About Us

What do we stand for?

  1. We are advocates for maintaining excellence in public universities. Put another way, we oppose efforts to make public universities mere vocational training institutions without a full range of courses in ALL academic disciplines.
  2. We believe that excellence within public universities is most evident in the honors colleges and programs that have become a prominent feature of their parent universities.
  3. Our advocacy carries with it a call for transparency and accountability. Public universities that promote honors colleges and programs should fully support the genuine enhancement of undergraduate studies.
  4. Accordingly, as we continue to advocate for excellence in public universities and their honors components, we also provide evaluations of their courses, class sizes, graduation rates, honors housing, and commitment to honors work across four years.

The editor and founder of PublicUniversityHonors.com is John Willingham, who also publishes a biannual volume on leading honors colleges and programs, INSIDE HONORS. He has worked frequently with a Ph.D. statistician who was involved with the first edition of the Review (2012) and has an editorial and marketing assistant. 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.

He published the first edition in 2012, and it was flawed. There was an over-emphasis on the importance of prestigious scholarships and an over-reliance on tangential components of honors programs. In three subsequent editions, he has used increasingly detailed data, especially on the number and type of honors courses and actual honors class sizes, and the resulting evaluative profiles have been much more representative of the true value of public university honors 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 honors program 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 social and religious history at the University of Texas at Austin, earning an M.A. 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 multiple 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. 

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