Thomas Pfaff, associate professor in the department of mathematics, was recently selected as the new director for the Ithaca College Honors Program beginning in Fall 2013.
The honors program is an invitation-only group made up of about 470 students across all schools and programs. Pfaff is currently a member of the honors program faculty and has taught honors seminars in the past. He was a student at the college from 1986 to 1990 and came back as a faculty member about 12 years ago.
Contributing writer Lisa Famularo spoke with Pfaff about his past involvement in the honors program and his goals for the program in the coming years.
Lisa Famularo: Why were you interested in becoming the director of the honors program at Ithaca College?
Thomas Pfaff: The position really was just an interesting position in that it’s somewhat administrative, and you still get to work with a lot of students but in different ways. You still teach a course in the honors program, but you still work a lot of the co-curriculars and work with the Student Advisory Board, so it is really an interesting blend of still working with students but also still helping to keep programs running that are interesting and enjoyable. And I’m at a point in my career where I have the time to step out and do some of those things for a while.
LF: What do you think are the current honors program’s biggest strengths?
TP: The overall program is just a very integrated, really engaged, liberal arts–type program, which is what it’s supposed to be. It draws now, as an all-college program, faculty from across campus to really provide some interesting and engaging courses and opportunities for students.
LF: What do you think are the current honors program’s biggest weaknesses?
TP: The program went as an all-college program about five years ago and really grew into a program that’s much bigger and much more complex in terms of its running. So maybe — it’s not so much of a weakness — but trying to settle down and capitalize in everything we’ve accomplished over the last few years. Maybe it’s time to stop and look where we really want to go in the future. We’ve got proposals in to make some changes to the programs due to the Integrative Core Curriculum, and so we’re in a little bit of flux in some sense, so maybe that’s a weakness. I think the program really is running very well and doing a lot of neat things.
LF: What are some future aspirations you have for the program?
TP: Generally I think the goal of this program is simply to be the best program of its type at an institution of our type, which is a school with four-year masters programs and a lot of professional programs on campus … An aspiration is just to be identified as the best program of its type.
LF: Since having a say in how the program is run is important to honors students, how are you going to make sure to take into account students’ opinions as you proceed in your new position?
TP: The fact is that students do give us a lot of good ideas and do a lot of good stuff, but there is a Student Steering Committee that already exists, and they already get input, and they will certainly keep getting input into the program.