Record Number of New Students Joining the Honors Program

Students combine academic rigor with community service
Honors ambassadors at semester kick-off event

A record number of new students across disciplines have committed themselves to academic excellence, while also serving their communities, by enrolling in the UMKC Honors Program.

This year, 471 students are enrolled in the prestigious Honors Program. The program, formerly known as the Honors College, provides a multitude of services to our campus community.

“The Honors Program invites and includes new and continuing students from all programs and all disciplines across the university,” said Henrietta Wood, Ph.D., one of two full-time Honors Program faculty. “We offer honors versions of general education courses, and we supply a number of courses to help students accrue the credits they need to graduate with honors.”

Gayle Levy, Ph.D., is the Director of the Honors Program. She serves as an advisor to students, especially when they are writing their Senior Honors Thesis. She also works with faculty on how to get involved with the Honors Program or, more specifically, if they are interested in teaching an honors class. Stephen Christ is the other full-time faculty member, teaching innovative and engaging courses. He’s also actively engaged in mentorship of honors program students on an individual level and organizationally as the faculty advisor to the Honors Student Association.

The program also offers the Roo Honors Academy for local high school students, as well as the Roos@Noon Speaker Series presentations that anyone in the university community can attend. It’s that wide university impact that inspired Sean Purdue, a senior honors student in civil engineering, to become an Honors Ambassador.

“That's what I really like about the Honors Program,” Purdue said. “I love civil engineering, but I don't want just civil engineering friends. I want friends from all the different majors, and that’s been a huge benefit of the program.”

These benefits extend well past a student’s college career into their professional careers. Alaina Shine, ‘15, brought the skills she learned into her career as a pediatric resident physician in Seattle.

“Often in the hospital I am challenged with problems where there is no ‘right’ answer,” Shine said. “A large portion of my job as a physician is teaching patients and their families about their medical illnesses and conditions. I lean upon skills I began learning as an Honors Program student to incorporate ideas from my multidisciplinary team to develop a solution for our patients and their families.”

This interdisciplinary approach does not stop with the students or alumni. Jess Magaña, Ph.D., a professor in the School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, serves as a faculty mentor for honors students.

“One of the very best parts of teaching is getting to know the students, getting to know their specific journeys and helping them take that next step,” Magaña said. “Being an Honors Program mentor is a really great way to do that, and it's especially good for getting to know students who are not in your school.”

Faculty mentors assist students through a variety of informal meetings to check up on the students’ progress, academic and otherwise. If you are interested in becoming a faculty mentor, reach out to Margo Gamache, Director of Student Services for the Honors Program at

“We're not just academic people,” Purdue said. “We still like having social events and friends, and it can be hard to balance. I think most faculty have had that same experience. Having someone to help us navigate that is so beneficial.”

That benefit spreads to the university as a whole. Many Honors students are highly motivated, and they balance academic excellence with serving both UMKC and the wider Kansas City community. Most of the Student Government officers are honors students.

Honors students volunteer to lead clubs for youngsters at the Kauffman School and have communicated with residents of a senior living facility. In the Honors Social Action class, students have promoted campus recycling, mental health awareness, and recognition of commuter students.

“I'm constantly impressed with how involved Honors Program students are and how much they're willing to do to affect their own lives and the lives of other students at UMKC,” Magaña said. “They're super involved, and they're all just such great people to get to know.”

Published: Sep 27, 2021

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