Message from the Director

BKC
Bethany Cobb Kung: Director of the University Honors Program

Welcome to the University Honors Program (UHP) at the George Washington University (GW)! 

The university-wide Honors Program, headquartered on both the Foggy Bottom and Mount Vernon campuses, draws students, faculty and staff from the many different GW Schools and Colleges. From first year to senior year, the UHP offers students an opportunity to engage in small seminar-style courses with faculty who are both accomplished teachers and scholars. These courses are taught by our dedicate core faculty members and affiliated faculty from around the university, including highly distinguished University Professors. Undergraduates in the UHP have the opportunity to engage in research for academic credit through our exclusive UHP Research Assistantship program and are encouraged to apply for competitive scholarships, internships, and fellowships. We also engage in community-building activities including hikes, student/faculty dinners and a “Professor on the Town” program that allows faculty to introduce students to institutions and events all around Washington, D.C..

Personally, this will be my 10th year as a core faculty member in Honors and I am constantly amazed by our students. I once overheard an Honors student mention that they had “found their people” in the UHP. By this, they meant that they had found a group of peers that despite a variety of backgrounds, nationalities, religions, political viewpoints, likes and dislikes, and general points of view, are all connected by an almost visceral need for deep knowledge, lively and focused debate, and the will to influence the world through their personal and professional pursuits. Such students are my people, too.

The faculty in Honors are all here because we are committed to education and student growth both as human beings and world citizens. We are dedicated to feeding the “intellectual omnivore” spirit! We hope that 5, 10 or 20 years down the road, students look back at their time with the UHP and recognize how the experience prepared them in ways that perhaps they couldn’t even recognize as an undergraduate. When I look back at my experiences, for example, I was clearly focused on studying the science of physics and astronomy as an undergraduate. Over the years, however, I’ve come to recognize that skills such as writing convincing arguments, understanding the place of science and education in society, the ability to work as part of diverse teams, and thinking both critically and creatively was just as – if not more – important than being able to crunch the numbers. I am thankful that my education did not neglect those aspects, and even wish I had experienced more! Through the UHP, we hope to replicate that “small liberal arts college” experience while also allowing students the freedom to specialize within their chosen major and to immerse themselves in the opportunities only available in this capital city.

We want to send out into the world engineers who consistently imagine design both from a structural and humanist point of view, historians who have the skills to call out biased data, and (since this is GW after all), policy makers who understand how actions can affect their community and the world. We can't teach all the facts, but we can help students learn the questions to ask, the research to perform, and ways to navigate inevitable disagreements between competing answers.

To our current students: as you are challenged by GW and the UHP, please remember to stay hydrated and get some sleep! Take the opportunity to attend talks and activities outside your field, opinion or comfort zone. You’ll be amazed at how different ideas – even when you disagree – can be like a breath of fresh air for your brain. That said, also go outside and get some actual fresh air from time to time as well. My door is always open if you have any questions or concerns about the program or want to talk about classes or life (or astronomy, or Star Trek…). You can drop into my Director’s Open Office Hours (check the UHP calendar for exact dates) or email to make an appointment.

The Honors Program offers an education unlike any other. Please contact us with any questions!

Sincerely, 

Bethany Cobb Kung

Director, University Honors Program

Associate Professor of Honors and Physics