Honors Program

The Honors Program is unique to Western because Honors elevates and supports student achievement across all majors and disciplines.  ​Western's Honors Program welcomes students seeking academic excellence with special housing, priority registration, and programs and research opportunities tailored to students' interests.

Honors students

While Honors students receive encouragement to form their own tribe of special learners, they are very much a part of all the communities that make up Western.

The Western Colorado University Honors Program provides enhanced and challenging academic programming to a carefully selected group of highly motivated and accomplished students from all disciplines who have performed well academically in high school or at Western Colorado University.

Small class size, extensive interaction among peers and teachers, experiences outside the traditional classroom, and interdisciplinary approaches to education are all features of the program.

Honors Program Goals

"The Good"
While scholars may debate the "Form of the Good", the Honors Program at Western sees it as deeply connected to the  purpose and values of a Liberal Arts and Science education. We seek to create opportunities for our students to develop into virtuous, knowledgeable and articulate citizens for whom the pursuit of knowledge is integral to human development.

Citizenship and Community
We seek to create elite learners without elitism and a cohort of students who learn to develop the deep connection between higher education and citizenship within a supportive academic community.  Our community members are highly motivated students, faculty and staff who share an intellectual curiosity about the world around them.

Honors courses are designed to promote cross discipline exploration and discovery. You will find students and faculty of a multitude of majors and interests in Honors classes providing an extremely fertile and complex environment for discussion and analysis.

Risk Taking and Autonomy
While our program demands high academic achievement, it does not mean that our students play it safe academically. Honors at Western encourages students to take the initiative in the ownership of their educational experience.  Honors courses present students with opportunities to think for themselves free from internal or external constraints on intellectual inquiry. We encourage students to take the initiative in their own education and support them in developing the resiliency needed when stepping out of one's academic comfort zone.

Social Intelligence
It is not enough to be the "smartest one in the room" if you lack the intrapersonal and interpersonal intelligence to communicate your ideas and listen to the ideas of others.  Our program and its educational opportunities encourages students to develop the capacity to negotiate and navigate complex social and intellectual environments so Honors students are not just "the smartest ones in the room' but the most effective communicators and collaborators in the room.

Program Benefits

Honors students have the opportunity to become a part of a scholarly community consisting of faculty and students committed to the pursuit of intellectual inquiry, creativity, and academic excellence. Benefits of membership in the Western Colorado University Honors Program also include automatic eligibility for Honors classes, use of the Honors Center and Computer Lab in Taylor Hall, participation in activities organized by the Honors Student Advisory Board, priority registration and special recognition at graduation. Have questions? Contact a student currently in the Honors Program.

National Organizations

Western Colorado University is a member of the National Collegiate Honors Council, the Western Regional Honors Council and the Rocky Mountain Honors Council.


Scott Doyle
"Living on campus is definitely a great way to meet new people and experience new activities all the time!"
Rachael Sandhagen-Turner
Honors student double-majoring in Psychology and Sociology, President of Psi Chi Honor Society, SGA, Active Minds, tutor at Gunnison Middle School, and so much more!


Scholarships associated with academic programs usually have a specific scholarship application form that can easily be obtained by contacting that academic program's office or visiting that academic program's web page. If you have any questions, please contact the Financial Aid office at 970.943.3085 or 800.876.5309. To find scholarships based on year of study (e.g. - Freshmen Scholarships), please see the navigation to the left.

 The Western Presidential Honors Scholarship

The Western Presidential Honors Scholarships, established by the Jack and Marilyn MacAllister Foundation, are elite scholarships awarded to Western’s highest achieving and most deserving students, celebrating the ideals of academic excellence and service to the campus and community.  Recipients of the Scholarships will be members of the Western Colorado University Honors Program. 

Each year two new Presidential Honors Scholarships of $2500 will be awarded to two incoming freshmen.  In addition, all continuing Honors students may apply for Presidential Honors Scholarships.  The following information provides due dates, criteria, and how to prepare your application. 

Incoming Applicants:

Eligible candidates should have a high school, transfer, or Western Colorado University grade point average of, at minimum, 3.5 on a 4.0 scale.   Candidates must also demonstrate leadership qualities or experience and a commitment to intellectual inquiry and academic challenge.

Incoming candidates should submit the following:

  • A cover letter explaining why you want to be a part of Western's Honors Program and what you think the value is in being a part of the Honors Program;
  • Two sealed letters of recommendation from teachers, guidance counselors, professors or academic advisors which address the student’s accomplishments and suitability for a college Honors Program;
  • A copy of your most recent educational transcript;
  • A resume of your qualifications, accomplishments, service, extra-curricular activities;
  • Any other documentation that would be helpful in evaluating you as a candidate for this Scholarship.

Applications are DUE POSTMARKED BY DECEMBER 7th of the year of application and should be submitted to:

Western Colorado University Honors Program
Dr. Kelsey L. Bennett, Honors Director
The Presidential Honors Scholarship Program
Taylor Hall 110A
Western Colorado University
Gunnison CO 81231
(970) 943-7021 

Continuing Applicants (current Western Honors students):

Note that continuing Honors students do not need to have been awarded a previous Presidential Honors Scholarship to apply. 

Continuing candidates should compile and submit the following in one packet, hard copy:

  • A copy of the student's most current Western transcript (minimum 3.5 GPA required);
  • A letter addressed to the Western Colorado University Foundation Scholarship Program Committee containing the following:

a) the student's plan for completing the Honors Program;
b) evidence of Honors leadership abilities through planning and participating in Honors extracurricular activities;

  • One sealed letter of recommendation from a professor or academic advisor which addresses the student's accomplishments and suitability for a Presidential Honors Scholarship.​

Applications for continuing Honors students are DUE BY MARCH 12 of the year of application and should be submitted in hard copy to the Honors Program Director, Taylor Hall 110A. It is the applicant's responsibility to verify that the hard-copy application has been received. 

The Western Colorado University Foundation Scholarship Program Committee will make selections within a few weeks of the closing deadline. Notification of award recipients will follow shortly thereafter.

Faculty & Staff


Kelsey L. Bennett headshot
Honors Program Director
B.A., Saint John's College, Santa Fe, Ph.D., University of Denver
Phone: (970) 943-7021
Office Location: Taylor Hall Honors Center 110A
Brian Bernhardt headshot
Assistant Professor of Politics and Government
B.A., James Madison University, M.A., University Colorado at Boulder , Ph.D., University of Colorado at Boulder
Phone: (970) 943-3025
Office Location: Kelley 205
Al Caniff headshot
Professor of Art
B.F.A., M.A., M.F.A., Western Michigan University; , Ed.M., Nazareth College, , Ph.D., Canbourne University.
Phone: (970) 943-3083
Office Location: Quigley Hall 234
David W. Marchetti headshot
Professor of Geology
B.A., State University of New York, College at Geneseo; M.S., Ph.D., University of Utah.
Phone: (970) 943-2367
Office Location: Hurst Hall 224