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University of Maryland Honors College

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UMD Honors College
DirectorPeter Mallios
AffiliationsUniversity of Maryland, College Park

The Honors College at University of Maryland, College Park is home to six living-learning programs which together serve over 4,000 of the University's undergraduate students with an academic and residential experience. 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, although new Honors dorms are in the process of being built.


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 Honors College expanded and introduced two new, smaller living-learning programs in addition to University Honors. These were Gemstone and Honors Humanities. The College quickly underwent another restructure in 2009 when it was officially renamed the 'Honors College' and implemented three new programs - Digital Cultures and Creativity in 2010, Entrepreneurship and Innovation in 2010, and Integrated Life Sciences in 2011. A seventh living-learning program, Advanced Cybersecurity Experience for Students, opened in 2013.[2] In 2018, the process began to phase out the award-winning Entrepreneurship and Innovation program, which officially closed down at the end of the spring 2021 semester.


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.[citation needed] The program gained national acclaim again in 2011 when U.S. News named it among the best smaller Learning Communities.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed] The College and its living-learning programs have continued to focus and develop their academic offerings and curriculum, including an entirely new set of honors seminars for the fall 2021 semester as created for the revamped University Honors program.

The Six 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.

Design Cultures and Creativity

Design Cultures and Creativity is an interdisciplinary program with a focus on the impact of design on our societies and creative practices.[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 Design Cultures and Creativity 1 in the Fall Semester, and a small seminar, Introduction to Design Cultures and Creativity 2, in the Spring Semester. A Design Cultures and Creativity Seminar is taken during the second and third semesters of the program; topics have included digital storytelling; digital feminisms; prototyping, users, and creativity; and 3D modeling in the humanities. 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 three additional credits that can be gained through internships, study abroad, or an independent study. 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 Jessica Lu.[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, Associate Professor in the College of Information Studies and the Department of English,[8] and Alexis Lothian, Associate Professor of Women's Studies.[9] The graduate students are DB Bauer,[10] a PhD student in Women's Studies and Eva Peskin, also a Ph.D. student in Women's Studies.[11]


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.[12] 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.[13]

Gemstone was started in fall of 1996, and is currently led by director Prof. Frank Coale.

Honors Humanities

Honors Humanities is a two-year program within the Honors College, which encourages and challenges students to consider some of the 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.[14] Through a range of thought provoking course work, co-curricular, and extracurricular 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.[15] 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.[14] Today, Prof. Randy Ontiveros is the Director of the program. Dr. Ontiveros is also an Associate Professor in the English Department, an affiliate in U.S. Latina/o Studies, Women’s Studies, and Latin American Studies at the University of Maryland, and a board member of the Maryland Humanities Council.[16]

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.[17]

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.[18]

University Honors

University Honors is the original living-learning program in the Honors College, still reflecting many of the same values John Portz instilled within the program in 1966. It is also still the most flexible of the six living and learning programs that compose the Honors College. During the years of 2018 and 2019, University Honors staff begun planning a complete program overhaul in response to declining enrollment and program satisfaction. In fall of 2020, these changes were put into effect and the new curriculum was tested out for the first time, albeit during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Before fall of 2020, students were able to choose from over 130 interdisciplinary seminars loosely 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 allowed 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, with nine credits of these credits coming from Honors Seminars, one credit must be from Honors 100, and another six coming from H-level courses or more seminars. The Honors Seminars did and still do satisfy many general education categories at University of Maryland.[19]

In fall of 2020, University Honors introduced its new curriculum and living-learning experience. It was announced that Honors seminars would be organized into thematic 'clusters', which are the core of the new UH honors citation requirements. In order to complete the new UH requirements, students must complete the one credit Gateway Seminar, 12 credits of seminars (usually one or two clusters), and the two credit Vantage Point Seminar.

There are several student organizations within UH that members can participate in starting in their freshman year. The Student Life Council was created in fall 2020 by temporary student life coordinator Chelsea Bradford. Students can apply for this Council as early as their first semester, and is mostly populated by first and second years. The Peer Academic Leaders (PALs) serve as academic helpers and mentors for first-year students in the Gateway Seminar; mostly made up of second and third year students. The peer mentor program has been on pause since the beginning of Covid-19, but is set to restart at the beginning of the fall 2021 semester. Finally, the University Honors Student Board, started in spring 2020 by Director Stephan Blatti and student Luke Amato, is the main leadership organization within the program, working directly with program admin to influence and develop the program's policies and strategic vision.

Prof. Susan Dwyer, associate professor of philosophy at the University, led University Honors from the mid-2010s to 2018. She also served as Executive Director of the Honors College from 2016-2020, causing several leadership gaps within University Honors administration. In 2018, University Honors finally hired a full-time Director, Dr. Stephan Blatti. Blatti was the catalyst for the recent program revamp. Dr. Blatti is assisted by Assistant Director for Student Achievement Dean Hebert, Assistant Director for Student Engagement Kaleigh Mrowka, and Assistant Director for Academic Affairs Dr. Christine Jones.[20]

Entrepreneurship and Innovation

Before being phased out and officially closed at the end of the spring 2021, Entrepreneurship and Innovation was a top-25 entrepreneurship program in the country.[21] A unique joint effort between the Honors College and the Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute and is an interdisciplinary program,[22] Entrepreneurship and Innovation was a two-year program for freshmen and sophomores requiring the completion of sixteen credits. During the first semester of their freshmen year, students were to take Foundations of Entrepreneurship & Innovation, which focuses on introducing basic entrepreneurship principles and terminology. The second course, which students took during the Spring semester of their freshmen year is Contemporary Issues in Entrepreneurship & Innovation which exposed students to contemporary issues including design, energy, life sciences, healthcare, technology. Exploring International Entrepreneurship & Innovation was 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.[23]

Started in the fall of 2010, the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program was led until its end 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 was the Executive Director of the program as well as the Executive Director of the Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute. Jaclin R. Warner was the Coordinator of the Entrepreneurship and Innovation program and holds a bachelor of arts and a Master of Arts in sociology from Stanford University.[24]

Student life

Student life for Honors College students involve honors-focused dorm buildings, numerous events at both the Honors College and living-learning program level, and several academic groups / initiatives. There are a number of student organizations open to Honors College students. These include the Banneker/Key Community Council, Black Honors Caucus, Honors College Advisory Board, Latino Honors Society, Student Programming Council, and W.E.B. DuBois Honors Society.[25]


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.

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. Festivities include conferring citations unto the students and speeches from several high-achieving student leaders.

Convocation and welcome weekend

Each year, University of Maryland students move into their residence 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.

Alumni events

More recently, the Honors College has introduced more events and networking opportunities focused around alumni. In April of 2021, the Honors College invited back Rahul Vinod, co-founder of Rasa Grill, a fast-casual Indian restaurant in Washington, DC, for an event where he was interviewed by a DCC for her capstone project. Similar events have happened in subsequent semesters.

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 Advisory Board

The Honors College Advisory Board (HCAB) 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.[26]

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. ^ a b Corbett, Allison. "A History of Honors at the University of Maryland". Retrieved 1 May 2012.
  3. ^ "Design Cultures and Creativity". Retrieved 27 Feb 2020.
  4. ^ "Design Cultures and Creativity Curriculum". Retrieved 27 Feb 2020.
  5. ^ "Digital Cultures and Creativity Faculty/Staff: Jason Farman". Retrieved 27 Feb 2020.
  6. ^ "Design Cultures and Creativity Faculty/Staff: Jessica Lu". Retrieved 27 Feb 2020.
  7. ^ "Design Cultures and Creativity Faculty/Staff: Evan Golub". Retrieved 27 Feb 2020.
  8. ^ "Design Cultures and Creativity Faculty/Staff: Kari Kraus". Retrieved 27 Feb 2020.
  9. ^ "Design Cultures and Creativity Faculty/Staff: Alexis Lothian". Retrieved 27 Feb 2020.
  10. ^ "Design Cultures and Creativity Faculty/Staff: DB Bauer". Retrieved 27 Feb 2020.
  11. ^ "Design Cultures and Creativity Faculty/Staff: Eva Peskin". Retrieved 27 Feb 2020.
  12. ^ "About Gemstone". Retrieved 4 May 2012.
  13. ^ "Gemstone Curriculum". Retrieved 4 May 2012.
  14. ^ a b "Program Overview". Retrieved 4 May 2012.
  15. ^ "Think Again". Retrieved 4 May 2012.
  16. ^ "Faculty and Staff". Retrieved 9 Dec 2015.
  17. ^ "About". Retrieved 5 May 2012.
  18. ^ "People". Retrieved 5 May 2012.
  19. ^ "University Honors". Retrieved 5 May 2012.
  20. ^ "Staff". University Honors. 2018-08-11. Retrieved 2021-05-30.
  21. ^ "Top 50 Entrepreneurship: Ugrad | The Princeton Review". Retrieved 2021-05-30.
  22. ^ "Mtech: Entrepreneurship and Innovation". Retrieved 15 April 2012.
  23. ^ "Mtech: Entrepreneurship and Innovation Academics". Retrieved 15 April 2012.
  24. ^ "Mtech: Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program Team". Retrieved 15 April 2012.
  25. ^ Dorland, William. "Honors College". Retrieved 3 May 2012.
  26. ^
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University of Maryland Honors College
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