Mission and History

Student giving passionate speech at graduation

Our Mission

Empower each student to reveal and pursue their passion with a deeper sense of wonder and purpose.

Our Vision

The W.A. Franke Honors College is a home for ideas unhindered by traditional academic boundaries; it is an intellectual space where students embrace challenges and risks in an environment of reflection, self-discovery, and the freedom to pursue new knowledge. We prepare students for success by cultivating globally in-demand skills and traits, emphasizing the values of community and service, and instilling a joy of discovery and learning. Honors graduates join a strong community of alumni leading change within our complex global society.

Honors Declaration

WE BELIEVE that today’s greatest challenges exist to be solved by today’s greatest scholars. Old problems require new thinking, and innovation is necessary to make our world a better world. WE BELIEVE that with Honors is more than an academic distinction that lives on a transcript or rigorous study and a good GPA. WE BELIEVE that education is about more than books. Being an Honors Wildcat is about dedication and passion. It is about stepping outside of the box, thinking in new ways, and testing oneself in the classroom and beyond.

The W.A. Franke Honors College is an integral part of this Tier One Research University. WE CREATE opportunities for top students to fulfill their potential, and that great thinkers benefit from engaging with other great thinkers. WE NURTURE partnerships between scholars, faculty, departments, and the community, and that these partnerships enhance our students’ academic experience and serve as a foundation for exciting research.

WE OVERCOME the challenges that excite those who strive for “with Honors.” We also know that Honors Wildcats are up to the task. WE EXPECT great things in a future led by these students and recognize even the greatest curriculum and instruction needs students who can make the most of the information and opportunities. And WE KNOW Franke Honors Wildcats will get it done. They always do.


Our History

1960s - Formation

  • 1962: Seventy-five students were accepted into the first group of a new university-wide, interdisciplinary Honors program 
  • 1964: Karl von de Steinen, a history major, became the first UA student to graduate with Honors
  • 1967: The Honors Student Planning Board was created as the first Honors student organization 

1970s - Organization

  • 1971: First recommendation for creating an Honors College
  • 1971: Honors Student Association gains club recognition through ASUA
  • 1974: Honors Coordinating Board creates a plan for the offering of Honors courses and advising across departments and colleges
  • 1974: Honors Peer Leadership group was created

1980s - Recognition

  • 1983: First Five Star Faculty Award, the only university-wide teaching recognition awarded by undergraduates
  • 1984: First production by the Honors Players
  • 1987: Undergraduate Research Grants program begins with funding from Vice-President for research
  • 1988: Yuma Hall becomes first designated Honors hall

1990s - Expansion

  • 1996: Honors housing grows to three Honors halls
  • 1996: Honors gains representation on the Undergraduate Council and General Education Committee; Honors contracts are instituted
  • 1998: Initiation of First Level Honors as mid-career award based on completion of 15 Honors units
  • 1999: Honors attains college status

2000s - Acceleration

  • 2004: Office of Nationally Competitive Scholarships is created
  • 2006: Common Reading program is created
  • 2008: Shadowcats develops into Honors College Ambassadors
  • 2009: Xtreme Discovery Team outreach program launched
  • 2011: New Honors residence hall, Árbol de la Vida, opens
  • 2012: Honors Interdisciplinary Faculty introduced
  • 2012: Study abroad endowment is created
  • 2016: Honors Health and Human Values Minor introduced
  • 2018: Construction begins on Honors Village
  • 2019: Honors Village opens to first class of residents
  • 2021: The Honors College is renamed the W.A. Franke Honors College in recognition of a generous gift from William A. "Bill" Franke and his family.