Best Honors Residence Halls 2014

Although some honors professionals believe that separate residence halls (or sometimes floors) for honors students create an atmosphere of elitism in their programs, we do rate residence halls, and favor those that have suite-style rooms, in-house or adjacent dining facilities, air-conditioning, and relatively centralized locations on campus.  We used campus maps to rate locations and spent a great deal of time researching the amenities of each residence hall.

With a maximum rating of 10.0, we assigned that highest rating to the residence halls of Arizona State’s Barrett Honors College.  We assigned 9.75 ratings to the residence halls of the University of South Carolina Honors College; Temple University Honors Program; Texas A&M Honors Program; and the University of Utah Honors College.

Other honors colleges and programs with residence hall ratings of 9.5 or higher are Clemson’s Calhoun Honors College; the Florida State Honors Program; the University of Iowa Honors Program; the University of Kentucky Honors Program; the University of Mississippi’s Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College; the Texas Tech Honors College; and the University of Vermont Honors College. The University of Tennessee Chancellor’s Honors Program also has an outstanding residence facility opening in Fall 2014.

The following excerpts are from the current edition of A Review of Fifty Public University Honors Programs:

ASU’s Barrett Honors College: “We are the only university in the nation with our own entire 9-acre, $140 million, 600,000 square feet honors campus at Tempe, complete with everything a private college campus would have, besides things like the university health service and the student recreation center.  On top of this, we have Barrett living communities on all four of ASU’s campuses in the Phoenix Valley, though the one described just above is at Tempe, the biggest campus of ASU.  Each of the other three Barrett communities–at the ASU West, ASU Downtown Phoenix, and ASU Polytechnic campuses –have honors headquarter space with classrooms, computer labs, advising offices, social lounges, conference rooms and faculty offices.”

South Carolina Honors College: “The two residence halls, one for both freshmen and upperclassmen and the other for upperclassmen only, are both coed, air-conditioned, and have on-site laundry.  They are conveniently located for access to many classroom buildings, and one, the 537-person Honors Residence Hall (freshmen and upperclassmen) has suite-style rooms and the Honeycomb Café on site.  The Horseshoe is on the main quad and oldest section of the university and includes five buildings for 237 honors upperclassmen.  The rooms there are apartment style—kitchen, living room, bathroom, and individual bedrooms.”

Temple University Honors Program: “The Honors Program Living-Learning Community is situated in the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th floors of the 1300 Residence Hall on Temple University’s Main Campus.  Located one block from the Honors Program advising office, the Honors LLC is a residential community of students in the program.  The support of Honors Program staff, Honors Peer Mentors, and the Honors Activities Board helps foster relationships among upper and lowerclassmen through tailored programming and learning opportunities.

“1300 features Honors advising offices and a dedicated Honors classroom on the 3rd floor, where many Honors courses, including first-year seminars, are offered during the academic year.  In addition, 1300 affords numerous recreation and dedicated study spaces.”

“The Honors spaces in 1300 are two-thirds suite-style and one-third apartment-style.  They are air-conditioned and house 450 students.  The Director tells us that 78% of Honors first-year students living on campus reside in 1300.  Honors floors are coed with one gender per suite.  The second and third floors are for first-year students, and the fourth floor is for upperclassmen.  All apartments on the fourth floor have kitchenettes.  Honors students may opt to live in the Honors LLC for all four years at Temple.”

Texas A&M Honors Program: The two freshmen honors residence halls are McFadden and Lechner, with a combined capacity of about 400 students.  Both are suite-style with connecting baths, air-conditioned (a necessity in Texas), with an interdisciplinary and critical-thinking living/learning themes.  Both residence halls have on-site laundry and convenient dining is available at Sbisa Dining Hall, one of the largest dining halls in the country.  Honors upperclassmen can choose to living in Clements Hall, which has amenities similar to those listed for the freshmen halls.”

“A freshman learning community seminar (LCS–1 hour, non-credit-bearing) has been developed to complement the Honors residential experience…

“One goal of the LCS is to help create smaller, academically supportive groups within the larger A&M community.  It is also the hope of the LCS that students will discover the value of seeking opportunities to advance their own knowledge and skills outside of the classroom so students will continue to engage in co-curricular activities beyond their first year.  The LCS is meant to push students to think and develop beyond their academic curriculum.”

University of Utah Honors College–When the name on the primary honors residence hall is ‘Marriott,’ the chances are excellent that the hall will be remarkable–and so it is.  The Donna Garff Marriott Honors Residential Community (MHRC) houses 309 honors students, 80% of them in suite-style rooms and the other 20% in traditional double rooms with hall baths.

“Freshmen and upperclassmen can choose from eight living/learning themes in the MHRC: First Year Experience; Outdoor Leadership and Education; Science and Engineering; Early Access and Leadership; Intellectual Traditions, Business; Engineering; or the Thesis Mentoring Community.  The MHRC is fully air conditioned with multiple lounges and on-site laundry.  Each apartment suite also has its own kitchen.  The nearest dining hall is at the Heritage Center, but the MHRC has its own convenience store and deli.  Other amenities include cable TV with HBO package, a ski wax room, indoor bicycle storage, an honors library, and high-speed internet.

“Twelve honors upperclassmen can live in the Honors Law House, a small living/learning community that is half suite-style and half traditional double rooms.  Another 12 students can live in the similarly configured Honors Social Justice House or the Thesis Mentoring Community.  Thirty freshmen are also housed in Sage Point Hall, featuring suite-style singles and doubles.  The nearest dining for all four of these is at Heritage Center.”



Arkansas Honors College Has a New Home–and a New Honors Residence Hall

The class of 2017 at the University of Arkansas Honors College now has a fully renovated honors residence hall that houses 400 underclassmen in close proximity to two adjacent halls for honors upperclassmen, giving the college an even stronger sense of community that can be of special value to entering freshmen.

Now those freshmen will have frequent contact with older students in the college, gaining knowledge about classes, professors, student activities, foreign study, and opportunities for prestigious scholarships.  And that contact will occur not only in the cluster of honors residence halls but in another completely renovated building, Ozark Hall, which houses the honors college administration and staff, common rooms, classrooms, a music room, a kitchen, and a fireplace lounge area.

Students outside Ozark Hall, home of the honors college. (Photo by Shelby Gill.)

The old honors residence at Pomfret Hall did not receive a strong rating in our Review of Fifty Public University Honors Programs, published in 2012, although the honors college itself did do well in the review.  The remodeled honors residence, Hotz Hall, is much more centrally located and has a what are essentially brand-new double rooms throughout.  The baths are described as “spa” type baths, and what this means is that each floor has, at either end, a large complex of private baths that also share 4 or 5 sinks.

The arrangement retains the community advantages of traditional corridor baths but at the same time provides a greater degree of privacy in the bath areas.

In our posts, we have stressed that the strength of an honors college or program depends on the frequency, duration, and quality of honors “contacts”–extensive curriculum across four years; living, dining, and mentoring involving faculty and upperclassmen; and a full range of honors activities.  The new developments at Arkansas reflect the college’s commitment to make the honors experience as deep and comprehensive as it can be.


Delaware Honors Students to Have New Residence Hall

A new East Campus residence hall will house students in the excellent  honors program at the University of Delaware, beginning in the Fall of 2013.   The new hall will feature traditional floor configurations, not suite-style, but will be air-conditioned and offer outstanding public rooms on each floor along with larger community rooms, one of which will have a grand piano.

East Campus at UD is the epicenter of the freshman first-year experience, and is served by the adjacent Russell Dining Hall.  The Perkins Student Center is also close at hand.

“The design of these buildings, particularly the public spaces, is ideally suited to creating the living-learning environment that is central to the Honors Program’s First Year Experience (FYE),” Michael Arnold, director of the University Honors Program, said. “The meeting spaces on each floor and complex lounge will greatly facilitate community building across the entire Honors Program freshman class.”

The largest of the new structures will be home to 450 freshmen honors students.  Now referred to only as “Building A,” the university reports that the location will be further enhanced by the following:

“Adding to this first-year neighborhood will be three other projects, scheduled in the area:

• Refurbishing of the space in the Perkins Student Center formerly occupied by the University Bookstore. Improvements, scheduled to be completed by this fall, will include new meeting places for students and office space for registered student organizations.

• Construction of a new dining facility and residence hall on Academy Street across from Perkins. Work on this project will begin this summer, with completion expected in summer 2015.

• Renovation of the Harrington Residence Hall Complex. This project will include an update of interior finishes and fixtures in the rooms, along with a refurbished student fitness center and a convenience store in the Commons. This project also is scheduled to begin this summer with completion in summer 2015. ”

Students living in the complex will benefit from having resident assistants (RAs) with diverse sets of skills hired and trained specifically to support the needs of first-year students, she said. RAs in the new buildings will be supervised by a complex coordinator and two residence hall coordinators.



MSU Lyman Briggs College Is a Great Answer to STEM Demand

While the state of Florida plans to charge less tuition for STEM majors, the Lyman Briggs College at MSU has been attracting students in these high-demand fields for more than 40 years without penalizing students in the humanities and social sciences.  Indeed, LBC is dedicated to bridging the gap between the hard sciences and the liberal arts.

The LBC began in 1967 in response to C.P. Snow’s famous concept that “Two Cultures” had grown up in academe, with the unfortunate results that education in what we now call the STEM subjects was often separated from education in the other “culture” of the humanities and social sciences.

The LBC welcomes about 625 freshmen each year, many of the honors students at MSU.  The core curriculum includes calculus, general chemistry, physics, biology, and a three-course sequence in the history, philosophy, and sociology of science (HPS courses).  Students take upper-division STEM courses in as many as 17 different majors and may choose to complete a capstone project that encompasses both major work and HPS classes.

Students have the benefit of much smaller classes, inquiry-based and research-oriented instruction, and frequent association with faculty and other STEM students who attend classes at LBC.

LBC students are eligible to become Undergraduate Learning Assistants as early as their sophomore year, giving them the opportunity to assist faculty with teaching and research.  In addition, through MSU’s excellent honors college, there are 94 Professional Assistants at LBC who work on research-intensive projects.

The results:  the freshman retention rate for LBC students is 95.5 percent.  Some 82-86 percent graduate in six years, versus an MSU average of 74-76 percent–an exceptionally strong figure given the rigor of STEM studies.  Nationally only about 50 percent of incoming STEM majors actually graduate with STEM degrees.  For LBC students, the percentage is 70 percent, including a strong rate for female students and students of color.

Finally, the number of LBC grads pursuing post-graduate work is 80 percent, an extremely high number.


NCHC Annual Conference: High-Impact Programming for Honors Residence Facilities

Dr. Lynne Goodstein has a wealth of experience in honors education, having directed the program at the University of Connecticut for many years.  The UConn program has more than 1,600 students, and about half of them live in honors residence halls; another quarter live elsewhere on campus.

Even though Dr. Goodstein is leaving honors to return to the classroom, she shared her insights into developing effective, high-impact programs for honors residences and facilities during a session at the National College Honors Council annual conference in Boston.

Below please see her “top ten” recommendations.  Parents and prospective students should find these useful as they visit honors colleges and programs across the country.

  1. The programming for residence halls should have clear goals and learning objectives.
  2. Variety is extremely important; the “menu” should include community service, along with social, academic, and professional development and opportunities to meet with faculty.
  3. The programs should be tailored to match the changing needs of students across four years.  This means offering a wide variety of activities in the first two years, including many social programs to develop a sense of community.  During the last two years, programming becomes more closely-related to specific professional and academic interests.
  4. Programming benefits from partnerships with cultural centers on and off campus, with academic departments, and with the university office of residential life.
  5. Residential assistants (RA’s) should be well-trained and understand the connections between their programs and honors goals.
  6. Incentives to students are important, but should not be excessive.  Students should not be required to attend too many programs—about five in the first two years is recommended.
  7. Honors staff need to focus on online and other means of communicating meeting the topics, dates, and times of program events..
  8. Honors staff should solicit and read student response forms for use in future planning.

At UConn, one of the most successful programs is the “Lunch Bunch,” a series of luncheon meetings during which honors students have informal discussions with faculty, whom they get to know on a more personal basis.

The Honors in the Arts programming allows students to develop or expand an interest in the arts and meet new people in small groups.  Book clubs are another way to expand student interest and promote positive associations.

Leadership programs and alumni presentations tailored to specific majors and professions are also
successful and help to sustain ties between generations of students.

Texas A&M Honors: New Standards, More Freshman Focus

Students in the honors program at Texas A&M University now have to meet a new set of requirements to remain in the program, and now all freshman honors students are assigned to the honors learning community.

But the program also offers more flexibility now, allowing students to contract for honors credit in a broader range of classes.

TAMU honors housing received a high evaluation in our recent book, A Review of Fifty Public University Honors Programs.  So it’s not a burden for all freshmen to live in the honors community.  They begin their freshman year there, and now, with a separate honors application in place, they can receive better advising and more readily get the classes they need through the priority registration available to them.

“The transition from high school to college has been pleasant because of all of the people I met in the program [who] help me with whatever I need. It’s a nice sense of family that we have going on here. I have a lot of friends who are having a hard time adjusting to college because they feel very alone, but I haven’t faced that problem because of the Honors functions and living with the people in my classes,” said Deanna Sessions, freshman electrical engineering major.

In addition to the housing change, students must now meet the following minimum continuation requirements:

  • Maintain a 3.5 cumulative GPR and a 3.25 in Honors course work
  • Make progress toward distinction requirements by taking at least 6 hours of Honors course work each academic year
  • Participate in the HFLC (freshmen) or at least one HSC event per semester (continuing students)
  • Update an e-Portfolio and meeting with an advisor at least once per year
  • Plan and execute a capstone experience in their junior or senior year that synthesizes and integrates their educational experiences in the form of a research or scholarly project

Please note that the 6-hour credit requirement per year is a minimum to remain in good standing, while the actual completion requirement to graduate as an honors fellow is at least 27 hours of coursework and and 3-hour capstone project.  Honors students may of course also earn Latin honors, requiring at least a cumulative university-wide GPA of 3.5 for cum laude status.

The minimum requirements to apply to the program remain the same: at least a 1250 SAT, with both verbal and math scores of at least 570.




Texas Tech Honors College Offers Direct Paths to Law, Medical School

The Honors College at Texas Tech University is one of only a few honors programs that offer fast-track options to attend law or medical school at the same university, and the joint program between the honors college and the medical school even allows honors students to skip the MCAT before entering med school.

The joint Early Acceptance Program allows Honors College students to waive the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) and to apply early to the School of Medicine during their junior year.

“To be eligible for the Early Acceptance Program, you must be enrolled in the Honors College, have entered Texas Tech University as a freshman, maintain residency in the state of Texas, and acquired a composite score (earned in one test administration) of at least 1300 on the SAT or at least 29 on the ACT upon matriculation at Texas Tech University.”

“The Honors College and the Texas Tech School of Law have collaborated to create two exciting new opportunities for Honors students who plan to attend law school. The Early Decision Plan allows eligible students who intend to attend the TTU Law School to receive notice of their acceptance as juniors but complete their undergraduate degrees prior to entry into the law school. The Early Admission Program (“3+3 Plan”) allows eligible Honors Arts & Sciences students to enter law school prior to graduation after they have completed 100 hours of coursework. The “3+3″ program enables eligible students to complete both a baccalaureate and a doctor of jurisprudence in approximately six years.” [Emphasis added.]

Eligibility for the honors college as a freshman requires a minimum SAT score of 1200 or an ACT of 26  or a place in the top 10 percent of the applicant’s high school class to be considered for admission.  Admission is not, however, guaranteed with these credentials.  Applicants with International Baccalaureate diplomas are assured of admission.  Current students are also considered for admission if they have earned a 3.4 GPA.

The regular honors curriculum requires 24 hours of honors course work for freshman entrants, and 27 hours for students who enter later.  Six hours must be in upper-division courses, six must be in 3000-4000-level courses, and freshman entrants must also complete a first-year series.

In order to graduate with highest honors, students must also complete an additional six hours of research and thesis work.

The honors housing at Tech appears to be a strong option: students in Gordon Hall share two-bed suites that have private baths and that share a common living area with the adjoining suite.  Gordon hall as its own laundry, and the Fresh Market Cafe serves both Gordon and neighboring Bledsoe Hall.  Gordon Hall is on the east side of campus, closest to science and engineering classrooms and farther from business, English, foreign language, and philosophy classrooms.

UMass To Open Outstanding Honors Residential Complex in 2013

Another honors college is taking a giant step toward providing state-of-the-art honors residential housing to a greater number of students: The Commonwealth Honors Residential Complex at UMass Amherst will be one of the largest and finest honors residential communities in the nation when it opens in Fall of 2013.

The new complex in effect should move the Honors College into the top 20 in Honors Factors (which including residence halls and dining) among the 50 colleges and programs we plan to evaluate again in 2014.   The Honors College is among the larger programs in the country, and the size of the new residential complex is a good fit for a large program.

The complex will include 1,500 beds, including 600 for first-year students and 900 for upper-division students.  The central location is only five minutes from the library and very near a new recreation center.  The complex will also include nine classrooms and offices for the Commonwealth Honors College in buildings from four to six stories high, set in the midst of several courtyards.

The complex will have its own cafe, open 24/7, and is not far from multiple dining options in the Campus Center and Southwest Campus areas.

“Commonwealth Honors College currently serves about 3,000 students in 88 majors. It provides an intellectually challenging honors curriculum, creates a community of scholars and helps prepare future leaders by providing an academic avenue for highly motivated students to delve deeply into their studies. It is also the only such school in the region to provide a four-year honors course of study that includes a highly demanding six-credit honors capstone project. The college plans to gradually increase its incoming classes from 485 this fall to 600 per year.”

Priscilla M. Clarkson, dean of Commonwealth Honors College, said this new complex will improve an already excellent program. “Commonwealth Honors College is the premier honors college in New England serving the greatest number of students in the largest number of majors,” Clarkson said.  “This new complex will serve as a visible representation of the commitment of this campus to academic excellence and will help attract even more students to the program.”


New for 2013: Oregon’s Global Scholars Hall Has Most Room Options

In our frequent reviews of honors residence halls, we come across a wide variety of room configurations, with the most typical being the traditional shared double with corridor baths or a combination of traditional rooms with some suite-style rooms that allow four students in two adjoining rooms to share a common bath.

But the Global Scholars Hall at the University of Oregon offers not only these basic options but an amazing six additional options.  The hall will soon have its own dining facility, the Freshmarket Cafe, offering sushi, pasta, rice bows, deli sandwiches, special expresso drinks, and fresh produce.

The Clark Honors College at U of O ranked 24th out of 50 in Overall Excellence and 23rd in Honors Factors in our recent book, A Review of Fifty Public University Honors Programs.  The Global Scholars Hall was not yet open at the time of publication, and if it had been open, the Clark Honors College would have ranked even higher with a stronger score for housing.

Home to students in the Clark Honors College, College Scholars, and global language scholars studying Mandarin Chinese, Japanese, French, Spanish, or German.  Students in these groups must apply through their program for a place in the Global Scholars Hall.  There are classrooms and study facilities in the hall, which even has its own librarian.

Here are the room options in the 450-student hall:

1. Traditional double with in-room sink;

2. Enhanced single with in-room sink;

3. Double with its own bath;

4. Triple with three sets of furniture, in-room sink, and no private bath (the least expensive option);

5. Single with its own bath;

6. Four-person suite, featuring two double rooms with a shared bath between them;

7. Six-person suite with one bath, with a private hallway, common living area and furniture, and three double rooms;

8. Two-person suite with bath, where each student has a single room and both students share one bath.

The Global Scholars Hall is open for Fall 2012, but we include it as “new” for 2013 as well.




New for Fall 2013: South Carolina Adds Courses and Staff

The Honors College at the University of South Carolina, ranked number one in our category of Honors Factors, now offers an extremely impressive choice of honors courses–a projected 464 courses for 2012-2013, up from about 300 in previous years.

In our recent book, A Review of Fifty Public University Honors Programs, the Honors College had the strongest overall curriculum ranking and was one of only a handful of honors colleges or programs that received the highest possible score for honors housing.

In order to provide advising and other services to support this range of courses, the staff size has grown from 18 to 20 and is in the process of growing to 22 in the next month or so.

The Honors College will provide over $200,000 in 2012-2013 to Honors undergraduates for research and travel.  This funding is in addition to resources that students can access through the undergraduate research office (available to all students).

And now the College offers priority registration for all classes for honors students, not just for honors classes.

The College also provides 100% of its students with some form of scholarship funding.