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Million-dollar Honors expansion

Freshman Melecio Estrella of Davis, California found exactly what he was looking for in the University Honors Program at Portland State: strong academics, an urban setting and a generous scholarship. “It fit perfectly,” he says. “I couldn’t imagine everything coming together so well.”

Estrella, an environmental engineering major, is one of hundreds of Honors students who will benefit from a new $1 million gift from the Rose E. Tucker Charitable Trust.

Oregon’s only “Urban Honors” program introduces high-achieving students in all majors to critical reading, writing and research skills through the lens of the city. Enrollment has more than doubled in the past two years — from 153 in 2010 to 343 this year. The gift is expected to help boost that figure to 600 in five years and move the program closer to becoming an Honors College.

Most of the money will support Honors students through scholarships, research, internships, visiting scholar seminars and a new urban ecology lab.

Estrella chose the program because he liked its smaller, discussion-based classes, easy access to professors and urban focus. It didn't hurt that he was named a Sustainability Scholar, a new award for Honors freshmen with support from the Institute for Sustainable Solutions and the Miller Foundation. It comes with a $5,000 grant per year for four years, a faculty mentor and research opportunities. He also lives on a new Honors-only floor in Epler Hall, hopes to go abroad for his junior Honors internship and plans on incorporating sustainability into his senior Honors thesis. 

“I would really encourage applicants to sit in on a class, because that was a huge part of my decision,” Estrella says. “All the students seemed engaged, and the professor did a great job of directing the discussion.”

The deadline has been extended to April 1. Applications are available at

Pictured above and on the home page: Honors students Melecio Estrella, Sofia Ellis-Curry, Connor Wiles, and Tabatha Memmott.