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New Honors College announced for UNR

By Jeri Chadwell

The University of Nevada, Reno, announced that its Honors Program will undergo changes to become an Honors College.

The Nevada System of Higher Education Board of Regents approved the establishment of an Honors College at UNR.

“Matt Means and Erin Edgington did the heavy lifting in preparing the proposal,” Executive Vice President and Provost Kevin Carman said in a statement from the school. “Good things are ahead for the Honors College as we look forward to many more opportunities for students to engage in the honors educational experience.”

Matt Means, Dean of UNR's Honors College
Matt Means, Dean of UNR’s Honors College

Means was previously director of UNR’s Honors Program. He was made Dean of the Honors College effective July 1 and will join the Deans Council.

“A title, like a person, has as its first priority service to others and/or a cause,” Means said in the statement. “I’m deeply humbled and honored to have been afforded this opportunity and hope that it may allow honors to connect with, collaborate with, and support other programs/units on campus to a greater degree.”

Students will receive mentoring and coaching during their time in the college to supplement resources already offered to students through the Pennington Student Achievement Center and within the other academic colleges. Mentorship and coaching services will eventually involve recent graduates, alumni and community members, according to the release.

Richard Siegel, a UNR professor emeritus, will co-chair a Community Advisory Board for the Honors College.

“Nevadans want excellence throughout our higher education system and the Honors College offers an opportunity to keep many more of our best students in the state as we provide them with unique opportunities,” Siegel said.

The Honors College is also currently developing a parents’ club and revitalized honors alumni chapter.

“I’m most excited about the impact this will have on future students in our program,” Means said. “The changes we are employing are significant and will position us at the bleeding edge of innovation in the honors domain in our country.”

According to the release—along with these changes—”a new honors course proposal process will be drafted to enhance the curriculum for the college. It will allow more faculty at the University to be considered for honors instruction. Honors Program students are heavily involved in campus organizations, clubs and outside nonprofits and businesses. This aspect will be incorporated into the curriculum to benefit students already taking part in these activities and allow them to explore them in an honors-augmented way.”

“Much more than being a domain that simply requires more papers or reading more textbooks, honors colleges have the potential to expand and diversify the concept of impact and risk for our next generation of leaders,” Means said.

College already seeing early success

This Is Reno reached out to UNR administrators to learn more about the new Honors College, including how long it has been in the planning.

“The move to become an Honors College at UNR has been in the back of the mind, philosophically, for some time,” Means said. “Virtually all of our peer universities have honors colleges. That said, this year has represented a great opportunity to move toward this goal and, thanks to the leadership of Executive Vice President and Provost Kevin Carman, this became a reality.”

Means, who started in his role as director of the honors program a year ago, said a comprehensive strategic planning process that outlined significant goals and objectives for the new college over the next five years was developed over the course of the last year. 

“We are already seeing the fruits of our labor,” Means said. “Our incoming class this fall is the largest one in our program’s history.”

As to which students will qualify to be part of the new college, Means said the college had significantly revamped its admissions process.

“Rather than having minimum SAT/ACT/GPA requirements to apply, applicants will be evaluated holistically based on our program mission pillars,” Means said. “The average ACT score of our program is slightly above 30 and the average cumulative [high school] GPA of students in our program is a 3.9, but we look as closely at potential, innate gifts, causes, and the drivers that dictate a given student’s disposition.  

“Thus, an applicant with great promise and strengths will not be denied consideration for our program just because, to provide an example, s/he may have had a challenging freshman year in HS, academically, because they were busy helping provide income via a job for their family or were busy addressing other life needs.”

According to Means, the curriculum model and requirements for the college “are both academic and co-curricular in nature,” and students can choose from a variety of “pathways that give them the opportunity to craft an honors journey that is unique to their needs.”

Means said the flexibility will allow the college to accommodate transfer students, students with significant amounts of previously attained college credit and non-traditional students.

All students in the Honors College will be shared with another academic program. Honors College students will receive additional “mentorship, coaching, and networking opportunities,” according to Means.

“They will get access to a whole range of inspiring honors courses, taught by the outstanding researchers and scholars in our faculty,” Means said. “They will be able to leverage co-curricular involvement in a deep way that counts towards HC program requirements, and, more important, enhances what they are doing academically, and, they will be part of a community of student scholars/researchers that motivate them to engage in personal challenge, risk, and growth.”

Honors College students will also have access to international travel—when it is once again safe and allowed—as well as research funding and an honors-only living community in the residential halls.

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