Pitt Honors College Offers Maximum Flexibility and High Quality

Although the University Honors College (UHC) at the University of Pittsburgh has many things in common with other honors colleges and programs at other leading public universities, the UHC opens itself to all students at Pitt “who choose to challenge themselves beyond the normal academic requirements” at the university.

The Cathedral of Learning at Pitt is the largest university building in the western hemisphere.

The Cathedral of Learning at Pitt is the largest university building in the western hemisphere.

Here’s what the UHC at Pitt has in common with other honors colleges:

“Like the honors colleges at many other universities with a similar mission, the UHC offers honors courses (approximately 80-100 per year) and operates honors residence halls (housing around 700 students per year in three facilities),”according to honors staff.

But it is the flexibility of the UHC approach that sets it off from most honors colleges and programs, although some others, most notably the Echols Scholars Program at UVA and the Michigan State Honors College offer a lot of flexibility as well.

Unlike most programs, the special opportunities offered through the UHC “are open to all academically talented and committed undergraduate students who choose to pursue them,” the college reports.

“Second, students design their honors experience and can take honors courses or not as they wish.”

In addition,the UHC offers a range of specialized advising, several distinctive research programs, and even offers a unique interdisciplinary major (“Politics and Philosophy”) and a degree bestowed by the UHC itself: a Bachelor of Philosophy (BPhil) degree.

Here are some of the outstanding accomplishments of Pitt UHC students:

• 369 prestigious national and international awards won by students mentored through the UHC’s national scholarship office since 2008.
• 241 BPhil degrees earned by students since 2008.
• 639 Brackenridge Research Fellowships completed by students since 2001.
• 73% of the 202 students mentored by UHC pre-health advisors in 2013 accepted and matriculated into the professional program of their choice (vs. the national benchmark average of 42%)

“The five foundational programs of the UHC – honors courses, honors advising, honors research programs, the BPhil degree, and honors housing – offer a mix of opportunities for undergraduate students to obtain an enriched education,” the UHC tells us.

“These excellent programs are supported by a committed UHC staff of 16 who work effectively and collegially, and by the UHC Faculty Fellows (currently 45 Pitt faculty who are most active in honors programming) and UHC Student Ambassadors (currently 48 Pitt undergraduate students) who volunteer their assistance.”

Pitt began an Honors Program in 1978 and formally converted this program to the University Honors College in 1987. The open access, non-membership policy was initiated by Dr. G. Alec Stewart, the Program Director, who later became the first Dean of the UHC, a position he held until he passed away in 2010. Dr. Edward M. Stricker was appointed the second Dean of the UHC in 2011. Dr. Peter Koehler joined the UHC in 2012 as Academic Assistant to the Dean, and Dr. Gordon Mitchell was named UHC Assistant Dean in 2014.

The UHC, along with other highly flexible programs at UVA, Michigan State, Cincinnati, and UCLA will be reviewed more extensively in our 2016 Review of Sixty Public University Honors Programs.