The Honors Program is commonly a testing ground for new and innovative ideas. Many professors teach Honors courses that are so unique that the only logical place to offer their course is in the Honors Program. The "University Honors" accolade has never been more widely coveted than it is today. Likewise, the Honors Program has spread to encompass the entire university community and at times has even been a part of Study Abroad programs. The BYU Honors Program began in 1960 with just 100 students. Another 50 students joined them in the spring semester. Today there are over 2500 students participating in the Honors Program.
The designation "University Honors" on some Brigham Young University transcripts and diplomas is not to be confused with the variant forms of "cum laude" that BYU, like other universities, uses to recognize graduates with high grade point averages. Instead, it represents participation in an uncommon educational experience--designed to bring out the best in undergraduates of unusual promise. The student who receives "University Honors" at graduation has successfully met challenges that only the very well qualified can successfully complete. About forty-one hundred young men and women have earned that recognition in the past forty-seven years.
The Honors Program came into being to provide capable and motivated students with an enriched education. Its goal, according to President Ernest L. Wilkinson, was nothing less than to "cultivate the best young brainpower in the nation." The first quarter century of the program's operation witnessed numerous administrative adjustments and curriculum changes in order to help fulfill Karl G. Maeser's vision of this hill covered with temples of learning.
The Honors Program's first home was in the Harold B. Lee Library, where it functioned for many years in increasingly crowded facilities before moving temporarily to the Heber J. Grant Building. Innovative new courses were created, and the best possible faculty mobilized to provide a quality experience for students. One uniquely stimulating feature has been the freshman colloquium, an interdisciplinary forum taught by a team of three or more professors from different fields of expertise that emphasizes integrated, mutual learning.
Perhaps the most significant development during these years has been the institution of an "open door" policy for Honors participation, making it possible for any capable student to take Honors classes and become involved in Honors activities. Formal membership is no longer required. The BYU Honors Program is open to all students willing to put forth the effort necessary to achieve their fullest potential.