U Honors ranked top new program

Housing and learning abroad opportunities contributed to the University’s high ranking.

U Honors ranked top new program

Jade Lomeli

The University of Minnesota was nationally recognized for having the best new honors program in a ranking by Public University Press, a new, independently run organization.

The group published “A Review of Fifty Public University Honors Programs,” where the University of Minnesota’s program was compared to 49 other public programs in terms of overall excellence and student achievement.

In May, the group announced the University is the best well-rounded new program after taking the University’s rankings into consideration and comparing them to those of other public colleges.

The review attributes much of the University’s success to student benefits, including residential accommodations and study abroad opportunities tailored for honors students.

Background

In 2008, the University’s Honors Program was restructured as a University-wide program. Before the new program, some majors had the ability to provide honors courses for students, and others did not.

“The expectation is that when you expand your learning to include other things … then you become a more critical thinker,” said Pamela Baker, associate director of the Honors Program.

Serge Rudaz, the founding director of the program, said the initiative began to provide consistency across all departments.

According to a report from the office of the vice provost of Academic Affairs, 5,368 freshmen enrolled at the University in 2011, and a little less than 600 of them were honors students.

Baker said the honors program provides curriculum, advising, living accommodations and honors learning abroad opportunities — things not all public universities offer to their honors students.

Rudaz said the honors program is beneficial because it allows students with diverse interests to pursue academic studies beyond what their specific career path requires of them.

Aaron Turnquist, a junior studying microbiology, said his experience with honors classes was not what he expected.

“[Professors] see it as an option to let the honors students discover what they want to learn about,” Turnquist said.

Housing and Learning Abroad

Kim Hindbjorgen, a program director for the University’s study abroad program said about half of honors students at the University study abroad.

The Learning Abroad Center is internationally recognized for the amount of students who study abroad through credit-bearing programs, which also factored into the honors program’s ranking.

Victoria Housewright, a junior horticulture student, said she learned about study abroad opportunities through an Arabic course, and her upcoming semester in Morocco will count toward an honors experience.

While some students can choose to have honors components in the learning abroad program they select, Hindbjorgen said others can choose not to.

They also have options when it comes to honors housing.

Susan Stubblefield, the director for Housing and Residential Life, said honors hosts the largest Living Learning Community on campus, which takes up five floors of Middlebrook Hall.

“They were able to group people together who did well in school, who were ambitious, but also had a wide variety of interests,” Turnquist said.

Stubblefield said the honors Living Learning Community is a competitive environment that students seek out for themselves.

“It is a great way for students to interact with each other outside of the classroom,” Stubblefield said.

She said most freshmen honors students chose to live on campus or in Middlebrook.

“They put themselves in that environment, but that is where the students thrive,” Stubblefield said.