Transforming Academic Reputation
At the heart of the vision for WKU to become “A Leading American University with International Reach” is advancing the academic reputation of the institution. As the academic reputation rises, so too does the value of a WKU degree - past, present, and future. Raising the academic performance of the student body, providing a unique learning environment for students, and preparing students to compete for national and international scholarship and research awards are keys to achieving the academic transformation that was envisioned in 1997.
The Center for Gifted Studies
The WKU Center for Gifted Studies has provided educational experiences beyond the traditional classroom for gifted and talented students, support for their families, and rigorous training and professional development for educators for more than 30 years. The Center has become one of the preeminent advocates for gifted education in the United States, and Center Director Julia Roberts is highly regarded as a national and international expert on gifted education.
The Center’s reach begins with first through eighth graders who participate in the Super Saturdays program to take advantage of fun opportunities to explore and investigate math, art, science, history, writing, music, and performance outside the normal classroom environment. More than 1,000 students participate in the Super Saturdays program annually.
In partnership with Duke University, the Center has hosted the Kentucky Awards Ceremony for the Duke Talent Identification Program each year since 1982 to recognize exceptional performance by Kentucky’s seventh graders taking the ACT college entrance exam. Thousands of Kentucky middle schoolers and their families have visited the WKU campus for the Duke Recognition Ceremony.
In addition, more than 9,000 middle and high schools students have attended summer educational enhancement programs at WKU, and 7,300 educators have participated in the Advanced Placement Institute training program since 1984.
The Gatton Academy
In 2006 the Kentucky General Assembly approved funding to establish the Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science in Kentucky on the WKU campus. The Gatton Academy is an independent residential high school for Kentucky’s exceptional high school juniors and seniors who have demonstrated interest in pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering, and math. The first class of Gatton students arrived at WKU in 2007. Gatton students take classes alongside WKU Honors students and participate in research, public service, and study abroad programs.
Students from 107 of Kentucky’s 120 counties have attended the Academy in its first five years, and 267 students have graduated from the Academy. The average ACT score of incoming high school juniors selected for the Academy’s Class of 2014 was 30.02 compared to the statewide average of 19.6. In 2012, graduating seniors at the Gatton Academy outperformed their high school peers for the fifth consecutive year on the ACT, posting an average score of 32 out of 36.
The Gatton Academy’s awards and recognitions include being ranked the Top High School in America by Newsweek in 2012; being named to the Washington Post’s “Public Elite” high schools list in 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012; and being named an Intel School of Distinction Finalist in 2012 for excellence in science.
In 2007 the WKU Board of Regents took the bold step of expanding the honors program to a fully independent Honors College. The goal was to grow the Honors College to 1,200 students by 2012, which has been achieved.
Students in the WKU Honors College experience an intimate, highly selective learning environment similar to that of a small private college but with the resources and benefits of a robust state university. Honors College students gain experience through service, applied research, and study abroad and live and learn together in housing dedicated for Honors students.
The Honors College accepts up to 300 high achieving students each year. The class of 2014 has an average ACT score of 29 and an average high school GPA of 3.8.
In 2008, WKU established the Office of Scholar Development (OSD) to help all students develop the vision, experience, and skills to be independent, engaged scholars. OSD encourages research and creative activities while assisting students seeking the top national and international scholarships.
WKU was listed among the top producing institutions of students winning Fulbright Awards in 2009; and in 2010, with four students earning Fulbright Awards, WKU was listed as a top 10 producer of Fulbrights among master’s degree granting institutions.
In 2011-12, WKU students and recent alumni earned 28 national awards worth more than $500,000. WKU was one of the top producers in the country of Barry M. Goldwater Scholars, the most prestigious awards for undergraduate students in science, engineering, and mathematics. Three of four WKU students applying for Goldwater Scholarships were successful while the fourth received an honorable mention.
WKU and Gatton Academy students have also won Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarships, the Princeton-in-Asia Fellowship, U.S. Critical Language Scholarships, National Security Language Initiative for Youth Scholarships, Department of Defense SMART Scholarships, Morris K. Udall Scholarships, a U.S. Presidential Scholar award, the William Jefferson Clinton Scholarship, and a Boren Award for International Study.
A record number of applicants for Fulbrights, Marshalls, and other prestigious awards are expected in 2012-13.
“Where I see the dramatic improvement is in our honors students. We’ve got some awfully good students… some powerhouse students. We know who they are because we keep up with them.”— Mary Ellen Miller, WKU Professor of English (and longest serving member of the faculty at 50 years and counting)