The Honors Program at UAF

Posted by Ashley

 Many students hold negative stereotypes about Honors Programs at the University level. It is something I have not quite been able to understand yet, as a person who knows better about out program here at UAF. Nevertheless, I have had many conversations with students that go something like this:

Me: "I am doing this super awesome event with Honors this weekend! We are going to float down the Chena River on huge inflatable rafts shooting water guns and pretending to be pirates!"

The other student: "Wait... we have an Honors Program here?"

Me: "Oh... yeah! It is so much fun! We have a house up on Copper Lane, you should come check it out!"

Other student: "But, what do you do there?" (Gives look like their entire opinion of me has just been changed).

Me: "We usually just study, but we also have events and a student council and sometimes there are classes offered in the house living room. It used to be the President's House, and it is so cool! There's a kitchen, laundry, a conference room, a study cave, and lots of friendly people."

Other Student (in a tone that tells me the conversation is over): "Well, I am not smart enough for that." 

I won't say that the Honors program is for everybody. I know some students are perfectly happy getting up in the morning, going to class, and going home at night to study. And students can be perfectly successful by doing the bare minimum to get through school and move on to their careers. But for those of us out there who want to be challenged and approach their education from new and interesting ways, Honors can be the best solution. Yes, it looks great on a resume to graduate with honors, but there are other benefits that extend far beyond academics. While I cannot even begin to describe the profoundly positive experience I have had there, or the amazing people I have met and made connections with, I can mention just a few things I have done as a part of being involved with Honors.

  • The vast majority of my closest friends in college I have met through participating in Honors events and spending time at the Honors House. These people are my mental, emotional, and academic support and I honestly don't think my experience here at UAF would be the same without them.
  • I have received over $5,000 in travel funding to go present my undergraduate research in Flagstaff, Arizona and Boston, Massachusetts. Both trips were eye-opening and extremely helpful to my professional development. I also went to the North Slope in Barrow, Alaska, as an Ambassador for the Program and UAF, and while there I saw a real, live, WILD polar bear!
     Oh you know, just hanging out with my research homies at the Grand Canyon. No big.
    Below: Standing under the famous Barrow whale bone arch in January on the beach of the Arctic ocean.
     At Chinatown in Boston for the American Public Health Associations Annual Conference. I presented on a roundtable discussion with my mentor Dr. Ellen Lopez, became a student member of the Health Promotion and Practice division of APHA, and a member of the Alaska Native, American Indian, and Native Hawaiian Caucus.

  • I joined the Honors Student Advisory Council as a student representative last year, and this year am the Vice-President. The primary goal of the council is to cater to all students in the Program, by providing fun events and listening to their concerns. This year, we have hosted an event almost every week, ranging from the Talk Like a Pirate Day mentioned earlier, to Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, which is a nation-wide event that involves camping outside in November to raise awareness for the homeless and hungry in your home community. Other events have included a Chena Hot Springs trip, a Student Expertise Showcase open to all students, TED talk nights, karaoke night, game nights, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas gatherings, and much, much more! Below are a couple of  pictures of our HSAC excursions. The first was a snowshoeing adventure in Denali National Park, and on the right is of me sitting at our campsite on campus for Hunger and Homelessness Awareness week.

  • Also, The chance to take smaller classes with some of the best professors on campus. For example, I took an intro geology course where the TA's taught the three hour lab sections. The class had about 100 students, with about 25 students in each lab section. Except for the Honors section, where our lab professor was  the same as our class teacher and where there were only three people in my lab. 

Overall, my experience with Honors has been more than positive- it has been life-changing. When I first got to college, I was very shy and preferred to stay in my dorm doing just the bare minimum for classes. It wasn't until I started to spend time at the Honors House that I became comfortable with everything else in college. I cannot thank my friends, as well as the staff and faculty there, enough. I have truly felt that Honors is my home away from home during my time here at UAF.

Want more information about the Honors program? Feel free to contact myself via the student ambassador page, or (for specific admissions questions,) contact Kerrie Dufseth, our Program Coordinator, at 474-6612 or Here are the requirements to join the program:
For incoming freshman: a GPA of 3.8 or higher is required and an SAT score of 1820 or higher.
For students transferring to UAF: a GPA of 3.5 or higher
For current students:  to officially enter the program requires a GPA of 3.5. However, once in the Honors program, students must maintain a 3.25 GPA or higher.  However, GPA requirements does NOT prevent a student from taking Honors classes or participating in Honors events. Just keep working hard and we will help you get there!

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