New CSU Honors director to focus on campus-wide connections


Collegian | Falyn Sebastian

Allie Seibel, News Director

The Colorado State University Honors Program, an academic learning community focused on providing students with an enriched and interdisciplinary education, according to their website, is composed of around 2,000 undergraduate students.

Shawn Bingham, the new director of the Honors Program, hopes to focus on engaging students in creative ways and build connections across academic departments on campus.


Bingham’s experience spans leadership roles in honors departments at several universities, the two most recent being assistant dean of the Honors College at the University of South Florida and the University of North Carolina Wilmington Honors College director and associate dean of undergraduate studies

“Once I got a taste of kind of rebuilding an honors college and the kind of magic that you can do in honors that you can’t do in a traditional department, I was hooked, and there was no way I was ever going back,” Bingham said.

“We lived amongst students in an apartment, hosted events, did laundry in the same laundry room, and there’s no better way to get to know students than doing laundry next to them, so that was a really amazing classroom for me to get to know students.” -Shawn Bingham, new director of the CSU Honors Program

While at USF, Bingham and his family lived in a residence hall as a faculty member in residence. His children spent their formative years living on a college campus, and Bingham said the experience of living close to students shaped how he connects and interacts with undergraduate students. 

“We lived amongst students in an apartment, hosted events, did laundry in the same laundry room, and there’s no better way to get to know students than doing laundry next to them, so that was a really amazing classroom for me to get to know students,” Bingham said. “It also sort of disarms them. You get to know faculty, that they’re real people and they have real lives and real challenges.”

Bingham was drawn to the honors program director job at CSU in part because of the creative potential he saw for the growth of the program.

“I’ve never worked at a university with an ag school, and that was very intriguing (for me),” Bingham said. “I really see a natural connection between honors and the outdoors in some interesting ways. There’s absolutely wonderful things being done here, and there was a real taste for some new creative things (in the program). I certainly don’t want to downplay my predecessors at any of the institutions because they have done some awesome things, but I was drawn to coming in and really creating a new culture and connecting with new partners across campus and new partners in the community.”

The Honors Program at CSU is characterized by smaller-class interdisciplinary seminars that replace some traditional all-university core curriculum classes. The seminars are discussion-based and focus on connecting a broad topic through multiple academic perspectives. Students also participate in honors-level courses in their major and a thesis project at the end of four years.

“This is the best job on campus, bar none,” Bingham said. “Even on more frustrating days, I have to sort of pitch myself that I get to work in a really creative, interdisciplinary environment with incredibly talented students (and) faculty who are incredibly invested in this kind of high-touch education.”

Honors professors come from various academic departments on campus and bring seminar topic ideas they want to teach to the honors program. One of Bingham’s goals going forward is to continue to foster those faculty-spanning connections with the program.


“Without sounding too trite, (honors) really is a jazz-ensemble kind of environment,” Bingham said. “It’s not an environment where there’s a department head and they’re sort of driving the train and giving orders.”

“It’s a co-creative environment where you get to go to faculty and say, ‘What’s your dream class? Come teach (it) up here.’ Or you get to say to students, ‘What kind of story do you want to tell about yourself? And let’s help you create an honors thesis or senior project that really helps you put together not just who you are in your major, but who you are with your major or minor and who you want to be.'”

While focusing on attracting prospective students to the program, Bingham stressed that the honors experience at CSU is completely different from high school honors programs that often focus on giving students more or harder work.

“I’m really interested in pushing students beyond the checklist mentality,” Bingham said. “My pitch really to any prospective student is throw out your ideas of honors from high school. … Honors builds context around your major, so it pushes you to think beyond your major because you’re more than your major.

“It’s an immediate community — it’s a way to connect you, not just to faculty and other students, but to places around the community and off campus. And really unlike larger classrooms, it’s 100% built on conversations. That really is what is the magic of this is, what makes it unique and special.”

For Bingham, the future of the Honors Program is built on the passion of the students he gets to interact with every day.

“Every day when I come to the door, I get to work with wonderful students,” Bingham said. “Sort of selfishly from my own perspective, there are a lot of folks my age and older who have a really downer view of the future. I don’t because I’m surrounded by amazingly talented students who want to go out and do amazing things and who are doing amazing things here on campus. I think it’s really hard to be around those kinds of students and be grim about what the future holds.”

Reach Allie Seibel at or on Twitter @allie_seibel_