University of Maryland Honors College

The Honors College at the University of Maryland, College Park is a living and learning program that provides 4,000 students with an academic and residential experience. The program promotes interdisciplinary learning and functions as an “intellectual community within the larger university”[1] by providing a small university experience in a large, research university environment. Anne Arundel Hall and LaPlata Hall house the administrative offices of the Honors College. Anne Arundel Hall and the Ellicott Community are the center of Honors College student life.

The Honors College
DirectorProf. Susan Dwyer
AffiliationsUniversity of Maryland, College Park


Originally named the General Honors Program, the Honors College was founded in 1966 by John Portz, a professor in the English Department.[1] Two years later in 1968, the program launched its first Honors Seminars when ten seminars first appeared in the University of Maryland course listing. Today, these Honors Seminars are an integral part of the Honors College experience.[2]

In 1990, the program was redesigned and renamed the University Honors Program. Six years later in 1996, the revamped program introduced two new, smaller living and learning programs. These were Gemstone and Honors Humanities. The program quickly underwent another restructure in 2009 when it was renamed the Honors College and implemented three new programs, Digital Cultures and Creativity and Entrepreneurship and Innovation in 2010 and Integrated Life Sciences in 2011. The seventh living and learning program, Advanced Cybersecurity Experience for Students, opened in 2013.[2]


Since its founding in 1966, the Honors College has gained national recognition. The Honors College was first acknowledged nationally in 1994 when it was given a top ranking in the book Ivy League Programs at State School Prices for its academic rigor and breadth of opportunities. The program gained national acclaim again in 2011 when U.S. News named it among the best smaller Learning Communities. Honors College students have also received a number of prestigious awards. In 2011, a record number of 19 students were awarded Fulbright Program grants, and two were awarded Goldwater Scholarships.

The Seven Living and Learning Programs

Advanced Cybersecurity Experience for Students (ACES)

The new cybersecurity living and learning program opened in the fall of 2013. It was officially launched on September 25, 2013, with a $1.1 million gift from Northrop Grumman. In 2015, Northrop Grumman renewed their support with a second, $2.7 million gift. ACES is led by Dr. Michel Cukier, from the Department of Mechanical Engineering.

ACES provides opportunities for hands on experience in the technical and non-technical aspects of cybersecurity, a close-knit community to encourage learning, potential leadership roles, and opportunities to work with and learn from experts in the industry. The curriculum consists of a two year living and learning program for freshmen and sophomores, and also an ACES minor which provides experiential cybersecurity learning opportunities for upperclassmen.

Digital Cultures and Creativity

Digital Cultures and Creativity is an interdisciplinary program with a focus on the digital world which encourages the use of many platforms, tools, and schools of thought.[3] Students participate in the program during their first two years at the University of Maryland, College Park and complete sixteen credits for the program. During the first year, students take Introduction to Digital Cultures and Creativity 1 in the Fall Semester, and Introduction to Digital Cultures and Creativity 2 in the Spring Semester. During the second year, students have a bit more flexibility for course selection. A Digital Cultures and Creativity Seminar is taken during the Fall Semester; topics have included digital storytelling, digital music and sound, and designing technology for and with humans in mind. A research practicum course is taken during the Spring Semester of the second year and culminates in the completion of the Capstone Project, a significant research project and/or major creative effort. Students must also take two program approved Honors Seminars at any point over the two years. In addition to the courses required for the curriculum, the program hosts a number of co-curricular activities each semester. These include movie screenings, workshops, and guest speaker events. [4]

Started in 2010, the program is currently directed by Dr. Jason Farman[5] (Assoc. Prof. in the Department of American Studies) and associate director and new media artist and sculptor Krista Caballero.[6] DCC is also run by faculty and graduate students. The faculty includes Evan Golub, Lecturer and Researcher in the Department of Computer Science,[7] Kari Kraus, Assistant Professor in the College of Information Studies and the Department of English,[8] and Tara Rodgers, Assistant Professor of Women's Studies.[9] The graduate students are Jarah Moesch,[10] a PhD student in American Studies and Leah Flake, a master's degree candidate in Engineering and Public Policy.[11]

Entrepreneurship and Innovation

Entrepreneurship and Innovation is a joint program between the Honors College and the Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute and is an interdisciplinary program.[12] Entrepreneurship and Innovation is a two-year program for freshmen and sophomores which requires the completion of sixteen credits. During the first semester of their freshmen year, students take Foundations of Entrepreneurship & Innovation, which focuses on introducing basic entrepreneurship principles and terminology. The second course, which students take during the Spring semester of their freshmen year is Contemporary Issues in Entrepreneurship & Innovation which exposes student to contemporary issues including design, energy, life sciences, healthcare, technology. Exploring International Entrepreneurship & Innovation is taken during the Fall Semester of the sophomore year and introduces students to entrepreneurship on an international level. Capstone: Creating Enterprise with Social Impact is taken during the final semester and requires students to develop possible solutions to significant social and environmental issues. The program also requires two additional courses which students may select from among the Honors Seminars offered by the Honors College or the I-Series courses offered by the University of Maryland. A variety of seminars, workshops, competitions, and volunteer opportunities are also available.[13]

Started in the fall of 2010, the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program is led by Director Jay A. Smith. Mr. Smith holds an MBA from Harvard Business School and worked in management consultation, investment banking and venture entrepreneurship and served as an Associate Professor of the Inamori Academy of Kagoshima University before starting the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program at the University of Maryland. Dr. David F. Barbe is the Executive Director of the program as well as the Executive Director of the Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute. Jaclin R. Warner is the Coordinator of the Entrepreneurship and Innovation program and holds a bachelor of arts and a Master of Arts in sociology from Stanford University.[14]


Gemstone is a four-year multidisciplinary research program in which students design, direct, and conduct their own original research under the guidance of faculty mentors. The program is committed to holistic student development through four main pillars: developing students’ research skills, developing students’ ability to work in teams, providing students with leadership opportunities, and providing a close-knit, supportive community.[15] As a part of the community development, students in Gemstone take one course with each other every semester. During the first semester, the course is Introduction to Gemstone, which give students an opportunity to get to know each other and get acclimated to the university. The following semester, students take Research Topic Exploration, which allows them to develop possible research topics. At the end of this semester, students are put into their research groups, and their three-year-long research project begins.[16]

Gemstone was started in fall of 1996, and is currently led by director Prof. Frank Coale. Dr. Wallace is also a professor of Environmental Science and Technology. Gemstone is run by a host of staff members, who include Associate Director, Dr. Kristan Skendall, Assistant Director for Operations, Vickie Hill, Assistant Director for Student Services, Leah Kreimer, Graduate Assistant for Team Development, Heather Creek, Graduate Assistant for Student Development, Courtney Singleton, and Graduate Assistant for Advising and Assessment, Sydney Shippey.

Honors Humanities

Honors Humanities is a two-year program within the Honors College, which encourages and challenges students to consider some of the most pressing issues affecting humanity today. Students of all majors, backgrounds, and a variety of interests are encouraged to join and contribute to the personal and intellectual diversity of the program.[17] Through a range of thought provoking course work, co-curricular, and extra-curricular activities, students are prompted to consider questions ranging from the definition of citizenship, the consequences of the digital and information revolutions, and the purpose of art.[18] The curriculum includes four Honors Humanities courses and two Honors courses; it culminates in the creation of a Keystone Project, a four-semester long creative effort or research project.

Honors Humanities was founded in 1996 by Dr. Phyllis Peres.[17] Today, Prof. Greg Staley is the Director of the program. Dr. Staley is also a Professor of Classics at the University of Maryland.[19]

Integrated Life Sciences

The Honors College and the College of Mathematical and Natural Sciences at the University of Maryland, College Park felt that various national initiative including BIO 2010, Scientific Foundations for Future Physicians, and Vision and Change have brought to light a need for the restructure of education in the life sciences. In response to this need, the two colleges have joined together to create the Integrated Life Sciences Program, a two-year living and learning program that focuses on inspiring innovation among students interested in biological research and biomedicine. The program requires a total of fourteen credits from classes including integrated organismal biology, genetics and genomics, biomathematics and a capstone scholarship-in-practice experience. Students are also required to complete at least one research project and create an electronic portfolio.[20]

Founded in the fall of 2011, Integrated Life Sciences is currently led by Director Dr. Todd J. Cooke. Dr. Cooke received his Ph.D. from Cornell University and is currently a Professor in the Cell Biology and Molecular Genetics department at the University of Maryland. His research interests included the development and evolution of green plants and the process of biology and student learning. Dr. Booth Quimby is also integral to the success of the program. She is the Associate Director of the Integrated Life Sciences Program and has research interests in the interface between nucleocytoplasmic transport and cell cycle regulation and on the effects of reading primary research literature on student learning. The final member of the ILS team is Nicole Horvath. Ms. Horvath is the Program Coordinator and is currently pursuing a Masters of Science in Sustainable Development and Conservation Biology at the University of Maryland.[21]

University Honors

University Honors is the most flexible of the six living and learning programs that compose the Honors College. Students are able to choose from over 130 interdisciplinary seminars that are grouped into three broad categories: Contemporary Issues and Challenges, Arts and Sciences in Today’s World, and Using the World as a Classroom. The program allows students to take any of these seminars to fulfill the requirements to receive their Honors Citation with the only stipulations being that they must complete sixteen credits from Honors courses, nine credits of these credits must be from Honors Seminars, and one credit must be from Honors 100, the introductory Honors course. The 9 credits required of Honors Seminars can be earned through completion of I-Series classes. Two of these classes are required as a part of the General Education program.[22]

When students are a sophomore, they can apply to become a Peer Mentor for incoming first year students. In this position, Mentors are assigned a student and meet with them at least once a month to check in, offer advice, and be a guiding presence. If students have participated in the Peer Mentor program as a Mentor, they are able to become a Section Leader their Junior year. A section leader is the student leader (TA) of the Honors 100 class. They work closely with Liza Lebrun to plan lessons and activities to aid first-year students in their transition to college. They also serve in a mentor-ship role.

The Director of the Honors College, Prof. Susan Dwyer, also leads University Honors. Dr. Cathy Barks is the Associate Director. Liza Lebrun and Damien Frenze coordinate student and faculty activities.

Student life

Student life for Honors College students is very similar to that of other students attending the University of Maryland; however, in addition to the added academic resources there are other opportunities open to Honors students outside of the classroom. These include brown bag lunch events, citation ceremonies, Convocation and Welcome Weekend, ice cream socials, Passport Day, and whitewater rafting trips. There are also a number of student organizations which are open to Honors College students. These include the Banneker/Key Community Council, Black Honors Caucus, Honors College Student Advisory Board, Latino Honors Society, Student Programming Council, and W.E.B. DuBois Honors Society.[23]


Every semester, the Honors College hosts a number of events intended to develop a sense of community among students and faculty in the Honors College. The events are aim to promote continued learning outside the classroom and attempt to give recognition to students who have achieved academic excellence.

Citation ceremony

After students have completed all of the requirements of their Honors programs, they are invited to attend a ceremony at which they receive their Honors Citations. Family and friends are invited, and it takes place in Memorial Chapel.

Convocation and welcome weekend

Each year, University of Maryland students move into their resident halls at the end of August. During days the students have before classes begin, there are activities such as scavenger hunts, a pool party at the Eppley Recreation Center, and ice cream socials. These events give the students an opportunity to get to know the campus and their peers. On the second day of move-in, the annual Honors Convocation takes place. All 1,000 new Honors students gather in Memorial Chapel and are welcomed by University faculty and staff.

Ice cream socials

Once a month, Honors students and faculty gather together in Anne Arundel Hall for relaxation, conversation, and ice cream. The ice cream is made at and comes from the dairy located on the University of Maryland campus.

Student organizations

Banneker Key Community Council

The Banneker Key Community Council (BKCC) is a student-run organization that seeks to foster community among Banneker Key students and to serve as an outlet to help students reach out to Banneker Key alumni through social, professional, and service oriented programming.

Black Honors Caucus

The Black Honors Caucus promotes the development of the modern black intellectual. Black Honors Caucus was created to foster the matriculation and retention of black students within the University Honors Program; however, all students are welcome. General body meetings are held in an open discussion format.

Honors Ambassadors

Honors Ambassadors assists in the Honors College recruitment process. Students in this organization represent the Honors College at open houses, question and answer panels, as well as other recruitment-related events.

Honors College Student Advisory Board

The Honors College Student Advisory Board (HCSAB) represents all seven living and learning programs and all departmental honors programs. Representatives serve the executive director of the Honors College and the mission to advance students' academic interests.[24]

Latino Honors Society

Latino Honors Society was created to help unite and foster community for Latino students in the Honors College. The main objectives are to help Latino students network, celebrate their common culture, and promote philanthropy in the College Park area.

Student Programming Council

The Student Programming Council was created to promote community amongst the entire Honors College. Past events include the Honors Olympics, Pi Day, and Honors College Formal.

W.E.B. DuBois Honors Society

W.E.B. DuBois is a National Honors Society that recognizes the scholarship and leadership accomplishments of collegiate scholars.


  1. Hill, Michael (22 February 1999). "An Elite Education at Public School". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 1 May 2012.
  2. Corbett, Allison. "A History of Honors at the University of Maryland". Retrieved 1 May 2012.
  3. "Digital Cultures and Creativity". Retrieved 15 April 2012.
  4. "Digital Cultures and Creativity Curriculum". Retrieved 15 April 2012.
  5. "Digital Cultures and Creativity Faculty/Staff: Jason Farman". Retrieved 15 April 2012.
  6. "Digital Cultures and Creativity Faculty/Staff: Krista Caballero". Retrieved 15 April 2012.
  7. "Digital Cultures and Creativity Faculty/Staff: Evan Golub". Retrieved 15 April 2012.
  8. "Digital Cultures and Creativity Faculty/Staff: Kari Kraus". Retrieved 15 April 2012.
  9. "Digital Cultures and Creativity Faculty/Staff: Tara Rodgers". Retrieved 15 April 2012.
  10. "Digital Cultures and Creativity Faculty/Staff: Jarah Moesch". Retrieved 15 April 2012.
  11. "Digital Cultures and Creativity Faculty/Staff: Leah Flake". Retrieved 15 April 2012.
  12. "Mtech: Entrepreneurship and Innovation". Retrieved 15 April 2012.
  13. "Mtech: Entrepreneurship and Innovation Academics". Retrieved 15 April 2012.
  14. "Mtech: Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program Team". Retrieved 15 April 2012.
  15. "About Gemstone". Retrieved 4 May 2012.
  16. "Gemstone Curriculum". Retrieved 4 May 2012.
  17. "Program Overview". Retrieved 4 May 2012.
  18. "Think Again". Retrieved 4 May 2012.
  19. "Faculty and Staff". Retrieved 9 Dec 2015.
  20. "About". Retrieved 5 May 2012.
  21. "People". Retrieved 5 May 2012.
  22. "University Honors". Retrieved 5 May 2012.
  23. Dorland, William. "Honors College". Retrieved 3 May 2012.
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