Centennial Honors College
Faculty and Staff
- Dr. Rick Hardy
- Dr. Paul A. Schlag
- Dr. Molly Homer
- Michele Aurand
- Patty Battles
- Janell McGruder
- Antoine J. Smith
Dr. Richard "Rick" Hardy, Director
Richard J. (Rick) Hardy is Professor of Political Science and Director of the Centennial Honors College at Western Illinois University. He received his undergraduate degree with honors in political science at Western Illinois University and earned his Ph.D. from the University of Iowa. He has served on the faculties of Northern State University, Duke University and the University of Missouri-Columbia, and has taught a wide range of courses in American Politics, Constitutional Law, and Civic Leadership.
Rick believes that “free government requires active citizens.” To that end, he has been actively engaged in civic affairs. He helped lead several political reform drives, served on numerous government commissions and boards of directors, volunteered in civic organizations, consulted on dozens of political races at all levels of government, and served as a presidential elector in the Electoral College.
His administrative positions at the University of Missouri included: Assistant Director of the Honors College, Director of Undergraduate Studies, Director of the Masters’ Program in Public Policy, Director of the National Institute for Advanced Civic Studies, Director of Internships, and Founder and Director of the Institute for Leadership in Civic Education. Most recently, he completed a four-year term as Chair of the Political Science Department and two years as Interim Director of the Honors College at WIU.
Rick has also served as a political analyst for numerous media outlets (e.g., CNN, NBC News, FOX News, Associated Press), and has been quoted extensively in various outlets (e.g., Newsweek, USA Today, New York Times, US News & World Report, Kansas City Star, Parade Magazine, St. Louis Post-Dispatch). To date, has garnered over 60 significant teaching and civic leadership awards, including the University of Missouri’s four-campus Burlington Northern Faculty Achievement Award, the prestigious William Kemper Award, the Missouri Bar Association’s Civic Education Award, and two campus nominations for the Case National Professor of the Year Award. At Western Illinois University, he won several campus awards and was selected to deliver the John Hallwas Lecture in the Liberal Arts.
Finally, Rick has published or edited seven books and his articles have appeared in a number of professional journals. Rick is a native of Burlington, Iowa. He and his wife, Linda, have two grown children, four grandchildren, four dogs and two cats. His lifelong passion includes playing the plectrum banjo, 5-string banjo, and guitar. And for the past seven years Rick has been a member of the WIU’s Endnotes musical group.
Dr. Paul A. Schlag, Associate Director
Dr. Paul A. Schlag is an Associate Professor in the Recreation, Park & Tourism Administration (RPTA) Department and the Associate Director of the Centennial Honors College at Western Illinois University. He graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in Recreational Management and Youth Leadership and earned Masters Degrees from the University of Colorado (Colorado Springs) in Public Administration and the University of Georgia in Instructional Technology (with Distinction). He completed his doctorate in Recreation and Leisure Studies at the University of Georgia.
Since joining the faculty at Western Illinois University in 2006, Dr. Schlag has taught 18 different courses and developed 4 online courses for the university. The major focus of his teaching, service and research is human development in terms of physical, social, spiritual, intellectual, civic, environmental, aesthetic and psycho-social growth. His international, national and regional conference presentations, articles and book chapters all center on enhancing lives and communities through balanced development in each of these areas.
Dr. Schlag feels blessed to work with Western Illinois University students on a daily basis and his greatest desire is to see his students advance, grow, seek excellence and succeed (Student Awards). He has been honored with the Provost's Award of Excellence in Teaching with Technology, the College of Education/Human Services Faculty Teaching Excellence Award, the Panhellenic Council Outstanding Teacher Award and several H.O.P.E. Awards (Honoring our Professors of Excellence). Dr. Schlag's teaching centers around community service and his students are actively involved in learning through community engagement (Service Week & Community Programs)
As the Associate Director of the Centennial Honors College Dr. Schlag wishes to recruit Western's best and brightest students for the college. His goal is to promote these individuals as examples of excellence, encourage their personal development, inspire them to serve in the community and position them for success in their chosen field.
Originally from Colorado Springs, Colorado, Dr. Schlag has lived in Utah, Russia (twice), Georgia and Illinois. He and his wife Abigail have four outstanding children and love to read, play sports, enjoy music, volunteer and attend church.
Dr. Molly Homer Academic Honors Advisor
Dr. Homer grew up in Ames, Iowa. She received her bachelor’s degree in Mathematical and Computational Sciences from Stanford University and then worked for three years as a database designer for a computer graphics company in Salt Lake City that built flight and submarine simulators for the military. She then moved to Champaign to pursue graduate work in Linguistics at the University of Illinois, where she received a master’s degree and Ph.D. Before coming to WIU she taught linguistics, phonetics, and phonology at several universities including the University of Alberta, UC San Diego, Brown University, and the University of Pittsburgh. In 2003 she became the Honors Advisor at WIU, and she advises honors students on how to meet their honors requirements.
Michele J. Aurand, Transfer and Quad Cities Honors Advisor
Michele Aurand is the newest Academic Honors Advisor in the Honors College. She is responsible for advising honors transfer students on how to meet their honors requirements, and will also be coordinating the honors program at our WIU-Quad Cities campus. Michele is also the faculty advisor for the Student Honors Association and Tau Sigma National Honor Society for transfer students. After receiving her B.A. in Speech Communication from Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois, Michele completed her M.S.Ed. degree in Counseling from the WIU-Quad Cities campus.
Michele has worked as an Admission Representative at Marycrest International University and then as an Admissions Counselor at the University of Illinois-Springfield. She came to WIU in 2001 as an Admissions Counselor in the Undergraduate Admissions Office where she worked for 8 years before moving over to the Honors College in 2009 to be the Advisor and Program Coordinator for the Interdisciplinary Studies Program. In September 2012, Michele was nominated by a student and awarded Academic Advisor of the Month. Then, in August 2014 ISP moved to Horrabin Hall to be housed in the same office as the Bachelor of General Studies Program, and Michele transitioned into her new role as Academic Honors Advisor. More recently, she has also been teaching various courses in the RPTA department as well as University courses in Personal Growth for freshman and Career Internship for seniors. Michele is a Building Connections mentor on campus, as well as the chair of the COAA Awards and Recognition committee.
Originally from Dixon, Illinois, Michele enjoys outdoor activities such as hiking, camping, skiing, canoeing and kayaking. She also enjoys traveling all over the world, but is especially fond of visiting the Hawaiian islands. She also loves to attend live music and comedy shows and is an avid Chicago Bears fan.
Patty Battles , Special Events Facilitator
Ms. Battles began working in Honors (formerly the University Honors Program) in 1987. In addition to performing a variety of office duties, she coordinates a number of Honors College sponsored events and is a member of the University's Commencement Committee serving as the primary coordinator of the Academic Honors Convocation ceremonies. Ms. Battles grew up in Tremont, Illinois and has an associate's degree from Illinois Central College. She states that the best part of her job is "Working with students and being able to form relationships with them that extend beyond their graduation."
Ms. Battles has been married to her husband, Rick, for 36 years and has three daughters, Kimberly, Nikki, and Lindsay; three sons-in-law, Dustin, Tim, and Adam. She has two grandsons, Dreyton and Jaxon, who she says "live way too far away" and three granddaughters, Ada Grace, Emery, and Rylynn, who live in Macomb. In addition to playing with her grandchildren, she enjoys boating, reading, baking, and spending time at the Lake of the Ozarks.
Janell McGruder, Program Assistant
Janell McGruder joined the Centennial Honors College staff on August 2, 2010 as an Office Support Specialist and has been in her current position as the Program Assistant since July 2013. She is responsible for the Honors Advantage Rewards, Honors Advantage Programs, and recruitment of qualified students. She started working at WIU in the Office of Equal Opportunity and Access in October 2006. Janell enjoys working in the Honors College because she "loves watching students reach their full potential".
Janell completed her M.S.Ed. in Counseling with a specialization in Clinical Mental Health Counseling in May 2014 at WIU, where she also received her Bachelors degree. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her family, reading, cooking, and traveling.
Antoine J. Smith, Graduate Assistant
Antoine Smith joined the Centennial Honors College team August 26, 2014 working as a graduate assistant. He is responsible for overseeing the graduate student mentoring program and assisting in the office. Antoine will also serve as an ambassador for the Centennial Honors College. Antoine studied Law Enforcement and Justice Administration as an undergraduate with a minor in Political Science at Western Illinois University. He is currently a first year Political Science Graduate Student with aspirations to work in the field of Public Administration.
In his free time, he enjoys spending time with family and friends, working out, and traveling.