The Honors College at UMBC was established in 1988, building on the earlier Honors Program. Dr. John Titchener, Philosophy, was appointed director. Dr. Titchener oversaw the transformation from the existing Honors Program into the newly conceived Honors College with its first incoming class in fall 1989 of eighty-one students. Space was transformed in the library to house the new College, including the renovation of a room that became the Honors College and Humanities Student Lounge, a space that is still important for many Honors College student activities and events. In 1991, Dr. Jay Freyman, Professor in the Department of Ancient Studies, was named director and he remained in that position until 2002. In 2001, Dr. Ellen Handler Spitz, the first Honors College faculty member, joined the College and the Department of Visual Arts.
When Dr. Freyman retired from the Honors College in 2002, Dr. James McKusick, from the Dept. of English, took over as director. Dr. McKusick introduced service learning and internships as formal components of the Honors College curriculum. After Dr. McKusick’s departure in 2005, Dr. Rebecca Boehling (History) and Dr. Geoffrey Vaughan (Political Science) served as interim directors. In 2006-7, the Honors College space in the AOK Library was renovated, and the new Honors Seminar Classroom began housing its first classes. The first Director from outside UMBC, Dr. Anna Shields (Chinese, University of Arizona) began her tenure as the director of the Honors College in 2007. Drs. Vaughan and Shields designed the Honors College Faculty Fellows program, bringing more talented faculty into the Honors College curriculum. The first cohort of Faculty Fellows began teaching Honors Seminars in fall 2008. Dr. Simon Stacey (Political Science) was appointed in as interim Director in 2011, and has served as the current Director of the Honors College since 2012.
In the quarter of a century of its existence, the Honors College has awarded over 1300 Certificates of Honors to UMBC graduates, and its graduates have gone on to prestigious graduate and professional schools in the U.S. and abroad, winning national and international awards such as the Marshall Fellowship, the Gates-Cambridge Fellowship, Fulbright Fellowships, and others. The average GPA of our graduates is above 3.7, and several Valedictorians and Salutatorians have been members of the Honors College.
The membership of the Honors College is kept small (currently about 500 students, less than 5% of the total undergraduate population) in order to provide the personal quality of attention that has become the hallmark both of Honors College membership in general and of the classes and co-curricular activities sponsored by the College.