Thirty years ago, in the fall of 1988, the Campuswide Honors Program (CHP) welcomed its inaugural class of 88 incoming students. These students were the first to experience many of what have since become the signature features of UCI’s highly regarded honors program: stimulating courses; a community of students, faculty and staff; additional support from honors advisors; and many other benefits. The program has thrived and is now serving approximately 1,000 students in all years and majors.
Alumni, faculty, staff, and friends of the program gathered on November 3 at Newkirk Alumni Center to celebrate this milestone and to honor the many people who have helped build and sustain the program. Alumni came from near and far, and reconnected with old friends, while meeting some new ones. CHP alumni across the generations share a surprising number of experiences, and as they mingled alumni recounted some of the CHP traditions. Many of these were represented in displays stationed around the alumni center, where guests had a chance to revisit everything from historic camping retreat photos, to CHP yearbooks, to memorabilia from honors housing and the Battle of the Brains.
Speakers shared their impressions of life in the CHP from its beginnings until today. Vice Provost of Teaching and Learning Michael Dennin spoke about the importance of the CHP to the university and to UCI students, and its growth and development to serve UCI’s diverse student body.
Professor Roger McWilliams, the founding director of the CHP, reflected on the early years of a program that offers “the best honors education you can get—anywhere” and which was forward looking, both in terms of its educational offerings and its approach to building a community of scholars. He reflected on the early camping retreats at Anza Borrego State Park, which offered many students their first taste of camping and an unobstructed view of the Milky Way.
The CHP’s second director, Professor Emerita Gail Hart, spoke of the power of the core courses, particularly Humanities Core, which many alumni feel has a lasting impact on their success in college and beyond. She also spoke of the impact of student-led programs like Battle of the Brains, the program’s annual trivia competition between students and faculty. Such programs bring the greater CHP community together, and as a repeat faculty competitor she can vouch for the skill of CHP student trivia masters.
Current CHP director Professor Ted Wright provided updates on today’s CHP, which is growing to serve UCI’s larger student body, many of whom are the first in their families to attend college. There is great excitement around working with these students, and it is an important part of UCI’s mission as a public university. Wright explained that the program is working to preserve the kind of personal attention it is known for, and has expanded the CHP staff and curricular offerings to better serve students.
Alumni speaker Ryan Lombardini (’05) rounded out the program by reflecting on how the CHP provided a foundation for his development as a student and beyond. For Ryan, a great benefit of the CHP was the people who took an interest in him as a student and helped him work toward his goals. Ryan was highly impressed with the personal attention provided by the CHP office, and found mentors in staff, faculty, and other CHP students. Ryan worked as a CHP academic advisor after graduation, and has since pursued a career in marketing where he now works in the entertainment industry in the emerging field of social media marketing.
The evening ended with an anniversary cake, many conversations, and a barrage of photos as alumni marked the occasion. Alumni who attended the event and would like to share their photos are encouraged to use the hashtag #CHP30.