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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

The UF Honors Program search committee will interview three finalists between March 20 and April 15, including current Interim Director Melissa Johnson.

The Honors search committee narrowed its search from six to three finalists in mid-March, leaving students curious about the future of the program.

Johnson hosted a Q&A session March 24 with honors students. She spoke briefly about her role as interim director and possible future director.

“In this director role and even as interim director, you finally have that position where you can implement a vision,” she said. 

Johnson wants to boost the Honors Program’s reputation because most people are unaware of the opportunities it provides, its infrastructure and its budget needs. She also personally guaranteed all students will feel welcomed in Honors, no matter what happens during the current legislative session. 

“We will work through the parameters we have and make sure all of our students, regardless of who they are, feel welcome in any part of this program,” she said.

To apply for the position, candidates were required to submit a current curriculum vitae and a letter of interest defining why they want the position. 

“Due to my extensive background in honors education and at the University of Florida, I am confident in my ability to transition to the next phase of my administrative career,” Johnson said in her interest letter. 

Johnson has served as the interim director since August. Before that, she served as the associate senior director of the program. 

Shortly following the student Q&A, Johnson gave a presentation and participated in another Q&A through a password-protected Zoom call. 

Michael Blandino, assistant dean of Louisiana State University’s Ogden Honors College, and Kathy Cooke, founding dean of the University of South Alabama’s Honors College, will give a presentation April 3 and April 10, respectively. Blandino has served as the assistant dean of Ogden for the past 11 years.

Kathy Cooke is a professor of history who was the founding dean of both Quinnipiac University’s honors program in 2005 and the University of South Alabama’s Honors College in 2017. 

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Cooke stayed as the founding dean until March 2022. She applied to the UF Honors director position after coming off a brief stint when she took a step back for family health issues.

“I am reinvigorated, confident in family health, and refreshed with my research in the humanities and social justice,” Cooke said in her letter of intent. “I am eager to bring that experience back to leadership in honors at the University of Florida.”

The finalist will be selected after April 15. 

Contact Ella at ethompson@alligator.org. Follow her on Twitter @elladeethompson


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Ella Thompson

Ella Thompson is a third-year journalism major and the Spring 2024 Metro Editor. In her free time, she likes to go to the beach or read a good book. 


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