20 Years of Honors

Honors Lecture
Natasha Trethewey speaks at the Honors 20th Anniversary Lecture.

Poet laureate’s visit highlights Honors celebration

KENNESAW, Ga. (Jan 25, 2017) — Kennesaw State University is commemorating 20 years of Honors programs, and Honors College Dean Rita Bailey anticipates having much more to celebrate in the coming years.

Bailey, who became the Honors College dean last July, plans to launch a revised Honors curriculum this fall that will offer students coursework choices that are more customized to their needs and interests. Students will select from eight different “learning experiences” based on eight Foundations of Honors Learning in the Honors College. Along with the current distinction of Honors Scholar, Kennesaw State’s highest academic honor, the College will offer new designations of Honors in the Major and Honors Participant.

“The redesigned University Honors Program will offer additional options for high-quality academic programs, service opportunities and community-building engagements for students,” Bailey said. “We also are refocusing our efforts on increasing both need- and merit-based scholarships that are available to Honors students.”

Kennesaw State began an Honors Program in 1996 with a cohort of 25 high-achieving students. The program became the Honors College in 2013 and has grown to serving more than 1,000 students per year across Kennesaw State’s two campuses. That includes students from nearly every major and discipline at the University.

“The Honors College at KSU offers students the exceptional advantages of an elite education with the comprehensive offerings of a large university,” Bailey said.

To learn more about the Honors College, click here.

Pulitzer Prize-winning Poet

For the marquee event of the year-long Honors 20th anniversary celebration, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and former U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey visited Kennesaw State on Tuesday for a poetry reading and discussion.

Trethewey shared her experience growing up biracial in the deep South, the child of a white father and black mother. Her parents’ marriage was illegal in Trethewey’s home state of Mississippi when she was born in 1966 in a segregated maternity ward.

“Sequestered on the ‘colored floor,’ my mother knew the nation was changing – but slowly,” she said. “She knew that I would have to journey toward an understanding of myself, my place in the world, with the invisible burdens of history.” 

Trethewey said she felt like “an outsider in my own homeland” as she often saw African-Americans being misrepresented, or left out entirely, of the historical record of the South. She was inspired to tell the story of black soldiers who served in the Civil War in “Native Guard,” Trethewey’s collection of poetry for which she was awarded the 2007 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry. 

“In my 12th-grade history book, blacks were singing and happy in the quarters, better off under a master’s care,” she recalled. “According to my teacher, they had never fought for their own freedom, even as nearly 200,000 fought in the Civil War.”

Another inspiration for Trethewey’s writing was the tragic death of her mother. When Trethewey was a freshman in college, her mother was murdered by her stepfather. Trethwey shared a dream she had three weeks after the fatal shooting, in which her mother asked the question, “Do you know what it means to have a wound that never heals?”

“My writing life began not long after that, and I’ve been trying to answer my mother’s final question to me ever since,” Trethewey said. “To survive trauma, one must be able to tell a story about it.”


— Paul Floeckher

Photos by Lauren Lopez de Azua



A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its nearly 43,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu