English Professor Helen Burke named director of FSU Honors Program

Florida State University Dean of Undergraduate Studies Karen Laughlin has announced the appointment of Professor of English Helen Burke as the new director of the FSU Honors Program.

A prize-winning author whose areas of expertise include 18th century Irish and English theater and literature, Burke succeeds physics Professor Paul Cottle, who officially concludes his prolific three-year term as director on June 30. She will begin on May 9 in order to facilitate a seamless transition.

“I am thrilled to have this opportunity to work with the Honors Program, which seeks to attract the most talented undergraduates in the state and nation to our university,” Burke said. “Paul Cottle has propelled the program in exciting new directions by emphasizing undergraduate participation in research and creative activity. I’m looking forward to expanding these opportunities, particularly in the humanities, for FSU’s best and most engaged students.”

“Dr. Burke is a distinguished scholar, inspiring teacher and experienced administrator and I am delighted to be welcoming her to this position, even while being sorry to see Dr. Cottle step down to return to full-time research and teaching in physics,” Laughlin said.

“Dr. Cottle’s energy and enthusiasm has taken the University Honors Program to the next level. For example, now it better serves students entering FSU with significant amounts of college credit. In addition, the Honors in the Major program has expanded dramatically, enabling an increasingly diverse pool of undergraduates to pursue graduate-caliber research in partnership with faculty mentors.

“In fact, 20 of these outstanding FSU students will present their research at Clemson University next week during the first-ever ACC (Atlantic Coast Conference) undergraduate research symposium,” Laughlin said.

“Furthermore, Dr. Cottle was a driving force in creating the Office of Undergraduate Fellowships and now the Honors Medical Scholars Program, which capitalizes on ever-increasing undergraduate interest in FSU’s new College of Medicine.”

Looking forward, Burke envisions expanded and novel intensive research experiences in the humanities.

“In the sciences, honors students have excellent opportunities to work in labs with professors, and many of them publish the research that comes out of this collaborative effort,” she said. “One of several possible ways to do this for students in the humanities might be through an apprentice program that first trains the undergraduate in research skills, then links that student up with an individual faculty member.”

A member of the FSU faculty since 1990, Burke earned her Ph.D. the same year from the University of Southern Mississippi. Born and raised in Ireland, she received her master’s and bachelor’s degrees from the National University of Ireland, University College Cork. Among her many published works is the prize-wining tome “Riotous Performances” (2003), which focuses on the 18th century Dublin stage. A forthcoming book will spotlight 18th century Irish playwrights, the Irish diaspora and the London stage. Burke has won numerous awards, including a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship in 2000.

The FSU Honors Program provides myriad opportunities for top students to become world-class scholars, community leaders and innovators in a wide range of professions.

Qualified undergraduates who pursue the Honors in the Major designation must complete a thesis project, a process modeled after work in graduate school. Of the roughly 2 percent of each graduating class who do so about 120 students annually during Cottle’s term as director more than half see their work published in prestigious academic journals.

Beginning next fall, the Honors Medical Scholars Program will enable five eligible FSU Honors Program students each year to pursue a Bachelor of Science degree of their choice while also participating in a Medical Scholars Program, which will include a seminar, mentorship program and required premed courses and experiences. Participants will be eligible for early admission to the FSU College of Medicine upon completion of premed requirements, making it possible to graduate with both a B.S. and M.D. degree in a total of only seven years.

Burke will take the Honors Program reins just as massive renovations are completed on FSU’s venerable Landis Hall, designated the official campus residence hall for Honors Program students along with nearby Gilchrist Hall. Now replete with suites and semi-private baths, the co-ed Landis Hall will re-open to 403 students in August and in conjunction with 2006 Homecoming activities, will be re-dedicated during a ceremony on Nov. 17.

To learn more about the FSU Honors Program, visit http://honors.fsu.edu/.