New Director Hopes to Enhance Learning Experience for University Scholars

Posted: August 11, 2010 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: August 11, 2010 at 8:05 am

By Catherine Ferraro

Anthony Hoefer. Creative Services photo

Although he has only been at Mason for three weeks and is still organizing his office, Anthony Hoefer has hit the ground running as the new director of the University Scholars Program.

Hoefer has already met with dozens of students and faculty and staff members on campus to determine how he can help further the mission of the University Scholars Program. Though he’s still formulating new ideas every day, it’s clear that his vision involves a commitment to excellence, academics and community.

As part of the Honors College, the University Scholars Program is a four-year, undergraduate merit-based scholarship program. From among the candidates invited to be part of the Honors College, a small group of approximately 25 of the most outstanding students are selected as University Scholars, Mason’s highest academic distinction. The total number of students in the program is about 90.

Growing up in Sumter, S.C., Hoefer developed an interest in 20th-century U.S. literature and Southern culture. He graduated from Wofford College in Spartanburg, S.C., where he majored in English and political science. He went on to receive a master’s degree in American Studies from the University of Alabama and a PhD in English from Louisiana State University.

In 2008, Hoefer secured a faculty position at the Georgia Institute of Technology, where he initially taught undergraduate English classes and later helped redesign the curriculum of the freshman seminar (similar to Mason’s University 100 course). As he was directing the course’s peer-mentor component, he says he realized he was interested in working with students both inside and outside the classroom.

“What interested me about Mason’s University Scholars Program was being able to work with students over a four-year period,” says Hoefer.

“This position allows me to pursue a scholarly agenda, but to do it while also working with students in nontraditional, holistic ways and to help them develop as individuals and as members of this community as they continue to excel in their various fields of study.”

According to Hoefer, his meetings with students over the past few weeks have been very revealing and have helped him gain insight into the specific needs of this exceptional group of scholars. He describes these students as goal-oriented, driven and having a love of learning and exchanging ideas.

When Hoefer asked them what is most important to them about the University Scholars Program and how it should enhance their experience at Mason, the answer was unanimous: fostering a stronger sense of community and having a forum for sharing ideas.

Moving into the fall semester, Hoefer plans to continue meeting with students and hopes to begin working with offices such as Admissions, Housing and Residence Life and the Center for Leadership and Community Engagement.

“Although I’m still gathering information, my vision for the University Scholars Program is to develop new programs that complement what students are learning in their courses,” says Hoefer.

“While students are already sharing ideas informally, I want to enhance this so that this community of learners becomes a place where knowledge from different disciplines and experiences can be shared and synthesized.”

He adds, “I want the University Scholars Program to attract the premier students from around the country. It should offer a chance to develop a rich intellectual life, in which research, learning and inquiry are deeply connected to citizenship and community.”

In addition to furthering the vision of the University Scholars Program as its new director, Hoefer will also have some time inside the classroom. In the fall, he will co-teach a section of University 100 with David Anderson, coordinator for the Honors College Living Learning Community, as well as a section of Honors 110.

Write to gazette at gazette@gmu.edu