As we review honors curricula we sometimes encounter so many options that we find it difficult to emerge with a clear impression of the requirements. The curriculum for the University of New Hampshire Honors College is that rare combination of clarity and flexibility that can be readily understood.
Moreover, the curriculum is extensive, requiring 32 hours of honors credits for graduation if students pursue the University Honors Designation. This option includes 16 hours of honors seminars, usually limited to 20 students, which also count toward general education requirements. Then students go on to complete another 16 hours in Honors in Major courses, including at least 4 hours of which are the honors thesis.
This kind of clear integration between honors general education requirements and departmental specialization, including a thesis, strikes us as one of the most sensible ways to structure the honors curriculum. Students who do not choose to receive the University Honors Designation simply go straight to the Honors in Major track when they reach upper-division status.
A typical first-semester freshman entrant should have an ACT/SAT of at least 29/1970, and rank in the top 10 percent (or equivalent) of her high school class. Second-semester freshmen may also apply if they rank in top 10 percent of their college; if students have a 3.4 college GPA but do not rank in the top 10 percent of their college, they may submit a personal essay and teacher recommendations to the honors advisor.
Honors students may apply to live in Hubbard Hall, a co-ed hall that houses about 250 students in traditional rooms with corridor baths. Hubbard is not as close to some classes as other dorms, but it is still in a good location near Williamson and Christensen residence halls. All three are very convenient to Philbrook Dining Hall, one of the major dining locations on campus.
Hubbard Hall is definitely the place for the most serious students on the UNH campus. Here is what some of them say:
“The Hubbard Hall community is perfect for incoming freshmen; it allows them to be around other freshmen and some upperclassmen. Also, it provides a good balance where one can explore social things in a safe way, and still have a quiet place to live and study to come home to.”
“Hubbard is a nice dorm which has an environment that provides many social and academic opportunities for students who wish to make a bunch of new friends as well as maintain their grade point average.”
Among the best academic programs at UNH are earth sciences, history, sociology, and English. The intellectual law program at the law school is one of the leading programs of its type in the nation.
In the last decade, the LSU Honors College has grown and improved, and with a recent emphasis on prestigious scholarships and an expanded honors residence hall, the college is a strong option in the South.
Now with about 1,200 students, the College is in our category of “smaller” programs–those with fewer than 1,800 honors students. It appears that the recent trend in honors colleges is to establish residential scholars’ communities of 1,000–1,200 students.
Admission to the College is selective, with a “recommended” SAT of 1330 (ACT 30), plus an essay. A minimum score of 660 on the SAT critical reading portion is also recommended. An ACT composite score of 29 is acceptable if the English score is 31. The deadline to apply is November 15.
The Honors House Residence is located in West Laville Hall (renovated in 2010) and now in East Laville Hall, newly renovated and open to students in the Fall of 2012. Both are located adjacent to the 459 Dining Commons and the French House, home of the College. About 600 students can be accommodated in the halls, both of which have central air conditioning with individual room controls. One important feature is that the halls are available to students for all four years of residence. Although the baths are corridor style, each room has its own sink.
Next to the Honors House is the academic center of the Honors College, the French House, an historic building resembling a French chateau, where small seminar classes are held, students meet with specialized advisors, and all Honors College events take place, ranging from classical concerts to Quiz Bowl tournaments.
The honors curriculum is substantial, requiring 32 hours of honors credit, including a thesis; an overall GPA of 3.5 is required for graduation. (This overall requirement compares very favorably with those of the fifty honors programs we have formally evaluated.) At least 6 honors hours must be in seminars, and at least 12 hours must be upper-division courses, including the thesis.
Students can earn “sophomore honors distinction” if they complete 20 hours of honors work in the first two years, including 6 hours of honors seminars. Upper division honors distinction requires exemplary work in junior and senior courses along with an excellent honors thesis.
Honors credit may be earned in honors-only seminars; in small versions of regular classes, with an honors component; and in honors “option” courses, requiring the student to arrange individual instruction with a professor. Honors students have priority registration for honors courses.
Since 2005, when LSU established the Office of Fellowship Advising within the Honors College, LSU students have won 13 Goldwater awards for undergraduate research in STEM fields, and have had 15 finalists for the Truman Scholarship for postgraduate studies. LSU students also earned seven National Science Graduate Research Foundation grants in 2012. The establishment of a fellowship office within the honors college or program is an important consideration for prospective students who have an interest in prestigious awards.
Honors students are also encouraged to travel and study abroad “to enrich their education and to gain a wider perspective on the future of this country. The Honors College sponsors summer study trips to China and to South Africa, where students learn foreign languages, engage with students from those countries and learn about their cultures.”
The Honors College at the University of Utah may have more interesting options for living, learning, and participating in honors projects than any other program or college that we have reviewed–and we’re not talking about the fabulous skiing that is so accessible from Salt Lake City.
Okay, we do have to mention that the brand new Donna Garff Marriott Honors Residential Community (MHC for short) does in fact have a ski wax room as well as storage space for skis and bikes.
But what is most impressive is the thoughtful, coherent, yet flexible curriculum that blends effectively with so many living and learning options that it will be difficult to list them all.
Admission is selective but holistic, with no ironclad test and GPA requirements. From what we gather from the website, applicants are “highly likely” to be admitted with SAT 1490 (ACT 34) and above, plus a GPA of at least 3.8. It appears that “likely” admission requires an SAT of around 1360 (ACT 31) and a GPA of 3.6 or so. SAT of approximately 1250 (ACT 28) and a GPA of 3.5 or higher may require the applicant to go through a portfolio admissions process. The portfolio must contain two letters of recommendation, a graded writing sample that includes the name of the teacher who issued the grade, and a personal statement of 1-3 pages. Portfolio applications may require four or five weeks for review.
The requirements for the preliminary honors certificate are six hours of credit in Intellectual Traditions (IT) courses; three hours of credit in an honors writing course; and six more hours that can be from several honors core options. These include American Institutions; honors calculus; and core courses in behavioral sciences, physical and life sciences, fine arts, Construction of Knowledge, or any honors seminars. Note: AP credits can apply to general education requirements but DO NOT displace honors course requirements.
The university honors degree requires an additional six hours of honors courses and a thesis or capstone project. Most departments also offer an honors track, and even those that do not offer the separate track do have honors advisors that can supervise the thesis.
It appears that it would be difficult not to continue taking honors courses, given the range of options.
Students can select honors internships “to work alongside a community leader in a real-world situation to bring about change in a community,” meanwhile receiving a $1,000 stipend for the 16 weeks required to complete the internship.
Or students can take honors tutorials that enable them to work one on one with a faculty member on a research project, while meeting with the instructor weekly.
Most interesting to us is the option to participate in the honors think tank collaborative classes, limited to 12 students, many with different majors. These two-semester courses bring students together to apply multidisciplinary perspectives to a “contemporary societal challenge under the guidance of faculty,” and also carries a stipend of $1,000.
Students may also participate in honors cohorts of 20 students, who focus on topics of mutual interest. Examples are cohorts for religious studies, environmental studies, pre-med, pre-law, ethics, American Studies, Sciences, and LGBTQ studies. Students meet monthly to discuss their projects and aims.
The legal cohort, for example, allows students to attend hearings, meet with judges and attorneys, do legal research, learn about the Socratic method of teaching, and study case law and courtroom practices. Students also have the opportunity to consult with advisors about the many career options and specialty fields available to lawyers.
Another exciting feature is the early assurance program, which is open to students with SAT scores of 1170 or higher (ACT 26) and GPA of 3.8, who want to attend graduate school at the “U.” Most honors students are eligible. The program allows students to take up to two years to decide on a graduate major–a remarkable level of flexibility.
Each year, the most elite applicants to the early assurance program are selected as Eccles Distinguished Scholars, who receive full support for tuition, fees, and housing as long as they remain eligible.
All honors students are eligible for the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP), which offers some grants of $1,200 for first-time research projects in collaboration with and $600 in renewable grants.
Students may earn honors credit for studying abroad and can choose from seven special honors options:
Theater, humanities, and fine arts in London
British studies–the Bloomsbury Group–in London
Environmental studies in Costa Rica
Summer studies in Berlin
Summer studies in Cambridge
Social work in Mexico
Writing in Costa Rica
Students may also receive credit for non-honors study-abroad courses, but not for courses in language study abroad.
The new Marriott Honors Center (MHC) is opening this Fall. The MHC is located near the Huntsman Center on Campus, at the intersection of Mario Capecchi Drive and South Campus Drive. The MHC has 309 beds in apartment/suite configurations, and there are plans to expand the facility.
The MHC has its own cafe, coffee shop, laundry, ski wax room, music room, secure bike storage, and is near a TRAX line that provides transportation around the city.
The residence hall includes an honors core experience floor for students who have not decided on a major; a first-year honors floor for students who have chosen a major; an upper-division honors community; and residences for Eccles School of Business honors students and College of Engineering honors students.
Additional honors communities are located in the Officer’s Circle section of the campus. These include The Law House for pre-law students; the Honors Innovation House; the Poulson House for students working on capstones and theses; and another Honors First-Year Floor at Sage Point.
We have written previously about the Southeast, referring to it as the “land of great honors programs.” Like some other programs in the region, the one at the University of Tennessee actually has two honors programs that are interrelated: the Chancellor’s Honors Program (CHP) admits about 420 extremely talented students each year, and another 15 extraordinarily fortunate students become Haslam Scholars, who receive the most generous support of any undergraduate scholars on campus.
While the CHP does not list a definite minimum set of requirements, the average freshman entrants score 32 on the ACT and have a 4.0 GPA. This equates to about the top 10 percent of freshmen who enroll at UT.
The required curriculum for the CHP is 25 semester hours, including two courses in the freshmen year (total of 1 credit hour) and another seven courses in the remaining years (21 additional hours). The final requirement is a 3-hour thesis or “approved substitute,” which can be within the department or related to an honors topic. Continuation and completion in the CHP require a cumulative GPA of 3.25.
About 75 percent of freshmen honors students live in Morrill Hall, which, though not centrally located, features appealing double suites with one adjoining bath for only four students to share. It does not appear to be the case, however, that only honors students can live in Morrill, so choosing the right roommate could be extremely important.
Haslam Scholars at UT (similar to other elite undergraduate scholars at Alabama and Georgia, for example) receive scholarship packages worth more than $17,000 a year–and out-of-state students receive a waiver that allows them to enroll at the in-state level. Haslam Scholars also receive a free laptop, a grant ofg $4,500 for studying abroad, and special mentoring for research and thesis work.
The Haslam Scholarships are funded through a $5 million grant from the Haslam family. While the university does not list specific requirements, the likelihood is that Haslam Scholars would need to have credentials approximating National Merit Finalists (in regard to test scores), extremely high GPAs, AP/IB results at the highest levels, and other evidence of superior accomplishment in leadership, service, and cultural activities.
Haslam Scholars must complete at least 28 semester hours of honors work, including 6 hours of research coupled with a presentation, and 3 hours of service or executive internships.
Haslam Scholars are essentially a part of the CHP as well, and are eligible to live in Morrill Hall and participate in CHP programs and activities.
While all honors colleges and programs offer interdisciplinary courses and emphasize student interactions in small classes, the University Honors Program at the University of New Mexico does an excellent job of describing exactly how these best practices come together to develop students who are confident, engaged, and increasingly aware of their place in a complex world.
“Rather than simply piling on extra work, Honors courses are specially designed and crafted to be interdisciplinary,” the program site says. “Topics are examined a little more in depth than in normal undergraduate courses at the University. Extensive student participation and creativity form the foundations of every course. Enrollment is capped at 16 students. Interaction takes place in group activities and round-table discussions or presentations.”
The curriculum requires a minimum of 24 hours of honors credit, and it is, in fact, carefully designed. First-year students take at least one 100-level honors “Legacy” course.
“Legacies incorporate history, literary works, philosophy and/or political theory, drama and/or poetry, art, music, dance and/or architecture, science, math and/or technology. Legacies deal with the development of ideas rather than definitive historical time.”
Next come 200-level courses. These are cross-cultural topics, including Women, Africa, the Far East, the Americas, Medieval Europe, and the origins of mathematics and science. “These courses incorporate interdisciplinary explorations of specific topics with an emphasis on developing and strengthening skills important to success in Honors and undergraduate education, including oral and written communication skills, reading skills, critical and creative thinking, etc.”
The next series, 300-level courses, are an interdisciplinary exploration of specific topics designed to demonstrate the interconnectedness of academic disciplines. “Recent courses have focused on the significance of gender in myth and literature, bio-medical ethics, the nature and politics of nuclear energy, the origins of prejudice, arts across cultures, the existential imagination, and cross-cultural communication.”
At the 400 level,topics are more in- depth than those in lower-level courses, and students will have increasingly greater roles and responsibilities, the ultimate goal of the curriculum. “These courses afford enthusiastic and enterprising students the opportunity to craft a publishable paper or coordinate a collaborative mini-conference.”
Finally, senior options, earning six credit hours, can take the form of a thesis that can be interdisciplinary or within a discipline; or a senior teaching assistantship; or a senior colloquium involving a service learning project.
Another especially interesting option for honors students is to work on the honors publication, called Scribendi, Latin for “those which must be written.” Ten to twelve honor students work on the magazine, which publishes creative and non-fiction work not only by students at UNM but also by students at any of the 127 members schools of the Western Regional Honors Council. UNM honors students can receive credit for their work on the magazine.
Through the Conexiones Program, honors students can participate in more than a month of intensive Spanish-language study in Spain, in the cities of Trujillo and Salamanca. Students live with host families in Trujillo, “a city whose history and architecture represents in itself the history of Spain (from Iberians and Romans, Moors and Christians, to the famous Spanish nightlife, modern architecture and cyber cafés).”
“Students will attend classes in a 15th century restored convent, the site of the Fundación Xavier de Salas, an institution created with the purpose of studying and disseminating the theme of connections between Extremadura and the Americas.
“Weekly excursions are part of the program, including the visit to the medieval city of Cáceres and the Roman city of Mérida. Some highlights of the program are: a behind scenes tour of the ancient library at the University of Salamanca (one of the oldest in Europe), a day at a bull ranch in Salamanca, attendance at a performance of Classic Theater at the Roman Amphitheater of Mérida, a visit to the medieval town and monastery of Guadalupe and a day in the sister city of Alburquerque, with a tour through its medieval castle.”
The UHP at New Mexico began in 1957 with an enrollment of only 30 students; now the program has 1,300 students. Admission requires a minimum ACT of 29 (SAT 1860) and a minimum GPA of 3.50. Students must maintain a 3.20 GPA to remain in good standing.
UHP students enjoy priority registration, and many live in the Scholars Wing of the Hokona/Zia Residence Hall, home to Regents’ Scholars, Presidential Scholars, as well as UHP residents. Hokona is a traditional, co-ed dorm, with mostly double rooms and corridor-style baths. It is air conditioned and centrally located, very close to La Posada (LaPo) Dining Hall, the library, and buildings for economics and social sciences.
The University of Oklahoma at Norman is well-known for the generosity it shows to National Merit Finalists and other applicants of exceptional ability, and the McClendon Honors College at the university appears to be as generous while offering enhanced living and learning opportunities as well.
Although the honors program at OU goes back to 1962, a series of reorganizations that resulted in the Honors College did not occur until 1997. We estimate that the college now enrolls approximately 2,000 students, placing it in the category of “large” programs with enrollments greater than 1,800.
The college requires a minimum SAT of 1330 or a score of 30 on the ACT, along with a GPA of at least 3.75 or a high school class rank in the top 10 percent. Freshman applicants must also submit a 400-500 word essay. Transfer students and those with more than 15 hours of credits at OU may apply if they have a college GPA of at least 3.40.
The honors college is unusual because of the extent of financial grants that it can bestow on especially talented students. Among the scholarships available (even to out-of-state students) through the OU Scholars office are the Award of Excellence Scholarship and the Regents Scholarship, each of which provides a tuition waiver of $2,500 per semester, up to eight semesters, for a total value of $20,000. The awards also provide up to $1,250 for summmer school tuition.
The Honor Scholars awards provide tuition waivers of $1,750 per semester for eight semesters, for a total value of $14,000. University Scholars can receive a $2,500 tuition waiver for one year.
As for non-resident National Merit Finalists, the term “free ride” comes to mind. Here is what OU offers:
“The following scholarship package is guaranteed to every non-resident National Merit Finalist who names OU as his/her college of first choice with the National Merit Scholarship Corporation:
“Oklahoma Academic Scholars Programs $22,000
$2,750 per semester/$5,500 per year for four years to help offset the costs of fees, books, room & board
Funded by the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education
Funds will be deposited into billing account
Can be used toward any graduate/professional program at OU if funds remain after completion of undergraduate degree
Must maintain a 3.25 cumulative GPA and be enrolled full-time
“Non-Resident Tuition Waiver (estimated) $55,000
Waives 100% of non-resident tuition
May be used for five years (fall, spring and summer)
Can be used toward any graduate/professional program at OU if funds remain after completion of undergraduate degree
Must maintain a 2.8 cumulative GPA and be enrolled full-time
“Resident Tuition Waiver $10,000
$1,000 each fall and spring semester/$2,000 per year for five years
Can be used toward any graduate/professional program at OU if funds remain after completion of undergraduate degree
Must maintain a 2.8 cumulative GPA and be enrolled full-time
National Merit Cash Stipend $5,000
But once the dollars stop swirling about our heads, the honors college itself has many advantages. The curriculum requires about 25 hours of honors credit, including a thesis. Honors students can choose to live in Boren Hall, where many honors classes are also held and where the honors college offices are housed. Honors classes are generally limited to 22 students or less.
Boren Hall is a traditional double-room, corridor bath dorm, a part of Cate Center, which also has dining facilities. Honors students may also choose to live in the Global Community, in Couch Center; in the National Merit residence in Walker Center; or in the Scholastic, Quiet Lifestyle, Co-ed Upperclass halls. All but Boren appear to be suite-style.
In our continuing series of profiles on honors programs that we would have liked to include in our book, A Review of Fifty Public University Honors Programs, we will discuss in this post the well-known honors program at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.
An early post complimented Miami Honors for their up-front stats showing the achievements (in the form of placement percentages) of their most recent class of graduating honors students. So before describing the details of the program, we are listing the Miami web site stats for placement rates for the 2011 class below:
Law School: 100% placement (national average 69%)
Medical School: 85% placement (national average 45%)
Acceptance to Grad School: 94% (national avg not listed)
Job Prior to Graduation: 86% (national avg <56%)
Four-year Grad Rate: 98% (national average <56%)
The Miami program does not list a rigid set of admission requirements, but the average test scores are SAT 1340/ACT 30/GPA 4.0. A few students, however, are admitted with significantly lower test scores, if they have outstanding qualities in other areas, such as leadership, academic awards, and volunteer activities.
Like some other honors curricula we have reviewed, the Miami requirements are extremely flexible, with credit assigned for “honors experiences” rather than honors courses alone, although honors courses are the basic elements of honors experiences. And, following a trend in honors education, students have to prepare and submit for review annual online portfolios that organize and summarize what they have learned.
Honors experiences include small, interactive seminars, research, study abroad, undergrad teaching assistantships, graduate courses, leadership projects, and internships. Honors portfolios must demonstrate progress in six areas: written communication, collaboration, critical thinking, problem solving, intercultural understanding, and reflection (self-understanding). Students must complete at least nine experiences.
Note: Readers may want to see our recent post on “College Learning Assessment (CLA): Rationale for Honors?” in which we discuss the ways that honors curricula already enhance critical thinking and writing skills that college reformers often advocate.
Honors housing is important at MU because students are required to live on campus during the first two years.
“Although members of the University Honors Program eventually move all across campus, most have one thing in common: they spent their first year living in Tappan or Emerson Hall,” one student reports.
Tappan Hall is located on South Quad and is close to Harris Dining Hall, an all you care to eat location, and Scott Hall, which houses Encore and Ovations food courts. South Quad is not the most central location on campus, but, as another student says, the “location is great…for all the ‘good stuff’ (Rec Center, Hamilton Dining Hall, Shriver Center, Western Campus…”
Most rooms are corridor style with communal baths and shared double rooms. It appears that at least some of the rooms are air-conditioned, and there are a few suite-style rooms as well.
Talented students in a hurry to obtain medical degrees or master’s degrees might want to consider the Florida State University Honors Program, which has special options available for honors students who qualify.
The program also has a pre-law option that enables honors students to shadow law school classes and attend functions related to the law school while they are undergrads; the students are then guaranteed admission to the FSU College of Law if they meet the admission requirements.
The honors program itself is selective: the average SAT/ACT is 2070/31. The GPA requirement is difficult to report because FSU adjusts high school GPAs according to a somewhat complicated formula:
“The Office of Admissions recalculates all grade point averages — we do not use the GPAs listed on your high school transcript or report card. Only academic subjects will be used in the recalculation. Grades of C- or better in dual enrollment, AICE, AP, and IB coursework will receive 1 full bonus point in the recalculation; grades of C- or better in honors, pre-AICE, pre-AP, and pre-IB will receive 1/2 bonus point. For repeated courses, we will only forgive a low grade if the exact course has been repeated (i.e., Algebra I will not replace an Algebra I honors grade — both courses will be used in the recalculation).”
Outstanding students can also apply to one of FSU’s “2+3” programs that offer both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in five years. (Many master’s degrees normally require two years for completion, so five years is an abbreviated length for both degrees.)
“The combined bachelors/masters degree programs provide academically talented students an opportunity to complete a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in a shorter time span. These programs allow students to double-count graduate courses for both degrees, thus reducing the time it would normally take.”
There are 16 departments that allow the master’s fast track: computer science, history, math, philosophy, science-teaching, statistics, marketing, communication, criminology, recreation management, students with exceptionalities, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, nursing, public health, and public administration.
The honors pre-med tract in some cases allows students to obtain bachelor’s and medical degrees in seven years instead of eight. The pre-law does not appear to speed up the process of obtaining a law degree, but does, as noted above, lead to admission and provide realistic previews of the law school experience.
The honors program includes many of the best features of honors education, including an interesting curriculum, smaller classes, priority registration (honors students register with grad students), and honors residence halls.
The FSU program is one of the fifteen additional public university honors programs that we hope to include in the 2014 edition of our Review . The programs are offered at the following universities: Colorado State, Florida State, George Mason, Kansas State, Kentucky, LSU, Miami of Ohio, Ohio University, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Oregon State, Temple, Tennessee, UC Riverside, and Utah.
The name captures the uniqueness of honors education at Ohio University: Honors Tutorial College. The college has 203 professors, called “tutors,” who work with about 240 honors tutorial students either in very small groups or one-on-one.
The college is one of the fifteen additional public university honors programs that we hope to include in the 2014 edition of our Review . The programs are offered at the following universities: Colorado State, Florida State, George Mason, Kansas State, Kentucky, LSU, Miami of Ohio, Ohio University, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Oregon State, Temple,Tennessee, UC Riverside, and Utah.
For anyone who may associate the word “tutor” with those persons who assist struggling students, it is time to banish that conception from your mind. The students at the HTC are not there to catch up but to leap farther ahead.
Students at the honors college–officially called “tutees”– can choose from among 32 courses of study, and each discipline has a director of studies, a full-time professor in the chosen department who coordinates honors tutorials.
The college web site has an essay called “Something Completely Different,” and prospective students are urged to read it. “The purpose of this document,” the essay begins, “is to give some guidance about how HTC is different and why those differences matter. If you get one thing out of this piece of paper it should be the following: for 99% of the individuals who end up matriculating in the Honors Tutorial College learning by tutorial is vastly different from any other form of educational methodology they have encountered.”
[Emphasis in original.]
Although located in the town of Athens, about an hour and a half southeast of Columbus, Ohio University is less influenced by its Athenian namesake than by the two most famous universities in England:
“The Honors Tutorial College (HTC) is based on the centuries old tutorial system of undergraduate education developed at Oxford and Cambridge universities in Great Britain. Ohio University is the only institution in the United States with a degree-granting college incorporating all the essential features of the traditional tutorial system.
“Tutees gain important fundamental knowledge, hone essential skills, and begin to develop an understanding of what inspires them.
“Tutors often have their own intellectual horizons expanded by the observations and questions of students who bring fresh perspectives to familiar subjects.”
The tutorial process puts the student at center stage, with a great responsibility for showing creativity, initiative, persistence, and precision. They must learn not only the material at hand but also the minds and habits of their tutors, a process which requires the sort of creative anticipation and planning that is the frequent task of accomplished people in their careers.
Students must meet with tutors at least once a week for a minimum of 50 minutes. But do not think that this makes the tutorial classes easier. The preparation and planning necessary for each meeting can be daunting.
Discussing research papers with tutors is a major part of the work, placing a high premium on the ability to organize and articulate reasoned positions. In the lab context, students work directly with research scientists and lab supervisors, often on projects that have immediate impact.
One such student was Nyssa Adams, a recent graduate of the HTC, and now a student in the combined MD/Ph.D program at the Baylor University School of Medicine, one of the nation’s top medical schools. While at the HTC, Nyssa began working on research to improve cancer drugs used to fight ovarian cancer.
In writing papers and discussing them in tutorials, Nyssa developed an increased “respect for research,” not only the difficulties involved, but the exciting challenges it offered to her. Having begun college with an interest in a different field, she made the change to research, giving credit to Jan Hodson of the honors staff who helped Nyssa to realize that “there’s no reason for me not to succeed.”
Working so closely with professors gives students interested in science multiple opportunities “to find your lab” and “dig into research,” Nyssa says. Her own digging made her one of the outstanding undergrad researchers at HTC, and a student/scholar with the confidence and ability to earn the two doctorates she is seeking.
The HTC offers its own degrees, including degrees in business, fine arts, and journalism. The curriculum, while flexible and reliant on individual choices, typically turns out to be extensive and demanding: most students finish with approximately 200 quarter hours, of which about 48 are in tutorials or seminars.
The minimum admission requirements for the HTC are ACT/30, SAT/1300/GPA top 10%. The actual averages for HTC admits is SAT verbal 683, quantitative 664, for a total of 1347.
Unlike many honors programs, the HTC makes most of the information about the college readily available on the web site.
HTC students have the option to live in the Read-Johnson Scholars Complex on the East Green of the campus, an air-conditioned central location with dining and laundry facilities nearby. One excellent feature is a sink in each room.
Students may also live in Hoover Hall on the South Green, perhaps not as centrally located but still a great option if students prefer “mod” room arrangements–a combination of single and double rooms with a central living area, all shared by six students.
Commencing only four years ago, in 2008, the University of Minnesota Honors Program is the top new public honors program among the fifty major university honors programs we evaluated in A Review of Fifty Public University Honors Programs, published on April 18, 2012.
Making the good news even better is the fact that the program is also considered a large program with its 2,400 students. The average size of the fifty programs is about 1,800.
The UM Honors Program is ranked 9th in Overall Excellence, which considers honors curriculum, prestigious scholarships, graduation rates, honors housing, study-abroad programs, and priority registration.
UM Honors is number 11 in Honors Factors, a category that gives greater emphasis to honors curriculum and other features, while excluding the prestigious awards from the evaluation. Some prestigious awards are not earned by honors students, and some honors programs, especially newer ones and those that must operate in close proximity to the private elites, face special obstacles in earning Rhodes, Gates, Truman, and other awards.
However, this does not appear to be a problem for UM Honors. An honors student in astrophysics at UM, Grant Newton Remmen, was recently named one of only 15 winners of the highly-prestigious Hertz Fellowship, which provides up five years and $250,000 to support for its Fellows to use in pursuing doctorates in science and engineering.
Admission to UM Honors is somewhat flexible because the program tries to admit students from most of the separate colleges. Students in the STEM subjects may have a higher bar, for example, than those in other colleges, although STEM students are obviously well-represented in the honors program. Our estimate is that the SAT average is around 1375, and the ACT about 31.
Though the University Honors Program is still new, it is already impressive in many ways. Honors requirements include at least 21 to 24 hours of honors course work and thesis along with seven honors “experiences,” which may be in the form of additional course work, faculty-directed research or creative projects, study abroad, internships, additional foreign language study, and community or volunteer work. Most experiences must be approved by honors advisors.
The freshman requirement is six hours of honors courses and two experiences. Sophomores add another six hours of course work and two more experiences.
Juniors must complete one course and two experiences. Seniors complete at least one course, a thesis, and an additional experience.
The UM Honors site has much more information about what can be considered a non-course experience.
UM ranks seventh among the 50 universities under review in the strength of its academic departments, as measured by a national survey of all universities, public and private. Exceptional departments include psychology (8), economics (10), business (14), political science (17), math (18), sociology (20), chemistry (21), along with engineering, history, physics, and earth sciences, all ranked number 26 or better nationwide.
UM ranks ninth among the 50 universities in the attainment of prestigious scholarships. UM is eighth in Rhodes Scholars, sixth in Churchill awards (which emphasizes STEM subjects), and fifth in Truman Scholarships. UM has also done extremely well in the undergraduate Goldwater awards, also representative of strength in the STEM subjects, and added an impressive three additional Goldwater awards in 2012 alone.
UM is one of 17 universities in our review that has been designated as a Truman Scholarship Honor Institution. An important feature for honors students is that the Office of National and International Scholarships is a service of the University Honors Program.
UM is also one of only eight universities under review that received the highest possible score in the study-abroad category. The university has received national recognition for the total number of undergraduates who participate in study-abroad opportunities, for the average duration of studying abroad, and has received special recognition from U.S News for its study-abroad programs.
The Honors Residential Community at UM is located in Middlebrook Hall, the only residence hall on the west bank of the UM Campus. The HRC scores 7.50 out of 10 in our survey of honors housing. A student view:
“I love living in Middlebrook. The bathrooms are only shared with three other people (or one if you live in a suite), and everything is relatively clean. I thought the longer walk to classes would bother me, but it’s totally worth not having to be crowded into Superblock.”
The residence hall site says of Middlebrook that “it is near downtown Minneapolis and the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome–home of the Minnesota Vikings. The West Bank offers various theatres, music clubs, coffee shops, co-ops, historic buildings and ethnic and vegetarian restaurants.
“The West Bank campus is home to the School of Music, Theatre Arts Department, Studio Arts Department, Carlson School of Management, Law School, Social Science departments and the Hubert H. Humphrey Institute. Middlebrook is located two blocks from Wilson Library. Connections to the East Bank and St. Paul campuses can be made through convenient University shuttle buses or through the pedestrian bridge over the Mississippi. All west bank classroom buildings are connected by underground tunnels that are convenient during inclement weather.”
“The University Honors Residential Community in Middlebrook Hall offers a lively, engaged community for students admitted to the University Honors Program. Suites, featuring two bedrooms with a shared bath, create a private, quieter setting for study, while multiple lounges on each floor encourage students to form informal study groups, impromptu discussions — sometimes pondering the larger questions of life and many times having ‘just for fun’ interactions. Although students can enjoy the company of those with whom they have classes, they have the added bonus of finding common interests with students from many other disciplines — the commitment to learning being the shared principle for them all.”
An important feature is that the Information Desk at Middlebrook is open 24/7.