William Monroe was appointed dean of the Honors College in January 2009 and said he enjoys and is comfortable in this leadership role.
Monroe also teaches in the Department of English and said he is working on new developments within the Honors College. Although there are several developments in the college, Monroe wants to focus on keeping the college’s traditions alive.
“We want to try to maintain the quality in the curriculum that we have developed over a long period of time,” he said, “but we are going to try to expand our upper-division offerings.”
Two new minors are now available to Honors College students: the Medicine and Society minor and the Phronesis minor, which focuses on politics and ethics. Monroe has also been working toward establishing a Creative Work minor.
In addition to developing the curriculum in these minors, Monroe said he wants to raise the Honors College’s popularity within Houston. One part of this plan is reaching out to teachers and prospective outstanding high-school students who live in the Greater Houston area.
“Teachers can help us identify and recruit outstanding students who may not really know about the quality of the University and the special opportunities available in the Honors College,” Monroe said. “It has been said that the Honors College is Houston’s best-kept secret. I don’t want that to be the case much longer. I want the Honors College to be a household name.”
A native Houstonian, Monroe grew up in the local Memorial area before attending Duke University for a year. He subsequently transferred to the University of Texas, where he finished his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in English, with a minor in Philosophy.
“I was most interested — and still remain interested in — the things that help people make the moral and ethical choices that they do,” Monroe said. “I decided that stories and poems were the most important things in that regard. I wanted to learn more about those things that I thought were most important in the formation of individuals. That’s why I studied literature.”
After working as a technical writer and editor for a small newspaper in East Texas, Monroe returned to UT for graduate school. He later received his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago, where he was the late Wayne Booth’s protégé.
“I had taught as a graduate student at the University of Texas. After I moved into other occupations, I realized that I really missed teaching,” Monroe said. “That was when I decided to go back to graduate school.”
Monroe worked as a faculty member for McMurry College in Abilene for two and a half years before UH recruited him to become the program’s associate director in 1985.
Booth recommended Monroe to Ted Estess, a former director of the University Honors Program. After receiving Booth’s endorsement, it wasn’t long before Monroe was offered the position.
This was just the start of a successful tenure at UH. In 2004, Monroe was recognized with the University Teaching Excellence Award.
“I felt that the University teaching award was like a lifetime achievement award,” he said. “A lot of my friends at the University, the people that I respected the most, had won the award: Ross Lence, Jim Pipkin, Ted Estess.
“I wanted to be one of them. So for me, it really was one of the highest achievements.”