National Collegiate Honors Council


Introduction to Honors Colleges in the 21st Century

Richard Badenhausen, Westminster University

Copyright 2023, National Collegiate Honors Council. Used by permission


This chapter introduces Honors Colleges in the 21st Century, a volume containing the work of 56 authors representing 45 different institutions, many of which are at the forefront of innovation in honors education. In addition to offering a brief overview of the nineteen chapters that make up the book, the introduction reviews the historical growth of honors colleges along with research on that trend, including Peter Sederberg’s seminal The Honors College Phenomenon (2008). The essay accounts for the recent vigorous growth in honors colleges by suggesting that they are able to address some of the most pressing needs of today’s higher education institutions, including curricular innovation, enrollment management success, transdisciplinary collaboration, revenue generation, and progress in the areas of diversity, equity, inclusion, and access. The chapter also lays out the wide audience for the volume, which includes those looking to start an honors college, current honors college personnel looking to enhance programming, stakeholders seeking to better understand honors education, and anyone working in the honors space who would like to learn more about exciting innovations in matters like culturally responsive advising, support of queer students, and community engagement, among many other topics. Finally, the 500+ pages of research in this book show that some of the most exciting changes and opportunities in honors education are situated in the areas of diversity, equity, inclusion, and access.

Excerpt from the introduction:

These nineteen essays offer a broad overview of both the theory and practice of honors college education and administration in the twenty-first century, coincidentally one hundred years after Frank Aydelotte established the first U.S. honors program at Swarthmore College. The more than four dozen voices represented in the volume collectively bring centuries of perspective on student-centered education in honors and demonstrate the striking developments that have occurred in this space over the past two decades. The authors hope that readers will benefit from those perspectives as they take up the challenging yet thrilling work of honors education at their own institutions.