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New honors college dean aims to bring program to new heights

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The Honors College’s new dean has lofty goals for the program, but that’s okay; he already has experience moving mountains.

Dr. Terry Hunt is an archaeologist with more than 30 years’ experience in the Pacific Islands, especially Rapa Nui — better known as Easter Island — where he was part of the team that discovered how the islanders moved the famous giant heads. But aside from his tropical tromps, Hunt has led the University of Oregon honors college since 2013. Before that, he taught at the University of Hawaii for 25 years and served as director of the honors program for three of them.

“Honors college students, to put it simply, just make me happy,” he said. “They’re so successful, they’re bright, they’re motivated and that’s why we do our job.”

Hunt comes to the UA for the opportunity to launch the Honors College to new heights. He sees room for improvement at the college, and looks forward to implementing the work already done by the Honors Re-Envisioning Task Force. 

“The first thing for me will be to really listen and find out as much as I can about the place of honors at the UA for students, for faculty and staff,” Hunt said. “I want to learn as much as I can.”

Hunt will draw on his experience as an archaeologist, a role which he said prepared him for working in a team where people learn and discover together. With that mindset, he hopes to utilize UA’s resources to make the college one of the best programs in the country.

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“Given Arizona’s standing as a great university, the Honors College should be top-ranked in the country and really be a leader in honors education,” he said. “If I have a goal, that’s the goal.”

Coming from an already-renowned honors college in Oregon, Hunt knows what a great honors college looks like. UO’s Robert D. Clark Honors College is ranked in the top 10 by the Public University Press, which publishes annual reviews of public colleges.

Now, Hunt is encouraged by the prospect of having the freedom to improve the UA’s program.

“Arizona has the will to be the best it can be and the courage to actually try something new or different depending on what we all decide together,” he said.

Hunt’s bottom line is still the students. In addition to his role as dean, he’s also looking to spend some time with in the classroom.

RELATED: Honors college bolsters programs to help students succeed

“I love teaching; they can’t keep me out of the classroom,” he said. “I’m not really supposed to teach, but I do. The days that I teach a class, the days that I meet with students, are days that are most rewarding to me.”

Hunt’s students will have their work cut out for them in developing his Wildcat pride.

“It’s gonna be hard to get the Duck out of me,” he said.

Hunt will assume his new position in September. In the meantime, you can check out his 2012 book “The Statues That Walked: Unraveling the Mystery of Easter Island” or look for the NOVA-National Geographic special, “Mystery of Easter Island,” about his exploits on Rapa Nui.

 For honors students, Hunt has some advice to succeed as the program grows.

“Work your absolute hardest; do your very best work and then do more of it.” he said. “Keep striving to be the best you can be and you’ll be surprised at the things you can accomplish.”


Follow Nick Meyers on Twitter.



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