Saying an Honors College has been “honored” may be a little like saying an Athletics Division is “athletic”—sounds redundant. But in the case of the University of Houston’s Honors College, it’s an accurate description and a genuine accolade.
The UH Honors College was recently recognized as one of the top 10 public university honors programs receiving the maximum rating of five “mortarboards,” joining the likes of Clemson, Penn State, South Carolina and The University of Texas. The recognition comes from the 2016 edition of “Inside Honors,” a respected annual publication that evaluates honors programs based on criteria such as key courses, class size, enrollment, graduation rate, academic support and student achievement.
William Monroe, dean of the UH Honors College, attributed the UH program’s top ranking to a number of factors, but specifically cited “our ‘great books’ signature course, The Human Situation, as a major strength and something that genuinely sets us apart.”
In addition, “Another factor in our favor was the average number of honors courses taken by our students,” Monroe said. “The mean was 1.13 for all 50 programs rated; our ratio was 2.0, which means that on average students take two courses for honors credit each semester.”
He also pointed to the UH Honors College receiving the highest rating for students living in honors residence halls (730) and an impressive ratio of staff to students.
The UH Honors College traces its origins back to the University’s longtime Honors Program, which became a full-fledged interdisciplinary college in 1993 under founding dean Ted Estess. Monroe assumed the deanship in 2009. Today, the Honors College has steadily grown into one of the University’s defining components, providing an intellectually elite core and a major attraction for the academically ambitious in all disciplines.
“I expected to be immersed in a program that valued both liberal arts and professional advancement—and that’s exactly what I got,” said Madison Richards, an Honors College participant graduating in May with a major in management information systems. She’s already signed a full-time offer with Deloitte & Touche LLP.
“I enrolled because I wanted to go to college in a big city, but coming from a small town like Bay City, I didn’t want to get swallowed up by a huge university. The Honors College gave me that small-school feel while still being surrounded by all the opportunities that a large university (and a large metropolitan area) has. Being surrounded by peers who are passionate about taking classes both inside and outside of their majors is something I didn’t expect when I first came to Honors,” she said, “but I’ve grown to love that.”
While her praise—echoed by many other Honors students—and the Top 10 recognition might suggest the UH Honors College should be content with business as usual, that’s not the case.
“Going forward,” said Dean Monroe, “we think that adding experiential learning to our intensive traditional curriculum will bring even more national attention. One of our new taglines is ‘Great Books and Grand Challenges.’ And now that UH has a chapter, we would like to see more students qualifying for membership in Phi Beta Kappa, the gold standard of honor societies.”