About the University Honors College
The University of Pittsburgh established the University Honors College (UHC) in 1986 to meet the special academic and co-curricular needs of capable and motivated undergraduate students. Building upon the achievements of the University Honors Program, begun in 1978, the UHC provides increased opportunity, incentives, and recognition for high academic attainment by students. That is our primary mission, and everything we do can be viewed from that perspective.
Put another way, we try to encourage and sustain a culture in which the pursuit of an education is among the first priorities of students at Pitt, and supporting that goal is among the first priorities of faculty and staff at Pitt. By education we mean not only students mastering academic material but also students learning about themselves; that is, learning what they like and what they are good at. Although many students come to Pitt in pursuit of such an education and are attracted to the UHC for that reason, many other students adopt that goal after spending some time in college during which they discover their capabilities and take their studies more seriously. During this time of transformation, the UHC remains ready to provide them with a first-rate educational experience whenever they are ready to have it.
It is important to note that the UHC is not a membership organization. For example, whereas some honors colleges require student members to take a certain number of honors courses per year or a certain total number before graduating, there are no requirements at Pitt for students to take honors courses. Students can take this honors course or that one, in this semester or that one, or none at all.
Among the most prominent traits of honors students is intellectual curiosity, by which I mean their strong motivation to gain a deeper understanding of the things they want to understand. In addition, honors students are academically high achievers; not only do they attain a high grade point average, they have an unusual breadth and depth in their academic activities (as seen in multiple majors, minors, and/or certificates). Finally, the UHC also promotes in honors students a social consciousness, that is, the awareness of membership in a community (however “community” is defined), the responsibilities of citizenship, and generosity of spirit, as may be seen when students use their special talents and expertise to help others who are less experienced, less gifted, or less fortunate.
UHC activities are available to any student with any major throughout the campus. The Honors College offers the following:
- Honors courses, in which students are expected to work harder than in regular courses. They read more, they write more, they think more, they discuss more, and in consequence they understand more. That’s the deal: Students work harder in order to learn more.
- An Honors Residential Community, in which students who are committed to receiving a great education live and learn together, broadening their educational experience and supporting one another.
- Advising that is not offered elsewhere on campus, such as for students pursuing prestigious national scholarships, a career in the health professions, community outreach, and/or multiple majors. In general, UHC advisors help students examine how their education fits into the larger context of their lives and their future goals.
- Opportunities for students to pursue faculty-mentored research or scholarship, whether in the laboratory, the library, the field, or the studio. Some programs are uniquely multi-disciplinary, such as the Brackenridge and Honors College – Health Science (HCHS) research fellowship programs, in which students with different focal interests meet weekly to present their work to each other.
- The Bachelor of Philosophy (BPhil) degree, a unique baccalaureate degree that may be the highest academic achievement an undergraduate student can attain at the University of Pittsburgh. Specifically, students must complete a substantial faculty-mentored independent project of research or scholarship in any discipline, culminating in a written thesis document that is presented in public before a faculty committee that includes an examiner from outside the University.
In short, the UHC fuses the scholarly advantages of a major research university with the individualized attention, rigor, and educational commitment of the academically demanding small college. For undergraduate students with talent, drive, and curiosity, the UHC is a combination delivery system and support structure that seeks to maximize academic growth through individual effort and personal satisfaction.