When Maggie Karrs researched potential colleges, she was already familiar with the University of Mary Washington. Her two older brothers, Jeremiah Karrs ’09 and Christian Karrs ’12, had raved about the school’s small, interactive classes, its focus on honor and integrity and the multitude of undergraduate research and internship opportunities.
This fall, she followed in her brothers’ footsteps.
“I was probably slightly influenced to come to UMW because of my family connection, but I also love the atmosphere of the campus, and the school’s great academic reputation,” said Karrs’16.
When she opened her acceptance letter to UMW last spring, she was surprised to find that she’d be able to further her education in a different way than her brothers, as one of 73 students in the university’s newly implemented honors program.
The creation of the honors program at UMW has become another way for students to enhance their learning experience and further their academic opportunities. As an honors student, participants are required to maintain a high GPA, attend co-curricular events throughout the year and take a certain number of honors-designated classes each semester.
“The honors classes are designed to further develop students’ academic and intellectual potential,” said Professor of Chemistry Kelli Slunt, the director of the honors program.
Prospective freshmen were chosen for the honors program based on their high school GPA, test scores and the rigorousness of their high school curriculum. While the honors program is in the first year, Slunt is optimistic about the new program and sees growth and expansion in the future.
“My hope is that the number of course offerings and opportunities for students will expand,” Slunt said. “It’ll be neat to see where it goes in the next couple of years.”
Associate Professor of English Gary Richards teaches “Sexualities in Southern Literature,” the first honors freshman seminar ever offered at UMW.
“My students are able to engage in a very mature, professional discussion,” he said.
Richards ramped up his seminar for the honors program, adding a research component and strengthening the workload.
Karrs, one of the 15 students in Richards’ seminar, appreciates the energetic learning environment.
“We definitely have a very engaged and active class,” Karrs said. “It’s good to meet other students who like to challenge themselves.”
Outside of the honors classroom, Karrs has wasted no time getting involved on campus. She practices with the Ultimate Frisbee team three times a week and is a member of hall council for her residence hall.
“I definitely feel like I’m part of the university community,” Karrs said. “The difference between an honors freshman and a regular freshman isn’t really that different.”
Story by Julia Davis ‘15
Photos by Kimmie Barkley ’14