Honors at Colorado State began in 1957 when a group led by Professors Willard O. Eddy and Bruce Frye created an interdisciplinary seminar on Leo Tolstoy and invited fifteen of the University's best and brightest students to enroll. Those students were:
The records are incomplete but we do know that at least nine of the participants went on to earn graduate degrees. Of these, at least three completed Ph.D.'s, two of them at the California Institute of Technology, including Carol Olson Hamilton, who worked for Jet Propulsion Labs, and Paul Jennings, Caltech's current Provost. Two became MDs, one went into medical research, and four became college teachers. Robert Wendell King went on to earn a Ph.D. in Creative Writing from the University of Iowa and then taught literature and creative writing at the University of North Dakota for most of his career. He is currently living in Greeley, CO, and his first book, Old Man Laughing (Ghost Road Press, 2007), was a finalist for the 2008 Colorado Book Award in Poetry and he recently won the Grayson Books Chapbook Competition with Rodin & Co. Charles Coll received a law degree from the University of New Mexico and practiced law for over 30 years in Roswell, New Mexico, where he still resides. He is now officially retired from practice and starting a second career (fly fishing). Between 1973 and 1997, Dr. Donna (Younger) Shavlik was on the staff of the American Council on Education, Office of Women in Higher Education, where she served as director for over 15 years. The Office provides a national voice for women in higher education, with a special focus on the advancement of women leaders. Dr. Shavlik coordinated efforts among higher education associations relative to women's equity and leadership. She currently works with her husband, Dr. Frank Shavlik, in their consulting business in Estes Park, CO.
Between 1957 and 1977, the Honors Program consisted of Honors colloquia, honors sections of regular courses, and Honors projects. Over 67 separate colloquia topics were offered, including such intriguing titles as:
- Frontiers of Chemical Research
- Academic Life in Fiction
- World Population and World Food Resources
- Strategies and Tactics of Foreign Intervention
- Recent Developments in African Independence
- Life and Thought of Albert Schweitzer
- American Business Theory
Honors sections of regular courses were offered in Composition, English Literature, Physics, History, Math, Economics, Public Speaking, Foreign Languages, Political Science, Anthropology, Conservation, Philosophy, Psychology and Engineering. In 1964, for example, there were 672 registrations for Honors classes and more than 35 Honors projects during the fall quarter alone.
During the early days of the Honors Program, entering freshmen were invited to take Honors courses on the basis of their ACT or SAT scores and high school class standing. Regular admission to the program was granted at the completion of the freshman year by the Faculty Honors Council. In addition, any CSU student with at least a CSU cumulative GPA of 3.25 could enroll in honors classes if space was available. To graduate with the Honors designation, students needed to complete at least 20 hours of honors coursework, including a 5 credit honors project in their major, maintain a minimum 3.0 GPA, and pass written and oral comprehensive exams in their major.
The next phase of Honors education at CSU began when the Faculty Council first approved the University Honors Program to be effective Spring Quarter, 1975. A student was able to graduate with this designation by earning 24 credits of honors coursework distributed among three categories: a) Arts and Humanities, b) Social-Behavioral Sciences, and c) Natural Sciences and Mathematics, attaining a minimum 3.5 cumulative GPA, and completing a Senior Honors Thesis or Project. In Fall 1979, floors in Durward Residence Hall were reserved for students participating in the University Honors Program. The Honors Living Learning Community moved to Newsom Hall in 1983. The first Honors Scholar graduated from the new program in 1977.
In 1991, CSU's Faculty Council approved a “Revised University Honors Program” that added the designation “University Honors Scholar” and “University Honors Participant” as academic distinctions. The requirements to be a “University Honors Scholar” included two honors courses in mathematics and sciences, two honors courses in arts, humanities, and social sciences, an additional elective honors course from either category, three semesters of a foreign language, an upper-division writing course, and a senior honors thesis/project. Students who did not wish to complete a thesis could choose to add a second major, teacher licensure, two minors, or two interdisciplinary studies programs. Students in majors with few or zero electives typically could not complete the “Scholars” program so they followed the curriculum for the “University Honors Participant,” which did not require the three semesters of a foreign language. A minimum 3.5 GPA was required for graduation with Honors in either option.
The Honors Program curriculum was substantially revised in 1999, creating the structure of the current Honors Core Curriculum (HCC). The hallmarks of this program include the four interdisciplinary seminars that fulfilled five of the eight all university core curriculum (AUCC) requirements, two Honors courses in the major, and a senior honors thesis or project. Students completing the Honors Core Curriculum with a minimum 3.5 overall GPA earn the “University Honors Scholar” designation on their transcripts and diplomas at graduation. The first class of students entered the HCC in 2000.
A second Scholars program was added in 2005 to accommodate freshmen with a substantial amount of college credits (including AP or IB), continuing CSU students, and transfer students. The Discipline Honors Scholar (Track 2) option is a 17-credit program of study that consists of a 1-credit honors seminar (for freshmen) and 16 credits of upper-division courses in the major or discipline, including the Honors pre-thesis and senior Honors thesis.
In Fall 2007, the Honors offices, classrooms and Residential Learning Community (RLC) moved to the new Academic Village, constructed on the site of the former Ellis Hall. In addition to the rooms available in the Academic Village, which are reserved for freshmen, students could choose to live in the Honors RLC currently located in Edwards Hall, previously in Newsome Hall.
Currently, there are about 1,500 students in the University Honors Program. Approximately 85% of entering freshmen choose to participate in Track 1 and about sixty percent reside in the Honors Residential Learning Communities in their first year.