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The University Honors Program is sharpening its focus to attract more high-achieving students and challenge them with small, rigorous classes grounded in Portland State's urban mission.

Enrollment in Oregon's only urban honors program more than doubled to 255 students this year, with room for 300 next year. 

The program introduces students to critical reading, writing and research skills by using the city as a living laboratory.

"It's a really difficult program, but it's worth it," said senior Ximena Lemoine. "It really gave me the opportunity to do unique research as an undergraduate."

Honors students have analyzed art at the Portland Art Museum, worked in research labs at Oregon Health & Science University, helped organize an environmental film festival and written culture and art reviews for Oregon Public Broadcasting.

Lemoine is writing her honors thesis in anthropology on the domestication of pigs, based on work she did as an intern at the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. Her research is on track to be published.

For the first time this spring, honors students will travel to Nicaragua to build a school and learn first-hand about globalization. Next year, they'll go to Vietnam to study a new city growing around a university. 

Also new next fall, the program is opening an honors floor in a residence hall, developing a speaker series and planning outdoor trips.

"This what I imagined college to be like," said Madison Beaudet, a senior film major. "I've developed really strong writing skills, which has given me an advantage in all my other classes."

Applications are due Feb. 1 and are available at