UMass Lowell Establishes Honors College

By Patricia McCafferty

While we have offered an honors program to students for nearly two decades, UMass Lowell this week received approval from the Board of Trustees to elevate the program to an Honors College. The elevation will mean expanded resources, courses and opportunities for valuable real-world experience through co-ops in business and industry and service-learning projects around the world.

“By raising our program to honors college status, we are investing in the educational opportunities of academically talented students who are already on our campus as well as those who will study here in the years to come. As enrollment at UMass Lowell has grown over the last six years, we have seen the academic qualifications of our students become even more impressive. By offering an honors college, we expect more of the best and brightest to choose our campus,” said UMass Lowell Chancellor Marty Meehan.

Since 2008, enrollment of honors students at UMass Lowell has increased from 298 to 733. This fall, the University saw a record number of first-year students – more than 270, with an average SAT score of 1285 – join the honors program and expects total enrollment to top 800 next year.

Among the new resources that will be introduced as part of the honors college are dedicated space in UMass Lowell’s new $95 million student center at University Crossing, which will open for the fall 2014 semester, and the “Personal Librarian Project” that will assign a librarian to every junior and senior in the college to amplify the one-on-one attention students receive as they research and write their honors thesis. A dean will oversee the college, along with the UMass Lowell Honors Council, made up of faculty and student representatives.

During the past few years of unprecedented academic and campus growth, UMass Lowell’s national reputation has also flourished. Ranked among the top national universities by U.S. News & World Report for the first time four years ago, UMass Lowell’s three-year gain of 25 points is the second-fastest climb in the country. It is now in the top 85 of all national public universities.

“For the past six years, our honors program has ramped up academic opportunities for high-achieving, creative and intellectually curious students. The formation of an honors college affirms UMass Lowell’s commitment to excellence in undergraduate education across all disciplines,” said Prof. James Canning, director of the honors program and a faculty member in computer science. “Like athletics, the honors experience at UMass Lowell has gone Division I, too.”

Local media outlets, such as the Boston Globe, WBUR and the Lowell Sun have taken notice of the Honors College achievement through news stories and supportive editorials.