Honors College

Oak View Hall, Room 210
509 Meadow Brook Road
Rochester, MI 48309-4452
(location map)
(248) 370-4450
Fax: (248) 370-4479

Celebrating Our History

Celebrating Our History

Oakland University was established in 1957 (at that point being called Michigan State University - Oakland).

When the Curriculum Committee to create Oakland University was formed, it uniquely included junior and senior students at the newly created MSU Honors College. This MSU-O advisory group was called "The Honors College Group". (1)  (For interest: here is the  MSUO Newsletter from 1959 describing the group's activities)

Oakland University was the first university ever created with that strategic input of Honors College students ( 2). An adventurous foundation! Oakland is the first in the nation to be formed on that basis, and because Honors Colleges only widely exist in the U.S.A., Oakland University is the first in the world to be created via the specific recommendations of junior and senior Honors College students. This continues as a remarkable tradition! It is this tradition that informs our ambitions and our student successes today.

Over 60% of other Honors Colleges in the United States were founded after 1994, pursuing ideals about the quality of honors education. We at Oakland have embodied those ideals from our very inception.

Following Oakland's distinctive foundation, the university grew in size and shape. In 1973 university senate discussions about further developing an Honors Program ( 3) were already advanced. In 1975 it was confirmed by the university that a portion of the student population could be included in a new development called The Honors College. Thus, in 1977, the first students of a college named "The Honors College" entered Oakland, under inaugural Director Mel Cherno, to further advance the ideals that made Oakland unique. That moment, now a 38 year old tradition is widely celebrated; however, our focus is very much on the future - and on the futures of our students. We aim to empower, and we aim to support aspirations.

The Honors College has had five Directors and, most recently, a Dean. When Professor Cherno left the program, Robert Howes, Professor of History, held the position from 1980 to 1985. Brian Murphy, Professor of English, became The Honors College Director in 1985 and stayed a record 16 years. Jude Nixon, Professor of English, became Director in early 2002, and continued the great tradition.  Graeme Harper was appointed Director of The Honors College in August 2011 - arriving at Oakland from Texas, via Alabama, the United Kingdom and Australia.

In February 2013, Dr. Harper was appointed the first Dean of The Honors College at Oakland University, recognizing the wonderful work of the Directors who came before him and The Honors College at Oakland as a significant part of Oakland's history and future. Today, Graeme works with a great team in The Honors College. (Graeme wrote that! ;-)). 
Here in Oak View Hall (a wonderful facility officially opened in fall 2014) we explore ideas and activities collaboratively with colleagues across the university. We aim to offer students in The Honors College, and the faculty who teach them, the opportunity to be national and global leaders in advancing undergraduate research. This provides building blocks for brilliant future careers, supporting opportunities for innovative learning that supports unique university experiences. 

In fall 2015 there will be around 1100 Honors College students supported by The Honors College (that's about 6% of Oakland's undergraduate population) - from Freshmen to Seniors - making The Honors College a notable part of Oakland's overall student body.
The Honors College is also the home of the university's Presidential Scholars and of the Presidential Scholars Success Program, and home of the Oakland University Distinguished Scholars too, all of whom benefit from the strength of support in the college. Every year we conduct an Induction Ceremony that celebrates the achievements of our incoming Freshmen, builds on our unique Oakland University tradition, and sets forth into a notable future for all.

Ambition and tradition, together with undergraduate research, scholarship excellence and our friendly environment, make The Honors College at Oakland truly Top 10!

1. MSU-Oakland Newsletter, February 1959, p.3-4
2. It is noted by Julianna K. Chaszar in her Ph.D. thesis 'The Reinvention of Honors Programs in American Higher Education, 1955-1965" (Pennsylvania State University, 2008) that in 1960 there were just 4 Honors College in the United States (p.129). They were at the University of Missouri, the University of Oregon, Wesleyan University and at Michigan State University. The earliest foundation date was that of MSU's Honors College. Oakland University, beginning in 1957, was thus the first university in the world created by a Curriculum Committee that included Honors College students, and is unique in the world in that respect and in the influence and ambition of the Honors College on its curriculum, and on its research and development.
3. For a discussion of the contribution of the Honors College Group see the 2014 Oakland University Alumni Awards program (19 September 2014) adapted from "Six Students Who Shaped a University" (Harper, 2013)