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.

Our Values


We are curious. We don’t wait for life to happen. We seek solutions, diverse perspectives, and knowledge, and we proactively participate in the world through research, creative inquiry, and global engagement.


We take an interdisciplinary approach to making meaning through our work. Our scientific studies inform our creative writing, and our passion for art history impacts the way we solve engineering challenges. Our greatest aha moments come when we connect with new people, perspectives, and ways of thinking.


We put our knowledge into practice when we create, from developing community partnerships and creating inclusive spaces, to writing poetry and producing advanced technologies. We invest in the “now what” of our scholarship.


Our work requires evolving alongside new technologies, environmental conditions, and socioeconomic realities. These complex challenges require bold thinking and big solutions. If we hold back for fear of failure, we cannot succeed. Sometimes our efforts will miss the mark; we learn and move forward.


We hold each other up. We take breaks. We have fun. We celebrate our successes and grow through our failures. We are honest about our struggles and respectful of every member of our W.A. Franke Honors College community.

The Franke Gift

In October 2021, The Honors College was renamed the W.A. Franke Honors College in recognition of a generous gift from William A. "Bill" Franke and his family. This gift has made it possible for the Franke Honors College to support students in meaningful ways and grow innovative programming. 

Read more about the gift.

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.