The roots of the Honors College lie in the Honors Program, which began as a unit in the College of Arts & Sciences in 1975. Like most honors programs, it focused on interdisciplinary seminars and great books of the Western tradition. And while it was always open to students from any major, most of its early graduates were students planning on graduate education in the humanities or social sciences. For many years, these traditions were carried on under the direction of Dr. Grant Luckhardt, a member of the Philosophy Department, who directed the program with great dedication from 1989 until his retirement in 2003.
During the 1990s, Georgia State began a rapid evolution as an undergraduate institution that has culminated in the creation of a university-wide Honors College.
Chief among these were the rapid growth in enrollment and in the quality of applicants; the1996 Olympics, which led to our first residence halls; the creation of the Hope Scholarship Program; and the 1998 designation of Georgia State as a research university within the University System of Georgia. Until the mid-nineties typical GSU students were one or more of the following: older, returning, transfer, part-time, and commuting. Relatively few—about 300—were traditional freshmen. By the fall of 2011, by contrast, we enrolled more than ten times that number of freshmen—more than 3,000— all of them academically qualified by research university admission standards. Their average age is now 18, and most of them live in university housing. While Georgia State will always provide opportunities for returning and part-time students, it has become a large research university with a traditional undergraduate student body.
The Honors program responded to these changes by working with Admissions to develop strategies to recruit high-ability students to the increasing number of excellent academic programs at GSU, and by developing a signature Freshman Seminar experience for beginning students, as well as increased honors courses in the core curriculum.
Currently, under the leadership of President Mark Becker and Provost Risa Palm, the University has embarked on an ambitious new strategic plan that include the creation of an Honors College to foster personal and academic achievement among outstanding undergraduate students. In May, 2011, Professor Larry Berman, an outstanding scholar and mentor of undergraduate students was named Founding Dean of the Honors College. New resources for students in the Honors College include new physical space for the College (including student computer lab and study lounge), a significant increase in the number of merit scholarships, Honors housing and study abroad, additional funding to support research and creative work, and an expanded offering of cultural programs and service opportunities.
Going forward, we will continue to build the Honors College into a signature academic program that reflects Georgia State’s growth as a research university with outstanding opportunities for undergraduate students. We want to recruit the best students from Georgia and across the country. We expect our graduates to compete successfully (as many already do) for the nation’s top graduate and professional schools, and national postgraduate fellowships We will continue to promote ways for students to become engaged in research, and gain meaningful experience through travel, study abroad, and internships in the greater Atlanta community.
We have talented students, first-rate faculty, and terrific academic programs at Georgia State. The task of the Honors College is to bring these together in an environment that that supports and promotes achievement at the highest level.