hours each. The team-taught chronological approach to the “history of ideas” will enable each semester to integrate history, literature, theology, science and art together into a seamlessly unified curriculum.

“Of all that has been accomplished in the honors program over the past five years, I derive the greatest pleasure and pride from the campus-wide collaboration and consultation that culminated in the new honors curriculum which positions OBU with a top regional honors program,” Anderson said.

He is also happy to hand the honors program to Panxhi and can’t wait to see it continue to flourish in the future.

“I hope and pray for continued growth in the honors program, as students in Oklahoma, the southwest region, and nationwide see the tremendous program and curriculum that has been developed and are drawn to apply and participate. I pray that God continues to shine His face upon our honors faculty and students, drawing students nearer to one another and to Him in a Christ-centered academic community that seeks to honor God in all they do. I hope that we continue to develop and lead corporate study abroad opportunities each summer, led by a broader group of OBU faculty. I pray that Dr. Panxhi will bring new energy and ideas to the program and inspire our students to even greater heights.”

Panxhi is excited to implement the new curriculum and hopes to involve more faculty in departments throughout campus in working with honors students.

“One of our biggest tasks in the near future is implementing the new honors curriculum. My goal is that we structure the course offerings in such a way that many of our excellent faculty in departments across campus can contribute to the learning process for honors students. I also want to continue offering affordable faculty-led study abroad trips for a month at the end of each summer, in order to provide students with a chance to fulfill their capstone by taking OBU classes abroad. I would also like to continue to grow the program, recruiting excellent students from all disciplines.

“Finally, my goal is that everything honors does in terms of recruitment will benefit OBU as a whole. The trademarks of challenging classes, spiritual growth and close relationships with professors are present not only in honors, but in OBU’s classes across campus. We will encourage as many students as possible to become Bison, whether they participate in honors or not.”

With so much past success and so many great things on the horizon, Panxhi is excited to get started in her new role.

“I look forward to spending even more time exploring challenging and worthwhile ideas with the honors students as director of the program. I also look forward to working with Tawa, who will be an invaluable aid as assistant director. He has done so much great work to grow the honors program over the last 5 years, and I’m very glad that he will continue to be involved. Finally, I look forward to challenging, guiding and equipping honors students as they expand their minds, enrich their souls and explore the world.”

For more information about the honors program at OBU, visit www.okbu.edu/academics/honors.