For Immediate Release
August 27, 2009
Contacts: Beth Cavanaugh, 301-405-4625 or firstname.lastname@example.org
New UM Honors College to be Celebrated at Convocation
By Kimberly Marselas
College Park, Md. -- The University of Maryland will celebrate the creation of a new Honors College serving nearly 1,000 high-achieving freshmen with its first convocation on Friday.
The new college brings together a general honors program, separate programs focused on humanities and undergraduate research and departmental honors programs from across the university, while adding faculty and allowing for the creation of more programs in the future.
William Dorland, director of the Honors College, said the 1:30 p.m. ceremony at Memorial Chapel will help the 976 new students admitted to the various honors programs better understand the mission and expectations they face as leaders of the Class of 2013.
"We're setting the tone for these students, letting them know that their classes will be intellectually engaging and that we have high expectations," Dorland says.
The university's strategic plan calls for a renewed commitment to undergraduate education, as well as developing new and improved academic programs that attract the state's best and brightest high school graduates. The new college will help the university to better recruit those students, in part because individual programs will no longer be competing against each other.
"It will make it easier to explain the great opportunities at Maryland," Dorland says. "In the past, you might have had many entities trying to attract these students. Now there is one organization out in front."
The university has also set aside a significant budget and dedicated additional faculty to the college. Now, honors programs can accommodate an increase in the number of high-achieving students who choose to attend Maryland.
Most students in the Honors College attend classes and share university housing with others who have the same academic interests. They also attend lecture series, concerts, field trips and social activities together.
"Students are craving the diverse kinds of experiences that our living and learning programs provide," says Kate Gannon, senior associate director of marketing and communications for the Office of Undergraduate Admissions. "They are looking for the advantages of a premier research university combined with the tight-knit communities of faculty and students found at smaller schools."
All students who apply to the university by the Nov. 1 priority deadline will be reviewed for honors admission. And instead of being assigned to a program, students who are invited to participate will be able to indicate their preferences. Additional choices are expected by Fall 2010.
"The college has been set up to support programs that allow a more in-depth examination of some part of the academic canon," Dorland says. "We had reached a point where just making our honors program bigger didn't make any sense. This model can grow as more and more superstar students come to Maryland."
Currently, half of Maryland's incoming freshmen are given the opportunity to participate in one of its living and learning programs, which have been recognized repeatedly by U.S. News & World Report as "Academic Programs to Look For."
The four-year University Honors Program allows students to choose individual honors seminars taught by outstanding faculty from across campus. More than 70 honors seminars are offered each term and encourage discussion on topics ranging from "Counterterrorism" to "Energy Sources for the Future."
The interdisciplinary aspect of the program appealed to Jack Izen, an incoming freshman from Plano, Texas, who chose Maryland and its Honors Program over Ivy League and private institutions. The political science and economics major already has experience in nanotechnology and political research and will pursue a joint bachelor's degree and Master of Public Policy.
"I like the living-learning aspect of University Honors and am looking forward to being with people who have similar academic motivations," Izen says.
Honors Humanities focuses on the arts and humanities, culminating in a project in which students write a play, compose music or embark on research in their field of interest. Gemstone is a four-year research program where students from different disciplines work in research teams. Groups of 10 to 12 students design experiments and propose solutions to societal problems or issues that might be solved through the use of technology, write a group senior thesis and present their findings at a conference.
Other living and learning programs will continue outside of the Honors College, including the highly regarded two-year College Park Scholars, which allows students to explore societal themes through classes, experiential learning and community service. College Park Scholars will offer new areas of concentration beginning in Fall 2010.
Maryland students can also participate in programs such as the Hinman CEO program for budding entrepreneurs, CIVICUS for civic-minded students, the Jiménez-Porter Writers' House, Federal Semester, the EcoHouse and many other learning communities.
For more information, please visit www.excellence.umd.edu, a new Web site that goes live Friday.
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