By Tyler Saal
Erik Stern is the new director for the Honors Program at Weber State University for the academic year. The change in directorship took place because Judy Elsley, the former director, is dealing with health issues. Elsley had been the Honors Program director for four and a half years before Stern took over for the start of the semester.
The position of Honors director involves coordinating from an administrative side, examining what’s important to the Honors Program, giving support to staff and students, and opening up possibilities for exploration and inquiry.
“It’s really having a vision about the role and type of inquiry that the Honors program should have,” Stern said.
The Honors Program at WSU encompasses all departments and aims to brings them together. Stern said the program crosses program boundaries and allows for wider and broader thought.
“I feel it’s right up my alley,” Stern said. “I have the experience administratively. I have the experience professionally connecting disciplines, so I really like it. I love the teachers and I love the students. They’re all very interesting, engaged people. That’s what’s fun.”
Originally from Los Angeles, Stern received his bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of California, Santa Cruz and an MFA in dance from the California Institute of the Arts. He has taught at WSU since 1993 as part of the dance faculty and was the Endowed Artist for the College of Arts and Humanities from 1999-2002. In addition, Stern works with the Kennedy Center as a teaching artist and is also a director and founder of a dance company based in California. Stern said his background gives him a lot of experience relevant to his new position with the Honors program.
“It’s a good program,” he said. “I want to maintain its strength and then see if there are other things that could happen. I’m not going to change the program fundamentally, but I do think there are things I can do to enrich and improve and enlighten.”
One of the changes Stern said will take place is the exploration of what connections are possible between the Honors Program and the Community Involvement Center, as far as outreach opportunities go.
“I think that the Honors students and teachers have a lot that they could share,” he said.
Stern said he wants to get the two programs more connected. Another change Stern said he intends is to make the Honors Program more widely known to students.
“I think that Professor Stern will be a great addition to the program,” said Leanna Riddle, Honors Program office manager. “He’s full of enthusiasm. He loves the students.”
Honors faculty also said Elsley has been dearly missed by staff and students alike. Marilyn Diamond, an Honors program adviser, said “almost every day a student will come in and say, ‘How’s Dr. Elsley doing?’ She is much loved and everyone hopes the best for her.”