About the Program

Take a closer look at the DHC by exploring our digital brochure.

The Davidson Honors College is a national model for the reinvention of public higher education; we are distinguished by our commitment to academic innovation, professional development, and our welcoming community.

The Davidson Honors College is open to students of any major and provides special opportunities for students to enhance their learning and leadership skills within and outside the classroom.

The Davidson Honors College:

  • Serves 700 talented students within UM's community of 14,000 students.
  • Offers Honors courses capped at 20 students per class.
  • Supports its students' engagement in undergraduate research.
  • Offers mentoring for scholarships, internships, and study abroad.
  • Offers student organizations and activities that engage the greater campus and enhance the Honors community.

Mission, Vision, and Values


Set in the awesome natural beauty of western Montana, we are a vibrant, inclusive intellectual community providing transformative educational opportunities and dedicated to strengthening our positive impacts on the world.


We engage diverse students through distinctive educational experiences that fuel their growth and empowerment, and position them for success. We are respected for our innovative, impactful approaches, individual and collaborative scholarship, integrity, and holistic student support. We lift one another up and are a positive force in the lives of our students, our campus, our community, and the world.


  • Education of the whole person
  • Critical thinking, academic rigor and excellence
  • Authentic collaboration and interdisciplinary approaches
  • Experiential and place-based learning
  • Curiosity, creativity, inquiry, innovation and discovery
  • Dialogue, reflection and meaning-making
  • Grit, resilience and risk-taking
  • Intellectual confidence and humility
  • Global and cross-cultural perspectives, diversity and equity
  • Passion, compassion, integrity and justice
  • Deep engagement and love of learning
  • Sustainable practices and environmental stewardship

Learning Outcomes

We prepare thoughtful, informed, agile and impactful citizens. Our students are thinkers, doers, explorers, creators, servants, leaders, and agents of positive change. Through curricular and co-curricular experiences, they are equipped with new ways of knowing, seeing, doing and being in the world.

Through their experience in the DHC, they build capacity for:

  • Collection, analysis, and synthesis of information;
  • Excellence in oral, written, interpersonal and digital communication;
  • Independent and collaborative work, problem-solving and community engagement;
  • Learning and reflection about their own and others’ experiences;
  • Ethical, original, creative, and critical thought and action;
  • A meaningful life and future personal and professional success.
student in cap and gown

History of the DHC

Since its founding in 1981, the Davidson Honors College (DHC) has emerged as a national model for the reinvention of public higher education. Distinguished by a commitment to academic innovation, professional development, and a welcoming community, the DHC provides opportunities for students to enhance their learning and leadership skills within, and outside, the classroom.

The Honors Program at The University of Montana began in a single office in Corbin Hall. Under the direction of Classics Professor John Madden, and with a part-time secretary, the Honors Program grew over the next decade from a few dozen to nearly 300 students.

In 1991, following a comprehensive planning process and approval by the UM Faculty Senate, the UM Administration, and the Board of Regents, the Honors Program was officially recognized as the University of Montana Honors College. Dr. Madden was selected as the College's first dean and the new University of Montana Honors College moved to a third-floor office in Main Hall. There, Dean Madden and the College's secretary/advisor received and worked with the increasing number of students interested in the opportunities the Honors College offered.

With support from UM alumni, Ian and Nancy Davidson, and generous investments from many other dedicated alumni and friends, the University of Montana constructed the Davidson Honors College on UM’s historic Oval. Dedicated in 1996, the Davidson Honors College, now home to over 500 students, included modern classrooms, the dean’s suite, and a welcoming student lounge. The Davidson Honors College’s welcoming environment and facilities have continued to make it a favorite location for campus events, guest lectures, classes, workshops, and receptions.

After Dean Madden’s retirement in 1998, the Davidson Honors College welcomed German Studies Professor and Chair of Foreign Languages and Literatures, Gerald Fetz as dean. Under Dean Fetz’s leadership, the Davidson Honors College developed its signature course, Ways of Knowing, and greatly expanded its course offerings across all UM areas of study. In 2003, Dean Fetz moved across campus to serve as dean of the College of Humanities and Sciences and the Davidson Honors College hired Assistant Provost Betsy Bach, Professor of Communication Studies, as Interim Dean. In 2005, Dr. James McKusick, Professor of English, was hired as Dean of the DHC. Under Dean McKusick, the Davidson Honors College student body grew to 700 and the DHC brought on its first full-time professional advisor.

In Fall, 2015, the DHC welcomed Brock Tessman as dean of the Davidson Honors College. Dean Tessman joined the Davidson Honors College after nine years at the University of Georgia. As Dean, Tessman launched the Davidson Honors College’s innovative Post-Doctoral Teaching, Research and Mentoring Fellows Program and engaging Career Development Program. During Dean Tessman’s tenure, the Davidson Honors College also become home to the University of Montana’s Climate Change Studies Program, the first degree-granting Climate Change Studies program in the nation.  Under Tessman, the DHC continued to grow student-run programs, including the QUEST Program, a partnership with the city of Missoula.

Dean Tessman left the DHC in 2018 to become Deputy Commissioner for Academic, Research, and Student Affairs. The DHC’s Director of Career Development Katie Cordingley served as Interim Director for the academic year prior to Tim Nichols being hired in spring 2019. Dean Nichols, fellow of the National Collegiate Honors Council, has worked to make initiatives such as teaching excellence, interdisciplinary course development, and curriculum revision college priorities. New honors traditions have been established, including annual Evening of Excellence and Medallion Ceremonies, in addition to weekly hikes, monthly tea-times, and a Friday newsletter, the Bear Necessities. The college’s Ambassador program was formed to help provide leadership for honors student recruitment and retention. In summer 2020, Dr. Kylla Benes was hired as UM’s Director of External Scholarships and Fellowships. The DHC successfully adapted to the global COVID-19 pandemic through social distancing and by moving many courses and college operations to a virtual format. In fall 2021, the DHC celebrates 30 years of the founding of the Honors College and 25 years in its current facility.