Honors Program celebrates its 50th anniversary

Tracy Yang, who will graduate in May with a bachelor’s degree in anthropology, is attending Oxford University in the fall on a Rhodes Scholarship, while alumna Betsy Katz will pursue graduate studies in Ireland as a George J. Mitchell Scholar. Although following different dreams, Yang and Katz have a common bond – both are products of UGA’s nationally recognized Honors Program, which is celebrating its 50th birthday.

“I came to UGA primarily for high-quality instruction and mentoring opportunities from innovative and respected faculty,” said Yang, also a 2010 Truman Scholar and a Foundation Fellow. “But my peers and I also have had the privilege to pursue numerous opportunities outside of the classroom.”

Yang’s experience exemplifies the Honors Program’s commitment to providing academically outstanding undergraduates with an enriched educational experience.
“The Honors Program is focused on one fundamental promise-to do everything possible to enable our top undergraduates to not only meet, but exceed, their dreams,” said Honors alumnus David S. Williams, who currently serves as associate provost and director of the Honors Program. “To do so requires that we provide an ever-expanding set of opportunities for our students.”

The opportunities encompass the individualized attention and student-faculty interactions of a small liberal arts college with access to academic, cultural and extracurricular resources of a major research university. Students flourish in such an environment. In the last decade alone, more than 50 UGA Honors Program participants have won numerous top national awards, including Rhodes, Truman, Marshall, Goldwater and Udall Scholarships.

In 2008, UGA was the only public university with two Rhodes recipients, Deep Shah and Kate Vyborny. That same year, Christina Faust received both Udall and Truman Scholarships and in 2009 became the first UGA student to be named a Mitchell Scholar.

The foundation for the Honors Program to build and support an exemplary undergraduate community of future scholars and leaders began with small classes taught by top faculty who were leaders in their academic disciplines. With the establishment of the Honors Council in 1960, the first seven Honors courses were offered that fall.

Today the Honors Program has evolved into a full, four-year comprehensive education offering academic, cultural, internship, research and study-abroad experiences to some 2,500 undergraduates. More than 200 Honors course sections are offered annually across campus. The Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities, which promotes faculty-guided research endeavors, is also administered by the Honors Program.