Called by a former president of the NCHC "one of the best honors programs in the country," Westminster's Honors program was founded in 1987 to offer an enhanced educational experience to academically talented and highly motivated students. At the center of that experience is a core of specially designed seminars that have the following characteristics:

  • Interdisciplinary (integration of disciplines in class sessions, course design, approach to materials, and assignments)

  • Team-taught by two professors with different disciplinary backgrounds

  • Intensive, student-centered approaches to learning in discussion-based seminars

  • Emphasis on challenging primary texts

Students participating in the Honors program will develop confidence in their abilities to understand and discuss complex ideas and texts, as well as to engage in problem solving and research design; strengthen their written and oral communication skills; master an ability to work effectively in groups of diverse people; make connections between disciplines; and learn to apply new knowledge and skills in meaningful ways that will help them succeed in their professional and personal lives following college.

Honors Fast Facts

97.5%

Retention Rate of First-Year Students

(2014–2015)

150

Honors Students

7% of the student body

100%

of incoming Honors freshmen receive a scholarship

6

Faculty Recipients of Gore Excellence in Teaching Award

16

Average Seminar Size

3.8

Average GPA

For entering students

30

Average ACT

For entering students

Honors Traditions

The Westminster College Honors program is rich with tradition, a function of Honors students having a shared experience in a collaborative and supportive learning environment. Some traditions are serious and some are fun; but all of them connect Honors students to each other and the Honors legacy established by previous students and faculty.

Honors Orientation

Each student begins their Honors experience in the same way: in a day-long series of events run by upperclass Honors students designed to ease the transition to college, establish bonds with each other, and have a lot of fun along the way. Before the regular college orientation begins, Honors students meet each other and learn about the program, engage in a common read discussion, sit in on a sample Honors class, do a self-portrait, participate in some group work, and watch a film. Along the way, we have lots of time to eat, get to know each other, and, like these students, run around campus like maniacs.

Pizza with Profs and Profs Pick the Flick

Faculty and student collaboration is at the heart of the Honors program. While there are many opportunities for Honors students to interact with faculty outside the classroom, possibly the most popular is the "Pizza with Profs" program in which faculty talk informally with Honors students about one of their areas of research or outside interests. Other chances to work with faculty outside the classroom include the "Profs Pick the Flick" film series, the Honors independent summer research grant program, and Honors-sponsored trips to regional and national academic conferences. Here, Prof. Jeff McCarthy, former chair of Environmental Studies, grabs a piece of pizza before speaking with Honors students about the changing perceptions of Nature through the years.

Dead Paper Society

Honors students blow off steam at the end of each fall semester by gathering around the fire on Nunemaker's back porch and burning copies of research papers they'd rather not see again. Amidst the roasting papers and marshmallows, students swap academic horror stories and then retire inside Nunemaker to watch Dead Poets Society. (Faculty are definitely not invited to this event!) This year's event was a bit chilly as a cold front moved in preparation for dumping a foot of fresh powder on the slopes of the Wasatch Range.

Honors Faculty vs. Student Softball Game

On "Dead Day" every spring semester, the Honors faculty squares off against Honors students in a softball showdown at high noon. Usually the best attended event of the year, the game gives the students a chance to try to beat their Honors elders in an athletic contest that would make the Greeks proud. Because they typically lose this annual competition, Honors students have been known to pelt the Honors faculty with water balloons at the post-game lunch.

Spring Banquet

Just as we begin the semester together at Honors orientation, the entire Honors program comes together each year on the last evening of the spring term for a banquet celebrating the year's Honors achievements. Various awards are given out, many of them serious and many not so serious. The highlight of the evening is when each of the graduating seniors tells a story about their Honors experience, what we call "Senior Moments." Here, the Honors director poses with some of the graduating seniors at a banquet.

Memberships and Affiliations

The Honors program is an active member of

Reading on Honors

An expert on Honors education, Westminster's Richard Badenhausen regularly publishes essays in journals and monographs on issues of interest to the national Honors community.

Recent Articles

Nunemaker Place: Home of the Honors Program

nunemaker-placeCurrent home to the Honors program and its 130 Westminster College students, Nunemaker Place was constructed in 1977 as a space for quiet meditation and the hosting of cultural events. Built for $300,000, the structure was unique enough to be named a winner in a design contest administered that year by the Western Mountain Regional Conference of Architects. In 2002, the Utah chapter of the American Institute of Architects gave the building an award for structures that are older than a quarter century and still significant architecturally. Over the years Nunemaker has hosted weddings, held small classes, provided the setting for poetry readings, and served as an intimate space for chamber concerts, given the building's excellent acoustics. The 2,700 square foot building was made possible by a gift from Irene Nunemaker, a longtime executive with Avon cosmetics, who originally hailed from Kansas but lived for a time in Salt Lake City. A devoted Presbyterian, Nunemaker was connected to Westminster, a former Presbyterian mission school, through college trustee Rev. A. Walton Roth, also a Kansas native. Known also for her interest in the cultural and artistic scenes, and philanthropic work, Miss Nunemaker provided funds for similar buildings at a number of college campuses across the country, including the Honors building at the University of Kansas, which is named Nunemaker Center.

Carole Chapel, currently located on Washburn University's campus in Topeka, was originally named Irene Nunemaker Chapel in honor of her generous gift that funded the initial construction. The chapel's use at Washburn resembles that of both Nunemaker Place and Nunemaker Center: a meeting place for student and campus organizations, lectures, seminars, and special events. Irene Nunemaker's donations have also funded a youth camp for developmentally disabled youth in New York, as well as many buildings in Kansas, including nursing homes, a YWCA building to aid battered women, and the Nunemaker Dance Studio at the Topeka Performing Arts Center. Two Irene Nunemaker Scholarships of Excellence are given in her honor by the Topeka Community Foundation to deserving high school students. Nunemaker's prowess in business and history of generous donations to community causes earned her respect and recognition throughout her life, including the 1986 Kansan of the Year award. In 1977, she was awarded an honorary doctorate of Humanities from Westminster College. Irene Nunemaker died on July 5, 1996.

The building at Westminster College was designed by Salt Lake City architects Martin Brixen and James Christopher, who first took Irene Nunemaker on a tour of buildings they had recently constructed at the Snowbird ski area in Little Cottonwood Canyon. Visitors familiar with those Snowbird structures will immediately recognize some similarities in the approach to design that was very characteristic of the 1970s: a heavy use of concrete, experimental use of indirect and natural lighting—especially through large windows—horizontal cedar on the walls, and a deconstruction of space through non-traditional angled walls and facades. Nunemaker Place was built by Culp Construction, which employed Weber River bottom rock and Geneva concrete to create the unique exposed aggregate that makes up the walls of the building. Richard "Goose" Curtis, superintendent on the construction project, was not surprised to learn that some believe the structure is haunted, for he remarked that "Mrs. Nunemaker watches over her buildings."

Outlining Irene Nunemaker's sole requirement for the construction of the building, Salt Lake City architect James Christopher told the Salt Lake Tribune in 2003, "She wanted a space that could be used for any number of things, including just to ‘be' in. She wanted the building to provide a sense of quiet and reflection and contemplation." The philanthropist's vision for the space has been fulfilled as the Honors program has made the building its home since the summer of 2004, with students lounging, studying, reading, and engaging in discussions of their latest challenging Honors texts.