Drive, Dedication, and Ingenuity”: Joy Hart Reflects on Ten Cohorts of Honors Students

Drive, Dedication, and Ingenuity”: Joy Hart Reflects on Ten Cohorts of Honors Students

University Honors Program students with Program Director Joy Hart (last row, far right), presented their scholarship at the 2023 National Collegiate Honors Council conference, November 8-11, in Chicago

July 5, 2024 

By Julie Wrinn

Students in UofL’s Honors Program experience the best of many worlds: they inhabit a close-knit and supportive community of high achievers, who are exposed to an interdisciplinary, liberal arts education, with all the research and co-curricular opportunities of a large research university, while residing in a thriving metropolitan area. A coveted spot in the University Honors Program has been key to attracting many of UofL’s most outstanding students, and the person leading those recruiting efforts for the past decade has been Professor of Communication Joy Hart.

Directing the Honors Program’s myriad offerings is one of the College’s most impactful roles, and Prof. Hart has been a beloved figure on campus during her time at the helm. Today only about half of Honors students major in A&S, and Hart credits her predecessor, Chemistry Professor John Richardson, for his instrumental role in expanding Honors to a university-wide program that includes all undergraduate schools and colleges. Richardson also developed the Honors Living Learning Communities, created the Office of National and International Scholarships and Fellowships, and designed a meaningful first-year experience course. “Because I taught Honors courses and served as an Honors Fellow,” said Hart, “I learned a great deal from John prior to moving into this role when he retired, and I have benefitted from his willingness to field questions and share insights across the years.”

When Hart became director in 2014, one her challenges was adapting to changes in the student population over the years and how to ensure that the Living Learning Community was responsive to evolving student interests. Hart worked to expand Honors courses and seminars to cover an increasingly diverse set of subjects and topics. She has also deepened collaboration across the Mentored Scholarship Programs. Ensuring that the Honors Program is an inclusive program benefitting all students at UofL has been another one of her priorities, and many of its events and programs are available to UofL students who are not in the Honors Program. “I hope that we’ve retained the open, welcoming spirit that has always been a hallmark of Honors and expanded ways of engaging Honors students and simultaneously invited others to be part of Honors’ initiatives,” said Hart.

A highlight of the Honors experience is attending Honors conferences at the state, regional, and national level, and Hart notes that her students have had considerable success recently in having their work accepted for presentation. She recalls how at a recent national conference, student leaders from Honors Student Council hosted a roundtable discussion to a standing-room-only audience. “Most audience members were Honors deans and directors, faculty, and staff members,” she said. “It was easy to see how interested they were in the work of UofL Honors students, and it was impressive to hear our students respond so insightfully and professionally to questions that they were asked.”  UofL hosted the Kentucky Honors Roundtable (KHR) in February of 2020, one of the last large events prior to COVID-19 physical distancing, and will again in the spring 2025 semester. 

Hart credits the Honors Program staff—Kirsten Armstrong, Alyssa Betts, Luke Buckman, Kristen Justice, Jimmy Kidd, Carmen Mitchell, Quintera Quinn, and Bethany Smith—with being “truly gifted in mentoring students, guiding them through their undergraduate years, and ensuring that they are well prepared for their careers and civic life.” Hart has also enjoyed working with an array of campus partners with whom faculty normally do not regularly interact, such as residence life and financial aid.

But the most rewarding part of being Honors Director has been working with the students. “I never cease to be impressed by the drive, dedication, and ingenuity of our students,” she said. “From students who receive prestigious awards to students who land admission to their most desired graduate or professional school, and from students who discover a new course or topic area that they love to students who have their first manuscript published, sharing in their excitement and celebrating their successes over the past decade has been wonderful.”

Hart is eager to return to full-time teaching in fall 2024. “Even before being in this role, I kept a running list of topics for classes that I’d like to create, so I’m excited about piloting some new course offerings in the future,” she said. Hart also plans to continue her research in health communication, especially in the areas of tobacco control, connections between the environment and health, and research translation. In all of these areas, she will welcome undergraduate and graduate students as part of those research teams.


With a new director soon to be announced, Hart is feeling enormous gratitude for all who have supported her work over the past decade: “The thank you list includes community leaders who mentor students, alumni who give back to the program, numerous campus partners, faculty and staff who have worked closely with Honors and helped in whatever ways were needed from coaching an additional student to cleaning up after events (You know who you are!), the stellar Honors staff, and especially Honors students who, even in challenging times, radiate the promise of the future!”