About Us

Editor’s note: We have published the 2016 edition of our review of public university honors programs. It features a mortarboard rating system (similar to five-star rating systems) rather than numerical rankings, and it is based on unique data about honors graduation rates, class sizes, course range and type, honors dorms, and other honors benefits, including merit scholarships. A new edition will appear in fall 2018. Questions can be sent to editor@publicuniversityhonors.com

The third edition, INSIDE HONORS, was published in October 2016. The print version is 400 pages in length. The latest book is even more statistically-based than the previous versions, listing individual program scores across a dozen categories along with the mean overall scores in each category.

Public University Press originally published A Review of Fifty Public University Honors Programs on April 18, 2012, and the second edition on October 8, 2014. The Press grew out of a project to write only a series of articles that compared published rankings and summarized their findings. Yet we soon discovered that even though the scholarly literature about honors education is growing, the programs themselves had not been evaluated, except in some cases by in-house staff and faculty or by visiting reviewers from other schools. So, instead of reporting on what others had found, we realized that we had to find “it” ourselves.

One important category of the second edition is that it, like the first edition, shows whether an honors program or college is relatively stronger or weaker than the university as a whole, except for a few “public elites” whose honors and university-wide rankings often vary insufficiently for this measure. (On the Methodology page of this site we provide a description of the data. We urge you to read the page.)

The editor of Public University Press is John Willingham, who is also the editor of PublicUniversityHonors.com. He works with a statistician who was involved with the first edition of the Review. In the summer of 2012, John completed a training session with the National Collegiate Honors Council NCHC), University of Nebraska-Lincoln, on how to conduct evaluations of honors colleges and programs. In all editions, he has followed the recommendations of the NCHC in emphasizing the importance of honors curricula and completion requirements. He conducted a session on ratings and rankings on October 15, 2016, at the annual meeting of the NCHC in Seattle.

He has also worked as a consultant for the Parthenon Group on the development of honors colleges abroad, and he has shared his research with honors professionals and administrators in the U.S. The books are widely used by college consultants and counselors across the country.

John became interested in the field of higher education when he was a graduate student in American history at the University of Texas at Austin, earning an M.A. in American history before deciding to pursue careers in journalism and, later, in election administration in Texas. During a 25-year career in elections, he served as a monitor in Bosnia after the brutal ethnic wars and was selected to be on a national task force of election officials convened to make reform recommendations to Congress after the 2000 presidential election.

Earlier, John had received a B.A. from UT Austin, with honors, majoring in history. His minor fields in graduate school were education and journalism. He now spends most of the year in Portland, Oregon, but returns to Austin, Texas, for several visits each year. His articles, essays, op-eds, and fiction have appeared in the Southwest Review, Texana, the Texas Observer, History News Network, Religion Dispatches, and the San Antonio Express-News. 

About his novel, The Edge of Freedom: A Fact-Based Novel of the Texas Revolution, a reviewer in the Southwestern Historical Quarterly wrote in 2012 that “Good historical fiction recaptures the passion and immediacy at times absent within the bounds of standard chronicles….The Edge of Freedom succeeds as a ‘fact-based novel’ in its compelling blend of historical sequence and imagination: what likely occurred, and why?”


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