Our History

The UMKC Honors Program was first established in 1979 as an academic program within the College of Arts and Sciences. Professor Bruce Bubacz served as the founding director from 1979 to 1985. Under his leadership, the Honors Program developed a sequence of courses that satisfied the general education requirement while nurturing a sense of identity for the honors students. He recruited students and faculty to participate in the program, created an oversight board and designed an introductory honors seminar. Professor Gayle Levy became director of the Honors Program in 2003 and continues to serve in that role today.

Beginning in October 2008, UMKC initiated a strategic planning process that resulted in UMKC’s Strategic Plan 2010-2020, a design for the future of Kansas City’s University. A key action item in this strategic plan was to expand the Honors Program into an Honors College. First convened in April 2011, the Honors College Task Force crafted a roadmap for the creation of an Honors College. In October 2013, its final report called for the establishment of an Honors College that would raise the academic profile of UMKC and enhance the classroom and campus experience for all UMKC students.

In March 2015, following a national search, James McKusick became the founding dean of the new Honors College, with an academic appointment as a professor in the English Department. Startup funding was allocated by the University of Missouri System for high-impact learning experiences. The UMKC Honors Program became the UMKC Honors College in July 2015.  Students who were then enrolled in the UMKC Honors Program automatically became part of the new Honors College. The faculty and administrative offices of the Honors College moved to the fourth floor of Cherry Hall in summer 2016. Over the next five years, enrollment grew substantially to 460 students enrolled in the Honors College.

In July 2021, the UMKC Honors College was reconfigured as an Honors Program. This transition was an outcome of the UMKC Forward initiative, which aimed “to reimagine our future in innovative and creative ways that would grow our excellence and financial stability.” The UMKC Honors Program is a university-wide academic program led by a director, Dr. Gayle Levy. The current goals for the Honors Program are to sustain enrollment while maintaining high academic standards and broadening our engagement with the campus community.