Portland State launches Oregon’s first urban Honors College for high-achieving students
Author: Suzanne Pardington, University Communications
Posted: April 24, 2014

Portland State University’s popular Urban Honors program has grown so much over the past three years that it has been elevated to an Honors College, Oregon’s first in an urban setting.

Creation of the University Honors College signals PSU’s commitment to serving more high-achieving students and improving the rigor and reputation of the entire university. The program has made great strides toward this goal in the past three years by revamping its curriculum to focus on PSU’s urban setting and tripling enrollment. The College now has 600 students and plans to grow to 650 students by 2017.

Quick facts about Honors at PSU 

  • Almost 30 percent of Honors students are first in their families to go to college.
  • The average high school GPA of incoming Honors students is 3.67.
  • One-third of Honors students come from out of state.
  • Lower division courses are capped at 25 students and upper division at 20 students for a small seminar experience on a large urban campus.
  • More details and student profiles:


“This is more than a name change,” said Sona Andrews, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs. “It is a recognition of the growth in both quality and size of our Honors program and a tribute to the efforts of our faculty who have demonstrated their dedication to this program and to our students.”

Honors received a $1 million gift from the Rose E. Tucker Charitable Trust in 2012 for scholarships, research, internships, visiting scholar seminars and a new urban ecology laboratory. 

“I regard helping PSU to elevate its Honors Program to University Honors College status as one of the most significant things the Rose E. Tucker Charitable Trust has done in the 27 years I have served as a trustee,” said Milo Ormseth, a Tucker trustee.

The Honors College has the atmosphere of a small, liberal arts college with intense seminar classes and research opportunities for highly motivated students within the bigger public university. Honors students can major in any subject across the university while they live in dedicated Honors housing, receive personalized academic support and graduate with University Honors. Honors students learn to be disciplined and nimble thinkers, who are able to apply their learning to the real world and ready to become leaders in their fields. 

Honors students include Tiffany Morrison, who grew up “all over Oregon” in a single-parent household and came to PSU because of the Honors program. With help from an Honors scholarship, she worked as a paid intern with the National Institutes of Health in Washington, D.C. and is now in medical school in Philadelphia. Theresa Mau, who graduated last year, was the first person in the world to sequence and synthesize spider RNA, while a PSU Honors student. 

“Founding a public Honors College in downtown Portland offers high-achieving students in the metro area a real option to access a challenging, prestigious and affordable education,” said Ann Marie Fallon, director of the College. “It also offers PSU the opportunity to attract more talented students from around the country to Portland, where they will contribute to our community and region.”

Pictured above: Honors student Sarah Smith takes a tour of PSU's stormwater drains for an Urban Ecology course.