UMass Amherst: Public Excellence Amid Private Elites

The University of Massachusetts Amherst has the unenviable challenge of carving out its own place of prominence amid some of the most elite private universities in the entire world. There is growing evidence that the university, along with its Commonwealth Honors College, is doing just that.

The Times Higher Education world rankings of research universities has consistently ranked UMass at number 64 or better in the world–higher than some elite private institutions in the New England neighborhood. The Times also ranked the UMass disciplines of life sciences and physical sciences at number 32 and 48, respectively.

Other highly ranked academic departments at UMass are computer science, sociology, earth (geo) sciences, English, psychology, education, kinesiology and linguistics.

The UMass Commonwealth Honors College has for 18 years hosted the Undergraduate Research Conference, which brings together more than 800 young researchers from across the state to present their research work to their peers and a wider audience.

Further evidence of undergraduate research opportunities comes from the six to eight-credit year-long Capstone Experience, which “is a comprehensive, research-intensive thesis or project of original scholarship. Typically completed in the senior year, it is a chance for honors students to engage in rigorous scholarship and to explore an academic interest in depth.”

The UMass prominence in world rankings ties in with its International Scholars Program, which “allows honors students of any major participating in any of the university’s over 400 approved study-abroad programs in more than 60 countries to form an intellectual cohort, providing a structured opportunity to reflect on and share their international experiences and complete research linking their study abroad experiences to their larger academic goals.”

Prospective honors students should be excited to know that a new, 500,000 square-foot, 6-building honors college complex will open to students in fall 2013. Located on central campus, it is next door to the new rec center and a 5-minute walk to the main library. The residential complex will have 1,500 beds, including 600 in two-person rooms and another 900 in suites or apartments.

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