After six years of teaching Criminology at Villanova, Dr. Allison Payne embarked on a new role as Associate Director of the Honors Program. Welcomed in August of 2012, this enthusiastic and dedicated professor has been at the forefront of the continual changes and improvements in the program.
The Associate Director position used to be a staff position, but this year Honors elected to make it a faculty position. Dr. Payne says she responded to a call for applications because “It sounded exactly what I wanted to do, working more closely with the best of the best students in advising, mentoring, and research, and then also getting to teach them.”
As part of this role, Dr. Payne is responsible for setting up events and colloquia that foster the intellectual community that Honors is all about. Last semester, she helped coordinate a three-part Presidential Election series, which included discussing the candidate’s positions on issues most important to students, and then holding a mock debate in which four students posed as the candidates. “My goal is to create these events that really intrigue Honors students and enhance what they’re doing in the classroom,” she noted. Plans are in the works to implement more events, including exciting field trips for students. In addition, she helped run Honors’ first-ever Alumni networking event, and she hopes to continue to grow the relationship between the Program and alumni.
In addition to all of this, Dr. Payne is teaching the Honors Degree: Oral Examination track’s capstone seminar this semester, and next year she will be teaching the senior thesis class for Honors degree candidates in the Thesis Track. This is on top of teaching Criminology classes as well. “Student research is one of my favorite things to work on,” she said. “I like to encourage the love of research in undergrads and teach proper ways to conduct it.” Her goal is to increase the number of students in both the thesis and oral examination tracks, thereby increasing the number of students that receive Honors degrees overall. Dr. Payne’s own research focuses on juvenile delinquency, crime and delinquency prevention, and school crime and violence. Specifically, she researches how schools impact crime, disorder, victimization, and delinquency and what schools can do to reduce these outcomes.
Finally, Dr. Payne has been working to “pump up” the faculty-student relationships within Honors. A main reason why the Associate Director position became a faculty-held post was to increase this climate of collaboration. “We’d like to increase the faculty participation in the Program,” she noted, “beyond just teaching classes.” This includes a new faculty fellowship program, starting in Fall 2013, in which two faculty members become visiting professors in the Honors program for a two-year rotation. Once the program is fully implemented, there will be a total of four visiting professors at a time, who will move their offices to Garey Hall, teach Honors classes, and advise and mentor students.
As a result of the recent changes and improvements in the program, Dr. Payne believes that “the Honors community is getting more and more vibrant… Students are more excited to be a part of it.” When asked about her favorite part about Honors, she cites the sense of family and community among the faculty, staff, and students. Most of all, “I love the engagement of the students in learning for knowledge’s sake, not for a credential.” Everyone in the Program is grateful to have Dr. Payne on board, and excited to see what she does next.
By newsletter Co-Editor, Alexandra Andreassen. Alex is a senior pursuing a B.A. in Sociology and Honors with a Communication minor.