Imagine a space where the sharpest minds meet, not just to learn, but to challenge and inspire one another. That’s the essence of Graceland’s HONORS PROGRAM, a community that’s less about setting boundaries and more about erasing them.
Initiated in the fall of 1985 under President Barbara McFarlane ’49 Higdon and shaped by Graceland Professor Emeriti C. Robert Mesle, PhD, ’72, this program began as a vision to do more than just educate; it aimed to transform. President Higdon and Professor Mesle wanted a transformational program that would nurture individuals to think beyond their chosen discipline or major.
Today, that program hasn’t just stuck to its roots; it’s grown stronger, evolving as the academic and world landscapes evolve. The Honors Program cultivates students who are passionate about contributing to society and preparing for a rapidly changing world. By fostering enriched educational opportunities for academically talented and highly motivated students, the Honors Program offers an engaging, stimulating, and rewarding experience. This program offers intellectual, financial, and emotional resources and support while encouraging service and leadership for the public good. Being involved with Honors means pursuing a student-driven interactive learning experience where students build creative, interdisciplinary, and comprehensive skill sets while exploring complex issues in a diverse academic community. Honors students and faculty share a commitment and civic responsibility that extends beyond the classroom to local, national, and international communities.
It’s not all talk, either. Since the beginning, the Honors Program’s belief has been that learning extends far beyond the classroom walls. From adventures through Chicago’s vibrant cultural landscape to performances at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, these experiences are as much a part of education as any textbook. The awe-inspiring architectural river cruises and immersive neighborhood tours, like the one through bustling Chinatown, are not merely excursions but chapters in a living textbook. These shared experiences are more than just perks of the program; they are opportunities that bring the Honors community together, creating memories that every Graceland Honors student will carry forward throughout their lives.
Since the beginning, the Honors Program’s belief has been that learning extends far beyond the classroom walls … These shared experiences are more than just perks of the program; they are opportunities that bring the Honors community together, creating memories that every Graceland Honors student will carry forward throughout their lives.
Thanks to the visionary leadership of Honors Program Director Brian White, PhD, ’92 and his connection with the National Collegiate Honors Council (NCHC), and the collaborative efforts of Graceland Associate Professor of Art Karen Gergely, MFA, students enjoy access to a spectrum of rare national learning opportunities. They not only engage in high-caliber scholarly endeavors, such as student-editor positions at a nationally recognized peer-reviewed journal, but also have the opportunity to travel and experience hands-on education in America’s National Parks, led by White and Gergely, as part of the NCHC’s Partners In The Parks Program.
Whether it’s deepening their academic footprint at regional and national honors conferences or expanding their cultural palette through trips to metropolitan hubs like Minneapolis or Chicago, our students are reaping the benefits of an enriched education. These experiences aren’t just memorable — they’re transformative, fostering a sense of discovery that propels our Honors community to new heights, infusing every learning opportunity with significance, adventure and an intent on building a “purposeful community.”
“We know the future has greater uncertainties for this generation of students than for students in the past,” White states. “Being purposeful in exposing our Honors students to these experiential education opportunities and asking them to adopt an interdisciplinary mindset in their Honors work will prepare them for that uncertain future in a way that no individual major ever can.”
The Graceland Honors Program not only pays homage to the rich legacy of interdisciplinary and experiential learning but also actively pursues a vision of growth. With the goal of expanding the program to 100 students, we are dedicated to creating an even more dynamic and diverse community. This ambition to grow is matched by its commitment to broadening its influence, thereby equipping a larger cohort of students with the skills needed to become the innovators and changemakers our world needs.
PERKS OF THE PROGRAM
Honors students enjoy these extra benefits like the freedom to register for up to 21 credits each semester, funded travel experiences, individualized mentorship, and all Honors Program members receive a $1,000 scholarship that is renewable for up to four years (or qualified students can compete for a full-tuition Prestigious Honors Scholarship). Learn more here.