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March 23, 2015

Interim director ushers in big changes
for CSU’s redesigned Honors College

By By Shannon Oblak
Contributor

It’s another bone-chilling winter afternoon as Elizabeth Lehfeldt looks out of her office window and onto the Student Center Plaza, watching as students bustle past each other to get to their classes.

She sits back down at her desk with comfort and ease, as if she has been settled into this office for years. However, Lehfeldt was only just appointed last September as the interim director of the new Jack, Joseph, and Morton Mandel Honors College.

The new Honors College has been adjusting to many changes over the past year, but many say Lehfeldt has taken on her new role like a natural. Prior to taking this position, she was the chair of the History Department for five years. Seven years ago, she served on the college committee that helped roll out the current general education requirements, giving her exposure to all of the programs and majors on campus.

“Coming into a unit where students pretty much major in everything, I felt reasonably well prepared for this role,” Lehfeldt said.

Along with gaining a new interim director, The Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Foundation and the Mandel Supporting Foundations gave Cleveland State University $3.6 million last June to form The Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Honors College. This creates Cleveland State University’s 10th college.
This gift is being used primarily for scholarships for honors and scholars students. Each year, the highly selective program will admit qualified freshman candidates, along with internal and transfer students, and puts them through a rigorous application process.

For freshman applicants to be qualified, they need to have graduated from their high school class in the top 10 percent and score in the 90th percentile or above on the ACT exam. To be a Scholars Student is an alternative to becoming an Honors Student. Scholars Students are required to have graduated in the top 15 percent of their high school class and have at least a 27 ACT composite score or above.

Jessica Noe, a freshman honors student majoring in health science pre-occupational therapy, said she feels the difficult process to get into the Honors College is well worth it.

“The college and its coordinators are very helpful in providing us with exclusive opportunities and allow us to gain more for the college experience,” Noe said. “They’re always finding ways for us to make the most out of our time here at Cleveland State.”

During their first two years in the college, the students are required to take at least four honors general education courses. Each experience is different as the students settle into their chosen field. They work with faculty members within their major to create a plan and course load needed for graduation, all of which must be approved by the program director, and kept on file in the college.
The Honors College offices, classrooms and student lounge are now located on the fourth floor of Main Classroom, but with the new college growing with more than 500 members, it is being relocated to the first floor of Main Classroom near the Euclid Avenue entrance.

The money given by the Mandel Foundation and the Mandel Supporting Foundations will not only help provide scholarship funds, but will also be used for funding new floor renovations. The project costs $350,000 and will be starting construction April 6. The projected date for the area to be move-in ready is July 20, just in time for the fall 2015 semester.

Carissa Woytach, a junior studio arts major and honors student, is curious about the relocation of the new college.

“I’m interested to see what the final renovations will look like and how it will be set up,” Woytach said.

The Honors College now has a bit of a contiguous space. The offices and lounge are in close proximity of each other. The new layout will be a bit different. The office and student lounge will be separated by a hallway, which will provide more of a separation and freedom between students and faculty.

Lehfeldt is excited for the new location and what its new presence will bring to the school.

“Luckily there isn’t much to be done on the office side,” Lehfeldt said. “Most of the money will be put toward the lounge and the hallway so that you really get a distinct impression that you’re in another part of the university.”

A nationwide search for a permanent dean is underway since the Honors Program has become the Honors College. As interim director, Lehfeldt is making the day-by-day decisions, but doesn’t have any plans of introducing big changes before a dean is picked. She is, however, interested in the position herself.

“I am applying, that isn’t a secret,” said Lehfeldt. “If I were to be fortunate to get the position I would have bigger plans.”

Morgan Elswick, a psychology major and Honors student, has confidence in the new interim director.

“She’s actually the professor for my HON 200 class (Book Club) as well and is very helpful and easy to talk to, which makes her very approachable,” Elswick said.

Lehfeldt has adapted to being interim director during a time of various changes for the Jack, Joseph, and Morton Mandel Honors College, but to her it is very much worth it.

“One of the things I like best with this job is that I get to see all of the students on a daily basis and that’s different from my role in the History Department,” said Lehfeldt. “It’s more engaging on a one-on-one basis and I enjoy it.”