Editor’s note: Our thanks to the University of Georgia for much of this information.
One of the best and oldest public university honors programs in the nation is at the University of Georgia–and now it is set to become the Morehead Honors College at UGA, funded in part by an honors endowment approaching $10 million.
The new honors college will be named after President Jere Morehead, an altogether fitting move based in part on his former leadership of the honors program from 1999 to 2004. The program began in 1960, placing it among the five or six most longstanding programs in the nation. Since 2012, we have rated the program as among the very best, giving special nods to its undergraduate research emphasis and to its outstanding record of mentoring students who have won Rhodes, Marshall, Truman, and Goldwater Scholarships.
UGA President Jere Morehead and students
“Over the last quarter century, UGA became a recognized leader with regard to nationally and internationally competitive major scholarships. Consider that while UGA had only two recipients of the Rhodes Scholarship between World War II and 1995 (in 1960 and 1973), during the past 25 years UGA has produced nine Rhodes Scholars and, as a result, UGA now trails only UVA and UNC in the number of Rhodes Scholars produced by a public institution during this time period,” according to Dr. David S. Williams, who succeeded Dr. Morehead as director in 2004.
UGA Honors Director David S. Williams
“This record of success with regard to external scholarships has continued since 2014, including the following significant achievements: (1) five Schwarzman Scholars since the introduction of this prestigious new award in 2016; (2) at least one national Rhodes finalist each year, with a Rhodes Scholarship recipient in 2017; (3) one Marshall Scholar in 2016; (4) UGA’s first two Beinecke Awardees in 2017 and 2019; (5) UGA’s first Knight-Hennessy Scholar in 2019, and a second one in 2020; (6) UGA’s first Churchill Scholar in 2019; (7) three Truman recipients; (8) seven Udall recipients; and (9) 17 Goldwater recipients, including the institutional maximum of four recipients in 2019.”
The fundraising campaign has raised more than $8 million of its $10 million goal, with plans to use an endowment to fund new, permanent and robust support for academic programming, undergraduate research, study abroad and internship opportunities for Honors students.
“Upon learning of this action, it is difficult for me to adequately express my appreciation to the UGA Foundation Trustees, other donors, the chancellor and the Board of Regents for making this incredible honor possible,” said Morehead. “Working with the Honors Program—as its director and continuing as provost and president—has been one of the most rewarding and meaningful experiences of my career. I am humbled and deeply grateful.”
As honors director, Morehead help to create the Washington Semester Program that has sent more than 2,000 students to work as interns in the nation’s capital. He also created the Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities (CURO), a model for undergraduate research programs in honors programs and universities.
“What President Morehead did in his time as Honors Program director established a great precedent for our faculty and administration, and it built a springboard for all the students who have entered our program since,” said Dr. Williams, the current director. “UGA Honors is today regarded as one of the finest public university honors programs in the country—due in no small part to the accomplishments of the president’s tenure—so it is exciting to imagine where we go from here.”
Deep Shah, a 2008 alumnus and now a physician in Atlanta, said that Morehead’s “commitment to elevating both the university and the Honors Program was evident to me then. As I have come to know him more as an alumnus, that commitment has become even more clear as have the results of his efforts. I can think of no one more deserving of this honor.” Dr. Shah was named a Rhodes Scholar in 2008.
Under Morehead’s long tenure as president, UGA’s four-year completion rate rise from 61% to 71% and its six-year completion rate climbed to 87%. UGA has been rated a top 20 public university by U.S. News & World Report for five consecutive years, most recently being ranked at No. 15.
Editor’s note: This is one in a series of testimonials from students and faculty at leading public university honors colleges and programs.
Nivita Sharma (Class of 2018)
As only a sophomore at The University of Georgia, I can confidently say that in another two years from now I will define my undergraduate career by the opportunities that have been presented by the Honors Program. I have been given the privilege to attend the first state chartered university in the nation with a student body of 36,000, while also receiving specialized attention through the small liberal arts college atmosphere of the Honors Program.
Honors classes are taught by world-renowned professors who have the genuine desire to foster intellectual growth inside and outside the classroom. But what has made my college experience particularly unique is the cutting edge research I have been conducting with the unwavering support and guidance of a UGA faculty member. As an Honors student, I was able to engage in research in an area of my own interest through the Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities (CURO) from the very first day I set foot on campus.
Besides the academic endeavors I have embarked on with the support of the Honors Program, the motivation and core values provided by the intimate community of faculty, administrators, fellow students, and alumni is unparalleled by any other institution in the nation I know of. The social support and many activities sponsored by Honors student groups, especially the Honors Program Student Council, add to the strong community that Honors students enjoy.
The University of Georgia Honors Program has gone above and beyond to help me achieve goals that I could have only dreamed of before.
Torre Lavelle (Class of 2016; Udall Scholar and Schwarzman Scholar)
The UGA Honors Program is incredible in its commitment to undergraduate research and connecting some of the university’s (and world’s) leading professors with students. During my second year at UGA, I was able to pursue research on anthelmintic resistance through CURO. Dr. Vanessa Ezenwa, my Honors research mentor, played an invaluable role that went far beyond the usual job description, a common depiction when Honors students talk about their faculty mentors—UGA professors value undergraduate research in a manner that I have found to be unmatched at any other institution. She even connected me with an internship this past summer at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) in Virginia.
Honors-funded travel grants have been invaluable in allowing me to delve into my academic interests undeterred. From presenting my research to other students at the Clinton Global Initiative University Conference to spending part of my summer in Fiji, where I studied human-environment interaction and participated in a homestay in the coastal village of Waitabu, my adventures have always begun with a simple phrase of support from Honors administrators: “What’s next?”
I have also always been struck by the Honors Program’s ability to serve as a strong yet diverse community, and constant source of support and inspiration. It has built its alumni portal in a manner that allowed me to connect with a graduate who works at the State Department, and covered the cost of many a lunch during networking events.
Lastly, the support of the Honors Program as I applied for, and ultimately was awarded, multiple national scholarships is the reason why I have the life-changing opportunity to pursue my graduate work internationally, and why I feel confident in the academic direction I have taken.
Karishma Sriram (Class of 2016; Goldwater Scholar)
Entering college as a Foundation Fellow–UGA’s top academic scholarship which is housed in the Honors Program–I was immediately immersed in an encouraging and creative environment. Through the Fellowship, I have been able to participate in intriguing book discussions, dinner seminars and conversations that helped me shape my understanding of the world around me.
Further, the Fellowship afforded me the ability to travel during my career. Through its aid, I’ve taken a class under a Fellow of All Souls College at Oxford University, traveled to Harvard College to present my stem cell research, ventured to Bolivia to observe the health care conditions in the impoverished La Paz, and studied abroad in Morocco and Bali with cultural and religious immersion experiences.
Beyond the extensive travel and enrichment opportunities, the Fellowship has provided me with a community of peers and advisers that have guided and aided me in my growth as a student, friend and person.
Dr. Marcus Fechheimer, University Professor of Cellular Biology, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences
The academic rigor at UGA has risen dramatically in the last decade. The average undergraduate student at UGA today would have been in the Honors Program 10 years ago, and students in the Honors Program today would have been in the top 1% 10 years ago. It is truly impressive that our Honors Program continues to recruit and engage these outstanding students! This is the view of a faculty member who is completing his 30th year at UGA.
The characteristic that best describes the UGA Honors Program is engagement of faculty and students working together to learn, discover, and create. This engagement is most patent in Honors classes that feature smaller sections and advanced material. Some courses employ an Honors option so that students earn Honors credit by doing extra work such as (in my cell biology class) writing analytical reviews of recent publications in the primary literature. I also regularly teach an Honors seminar in the area of neurodegenerative diseases- a topic too specialized for the regular curriculum. This type of class utilizing exclusively primary sources represents a level of scholarship and mentoring that is expected at the 8000 level for doctoral students. In the UGA Honors Program, sophomores engage at this level.
Finally, undergraduate research promotes engagement of Honors students across every discipline at the University. Research transforms students who develop persistence, creativity, teamwork, and communication skills. Engagement in research promotes self-confidence that emanates from authentic accomplishment. The Honors Program promotes research participation and engagement in many ways including CURO scholars, Gateway seminars, Summer Fellowships, CURO Symposium, Theses, and the CURO Scholar transcript notation.
By providing such opportunities for engagement and discovery, the Honors Program is the engine for both the transformation of students and for the rise of UGA to the elite among public universities.
Dr. Loch Johnson, Regents Professor of International Affairs, School of Public and International Affairs
Having been a University faculty member for almost forty years, I have many wonderful memories of campus life. My happiest moments, though, have been the many semesters when I have been engaged in the UGA Honors Program. The students in the Program are uniformly first-rate: smart, engaged in student and community activities, active in classroom discussions, and always punctual in the completion of assignments with a high level of excellence. These students have also been amenable to experiences beyond the classroom, whether discussions of current events over coffee, longer conversations over lunch, or coming to my place for a home cooked meal (as my Honors classes always do). The size of the class–always less than twenty–makes it possible as well to have rich dialogues among the class members and the instructor, which is more difficult in our typically larger classes.
I have also enjoyed the diversity of the Honors classes, with students from a wide variety of ethnic backgrounds. Often many of the students are immigrants, or their parents are, which brings a wonderful international dimension to the classroom—especially valuable for my International Affairs Department.
Finally, I would note that the administrators of the Honors Program are top-draw in every way: the classes are well-organized and thoughtfully scheduled, the students come with an outstanding work ethic and a lively interest in intellectual matters, and the “home office” in Moore College is invariably a font of sound counsel and encouragement.
The UGA Honors Program is a five-star operation!
Dr. David Mustard, Meigs Associate Professor of Economics, Terry College of Business
Throughout my career at UGA, I have taught Honors classes, mentored Honors students, and advised students through CURO. In these capacities I have had the privilege of interacting with a cadre of extremely smart, interesting, and motivated students.
Over the past ten to fifteen years, UGA Honors students have been extremely successful in national and international scholarship competitions. I have myself taught and advised two Rhodes Scholars, a Marshall Scholar, two Fulbright Scholars, a National Science Foundation Graduate Fellow, a recipient of the top university-wide Ph.D. assistantship at Duke University, many winners and finalists of other prestigious scholarships, and also multiple Olympians, including one gold medal winner.
Such students exhibit enthusiasm for learning, are intellectually inquisitive, engage the readings and class material, and work extremely hard, which fundamentally changes the manner in which I teach classes. For example, in my education policy Honors class, instead of using a textbook, the required readings are largely articles from peer reviewed academic journals. In that class I also assign group research projects that have generated many excellent papers. Many of these students leverage that opportunity to do research into additional undergraduate research experiences that have produced five CURO Best Paper Awards, book chapters, and a co-authored publication in an influential economics journal.
My participation in the UGA Honors Program has truly been one of the highlights and most rewarding aspects of my professional career.
The 2012 Goldwater Scholarships for undergraduates to do research in science, technology, engineering, and math have been announced, and students from all but six of the 50 universities under review have won at least one award, with Georgia, Kansas, Nebraska, and North Carolina State leading the way with four awards each.
Universities among the fifty that have three Goldwater winners are Alabama, Massachusetts at Amherst, Minnesota, Ohio State, Oregon, Pitt, South Carolina, and UT Austin.
Winning two awards are Clemson, Colorado, Florida, Georgia Tech, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, Rutgers, Penn State, Washington, Washington State, and Wisconsin.
Although the awards just announced will not be a part of the statistics for the current edition of A REVIEW OF FIFTY PUBLIC UNIVERSITY HONORS PROGRAMS, they will be included in the next, expanded issue.
In discussing other honors residence halls, we have noted that some universities–and many students–prefer traditional dorms with corridor baths because this arrangement, though not ideally convenient, does afford more socialization than suite-type living.
Myers Hall at the University of Georgia tackles this issue by offering several living options within one residence hall: traditional doubles, suites, and private rooms. Freshmen at UGA are required to live on campus, with few exceptions, so being assigned to a newly-renovated and classically appealing hall such as Myers is a great advantage for 250 entering honors students each year. The Honors program even maintains a satellite office in Myers in order to facilitate participation, registration, and activities for honors students.
In addition to the variety of living arrangements, Myers is in a great location in South Campus, very close to classes and other campus facilities. The hall has in-room temp controls for the air conditioning that is so important for students living through the Georgia heat in early Fall and late Spring. Myers is adjacent to Snelling Dining Hall, a 24-hour facility. And it’s not just the dorm itself that’s appealing. Here’s what a UGA student has to say about the Myers Quad:
“The best part about these halls is Myers Quad. It’s the huge space of lawn shared by the Myers community and is a beautiful multi-purpose space. You can study, play ultimate Frisbee, play basketball, go to a barbecue, have a water fight, or just take a nap on the lawn. It also is a prime tailgate location of game days and in 2008, College Gameday even filmed it’s show from the quad. It’s the perfect college quad and even if you don’t live in Myers, you should find some time to unwind on the quad.”
And all the better if you DO live there!
After freshman year, honors students can live in the East Campus Village, as well as other locations. ECV is basically apartment living, and successful honors students have an edge in applying a place there because GPA is one important factor in assigning priority.