Celebrating the 20th Anniversary of the John Wesley Honors College

By: Kendra Housel

In the fall of 1998, Indiana Wesleyan University gained a new academic department, which this year celebrates 20 years of scholarship, growth and community: The John Wesley Honors College (JWHC).

Over the past 20 years, the JWHC has undergone many changes. What began as a program without an official building is now housed on the second floor of Goodman Hall, as well as in Epworth House near the University Court apartments.

This year’s John Wesley Honors College

The curriculum started as honors college sections of the general education courses, where all honor students could take these courses in any order.

Today, using the curriculum that was finalized in 2012, honors graduates participate in an ordered, supplemental curriculum which replaces almost all general education requirements with specialized classes that seek to form students into more aware, God-centered, people-loving individuals.

One of the founding students in the JWHC is Karen Eilers, who graduated in 2001 with a double major in political science and history.

Eilers, along with having two majors and being a member of the honors college during its genesis, also graduated in just three years instead of the traditional four.

Eilers said that she first heard about the JWHC through a mailing that invited her to apply for the JWHC after she had been accepted into IWU.

She valued the idea of smaller classes, and after taking multiple AP and honors classes as a high school student, she was eager to take on the challenge of collegiate honors. The honors college was largely why Eilers decided to attend IWU.

“Everyone was excited to be a part of beginning a new program,” Eilers said of the atmosphere in the budding JWHC.

“We weren’t sure what exactly we were getting into, but we were up for rolling with it,” she explained.

The collaborative effort between students and professors (like founding professors, Dr. Brown and Dr. Bartley, and current head, Dr. Riggs) to learn what would work and what could be accomplished brought a wonderful sense of community.

Eilers ended up serving as one of the honors college’s first student workers with a job helping to tend the office.

During each of her three years, the office of the JWHC moved locations, but according to Eilers, “Each office got a little better than the last.”

During her final year at the university, the third year of the Honors College, the program secured their own building, just north of campus, and Dr. Riggs took over for the two founding leaders.

The course also began expanding, and the actual degree plan became more solidified.

Eilers was one of the first two students to do the Honors Scholarship Project (then called the Honors Thesis), which was made manageable by communicating consistently with the honors professors and with her mentor in the history department.

Eilers looks back on her time in the JWHC as one offond memories, goofy fun and a worthy challenge. The community was invaluable to her and even helped her discover her passion for working with college students.

She went on to get her master’s degree in college student development, and she now works as a Career & College Counselor in the Twin Cities of Minnesota.

Eilers also owns her own company, Motivated Careers LLC, and also works with University Funding Professionals LLC to counsel high school and college students about possible career and education paths.

She also has a book which came out in December called Find Your Fit, which Eilers said is meant to help students understand how God made them so they can make wise decisions for their lives! Here is a link to view her book on Amazon: http://a.co/d/2PAhTce.



Written by Kendra Housel, writer for the IWU Alumni Center. Kendra is a junior Education and Honors Humanities double major at Indiana Wesleyan University in the John Wesley Honors College. She is also a member of the University Chorale. Kendra is passionate about serving Christ through writing, singing, and caring for others.

Giving Back: Psychology in Adoption

By: Noelle Beans

Jana Hunsley at her IWU graduation in 2013

The Karyn Purvis Institute of Child Development at Texas Christian University strives to help children who suffer from the effects of early trauma, abuse or neglect. The institute accomplishes this by researching these children’s needs to help them overcome challenges – social, behavioral and emotional.

As a sibling to seven adopted children, Jana Hunsley, a 2013 graduate from Indiana Wesleyan University (IWU), has found her place pursuing a PhD at this remarkable institute.

However, her journey began at Indiana Wesleyan. Due to her family’s composition, Hunsley had always known she wanted to study psychology at a Christian university in order to become a post-adoption therapist.

IWU also offered an honors program, The John Wesley Honors College, which challenged Hunsley academically. That, in combination with the Holy Spirit’s confirmation, led her to call IWU home.

“I fell in love with IWU right away,” Hunsley said. “I tangibly felt the presence of the Holy Spirit on campus, and it was like nothing I had experienced in a place previously. During that campus visit, I felt like the Holy Spirit was telling me this was the place I was supposed to be.”

This proved to be true as Hunsley met friends who challenged and encouraged her during her time as a Wildcat.

She also met professors who recognized her potential.

She said, “The professors are truly one of the biggest reasons I’m doing what I am doing with my life today.”

The constant support of the faculty at IWU was unexpected. The professors assisted Hunsley in seeing all of the plans God had for her if she would be faithful in her walk with Him.

Professors Dr. Runyan and Dr. Steenbergh were two of the professors who had a lasting impact on Hunsley’s life.

Drs. Runyan and Steenergh invited Hunsley to be a part of their research team. They encouraged her to pursue a career in psychological research.

Although Hunsley became a clinician first, she attributes her courage to step into a research PhD program to their guidance during her undergraduate studies.

According to Hunsley, for the children of God there is power in psychology. Runyan has echoed this belief by stating that research is integral to a Christian university as it will shape tomorrow, influencing textbooks, popular media and the way our culture thinks and lives. Due to her conviction and Runyan’s influence, Hunsley integrates this dynamic into her work daily.

“All that I am doing with my life is because it is exactly where God has told me to go and what He has told me to do,” said Hunsley. “Through my experience of being a sibling to seven adopted children, God gave me skills and experiences to help other adoptive families. He made it very clear that He created me to bring hope and healing to families that have had experiences like my own. My career is just a manifestation of the work God puts in front of me to help adoptive families.”

Hunsley continues to work in ground-breaking research, learning how to care for foster and adopted children.

This research has spread all over the world to enable these vulnerable children to heal. Hunsley has the opportunity to further this work by researching the effectiveness of their intervention, Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI).

Hunsley also researches the effects of TBRI in different cultures and settings around the world and finds ways to specifically help adoptive siblings adjust well to their families’ adoptions.



Written by Noelle Beans, a writer for the IWU Alumni Center. Noelle is a sophomore Nursing and Honors Humanities double major at Indiana Wesleyan University in the John Wesley Honors College from Greenville, Illinois.