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Celebrating Our History

Oakland University was established in 1957 (at that point being called Michigan State University - Oakland).

When the Curriculum Committee to create Oakland University was formed it involved the input of "junior and senior students of The Honors College" (1) at the newly formed MSU Honors College. (See MSUO Newsletter)

Oakland University was the first university ever created with that strategic input of Honors College students (2). A magnificent beginning and an adventurous foundation! Oakland is the first in the nation to be formed on that basis, and because Honors Colleges only exist in this way in the U.S.A., Oakland University is therefore the first in the world to be created with specific input of junior and senior Honors College students. This continues as a remarkable and enlivening tradition! It is this strong tradition that informs our ambitions and our wonderful student successes today.

Over 60% of other Honors Colleges in the United States were founded after 1994, and many have grown and developed on the basis of ideas about the nature of Honors College education. We at Oakland have embodied those ideals from our very inception.

After Oakland's distinctive Honors College foundation, the university grew and developed. In 1973 university senate discussions about further developing an Honors Program (3) were advanced. In 1975 it was confirmed by university senate that a portion of the university student population could be included in a new development called The Honors College. Thus, in 1977, the first students of a College named "The Honors College" entered Oakland, under inaugural Director Mel Cherno, to further advance the ideals that had already made Oakland unique. That moment, now a 37 year old tradition (as the university's Honors College foundation is a 57 year old tradition) is widely celebrated; however, our focus is very much on the future - and on the futures of our students. We aim to empower, and we aim to support aspirations.

The Honors College has had five Directors and, most recently, a Dean. When Professor Cherno left the program, Robert Howes, Professor of History, held the position from 1980 to 1985. Brian Murphy, Professor of English, became The Honors College Director in 1985 and stayed a record 16 years. Jude Nixon, Professor of English, became Director in early 2002, and continued the great tradition. Professor Graeme Harper was appointed Director of The Honors College in August 2011 - arriving at Oakland from Texas, via Alabama, the United Kingdom and Australia.

In February 2013, Dr Harper was appointed the first Dean of The Honors College at Oakland University, recognizing the wonderful work of the Directors who came before him and The Honors College at Oakland as a significant part of Oakland's history and a substantial part of Oakland's future. Graeme works with a fabulous team in The Honors College (Graeme wrote that!). 

Present - The Honors College: Choose to Excel !
Here in Oak View Hall (a magnificent facility opened in 2014) we explore ideas and activities collaboratively with colleagues across the university. We aim to offer students in The Honors College, and the faculty who teach them, the opportunity to be national and global leaders in the development of undergraduate research. These are the building blocks for brilliant future careers, providing opportunities for innovative learning that supports unique university experiences. 

Currently there are around 900 Honors College students (about 5% of Oakland's undergraduate population) - from Freshmen to Seniors - in The Honors College. This makes The Honors College a strong part of Oakland's overall student body. The Honors College is also the home of the university's Presidential Scholars, who benefit from strength of The Honors College. Every year we conduct an Induction Ceremony which celebrates the achievements of our incoming Freshmen, builds on our unique and strong Oakland tradition, and sets forth into a notable future for all.

Ambition and tradition, together with undergraduate research, scholarship excellence and our friendly environment, make the The Honors College at Oakland experience truly Top 10!


1. MSU-Oakland Newsletter, February 1959, p.3-4
2. It is noted by Julianna K. Chaszar in her Ph.D. thesis 'The Reinvention of Honors Programs in American Higher Education, 1955-1965" (Pennsylvania State University, 2008) that in 1960 there were just 4 Honors College in the United States (p.129). They were at the University of Missouri, the University of Oregon, Wesleyan University and at Michigan State University. The earliest foundation date was that of MSU's Honors College. Oakland University, beginning in 1957, was thus the first university in the world created by a Curriculum Committee that included Honors College students, and is unique in the world in that respect and in the influence and ambition of the Honors College on its curriculum, and on its research and development.
3. For a discussion of Oakland University and the contribution of the original Honors College Group see "Six Students Who Shaped a University" (Harper, 2014)