About the Program

Take a closer look at the DHC by exploring our promotional overview packet.

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

The mission of the Davidson Honors College is to attract the best students from around our state and country to the University of Montana;

  • to develop engaged citizens and professionals who excel in critical thinking, communication, collaboration, problem solving, ethical reasoning, and civic engagement; and
  • to serve as a hub of intellectual service and social activity for students, staff, and faculty across the University of Montana campus.

The students, staff, and faculty of the Davidson Honors College value:

  • demonstrated initiative, intellectual risk-taking, and a desire to "learn the other side;"
  • hands-on, collaborative, and cross-disciplinary learning as a particularly effective method for expanding our ways of knowing and overall understanding of the world;
  • fostering connections with partners on campus, in Missoula, and beyond; and
  • creating opportunity – listening for possibility, seeking solutions, and putting our internal critic on hold.

Essential Learning Outcomes

The Davidson Honors College experience is distinguished by our dual commitment to hands-on learning and thoughful reflection. Davidson Honors College graduates will be able to:

  • Think critically. Identify, evaluate, and integrate available information and arguments; develop logical and reasonable positions on a wide range of issues. 
  • Communicate. Express ideas and arguments through oral and written strategies; develop strong listening skills.
  • Collaborate. Contribute to, and lead if necessary, a diverse team in pursuit of a shared goal. 
  • Solve problems. Employ rigorous quantitative and/or qualitative analysis to identify informed solutions to complex challenges. 
  • Design and execute an original project. From initiation to manifestation and public presentation.
  • Act ethically. Make decisions based on the University of Montana's four guiding principles: innovation and creativity, openness, partnership, and impact. 
  • Engage as a citizen. Strengthen commitment to meaningful service and community.
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 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 has 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 has also become home to the University of Montana’s Climate Change Studies Program, the first degree granting Climate Change Studies program in the nation. Over the past two years, the DHC has developed unique student-led programs, the QUEST Program, a partnership with the city of Missoula and the House Program, an opportunity for students to build relationship and serve community.

The Office for Civic Engagement

The Office for Civic Engagement (OCE) began as Volunteer Action Services in the spring of 1992. Volunteer Action Services (VAS) was a program of the Davidson Honors College designed to coordinate student volunteerism on campus and in the community. The office served as a resource center for all students to identify potential volunteer opportunities and match students with community agencies in need of service. VAS coordinated a variety of service projects throughout the school year to expose students to the benefits of volunteering and offered service-based internships for students to gain credit for coordinating volunteerism. For the first three years the program was staffed by a part-time director and student interns.

In 2001, new programs were developed by Volunteer Action Services that encompassed an expansion of efforts to engage students and faculty in academic work in collaboration with community organizations. As a result, an additional staff member was added and the name changed to the Office for Civic Engagement (OCE). The OCE operates as a program of the Davidson Honors College and is housed in the lower level of the DHC building. The OCE employs one director, two program managers, two AmeriCorps team leaders, one graduate student assistant, nine student AmeriCorps members, and two student employees.