The University of New Hampshire has announced the creation of the Hamel Honors and Scholars College, set to open in fall of 2024 following a $20 million gift from Dana Hamel. That support will significantly expand in-class and extracurricular opportunities for honors students and Hamel Scholars and create a dedicated living-learning community for high-achieving students on campus inside a renovated Huddleston Hall and in select residence hall space.
Including this recent gift, Hamel’s total lifetime giving makes him the most generous philanthropist in the history of UNH. The gift will be used to renovate Huddleston Hall to become the home of the Hamel Honors and Scholars College and will increase the size of the Hamel Scholars program endowment (the Hamel Scholars program, founded in 2007 and funded through gifts from Hamel, will be part of the honors and scholars college and is UNH’s most prestigious scholarship award.)
“My vision for the Hamel Honors and Scholars College is to give hard-working and talented students the opportunity to thrive at a world-class institution,” Hamel, UNH Foundation Board advisor and father of Karen (Hamel) Simas ‘88, says. “My hope for these honors students is to be challenged to grow through engaged scholarship, academic challenge and self-determination to make a positive impact at UNH, in the state of New Hampshire and beyond.”
The honors and scholars college represents a new differentiator for the state’s flagship public university, providing high-achieving students an enriched academic experience in a significant revision and expansion of UNH’s current honors program. It will emphasize connections between academic and experiential learning, enable students to create individualized honors experiences and offer greater opportunities to work with faculty mentors from all UNH colleges.
The renovated Huddleston Hall space will also provide increased opportunity for interaction and teamwork among honors students, faculty and staff, featuring student “huddle” spaces for coworking and collaboration, seminar rooms, event space and common gathering areas for socializing and dining.
Hamel’s gift will also enable growth of the Hamel Scholars program, which provides merit scholarships and special programming to exceptional students who have demonstrated academic excellence, leadership and community service. The gift will create new programming that will allow students to build connections with New Hampshire, national and international leaders and institutions and will help develop their leadership skills through workshops, trainings and experiences. They will also have increased opportunities to engage with the Hamel Scholars alumni community.
“We are so grateful to Dana for his incredible generosity and unwavering commitment to our students,” said UNH President James W. Dean, Jr. “The Hamel Honors and Scholars College will be a tremendous point of pride for the entire university and an asset to the state, allowing us to offer an even more fulfilling experience to all of our honors students.”
"The Hamel Honors and Scholars College will be a tremendous point of pride for the entire university and an asset to the state, allowing us to offer an even more fulfilling experience to all of our honors students."
The proposed structure of the Hamel Honors and Scholars College would include a more flexible curriculum for students as compared to the current university honors program, allowing for the creation of individualized pathways as students choose how to distribute their honors work among courses, research and cocurricular experiences.
The college will support faculty and students in exploring new approaches to teaching and learning. There will be a broader range of academic offerings, with an emphasis on new experiential and high-impact opportunities, as well as faculty fellows embedded in the honors college who will build out programming and help establish professional networks.
Students interested in joining the honors and scholars college don’t need to go through an additional application process – all accepted students are automatically considered (students interested in becoming Hamel Scholars do need to complete a separate application). The first incoming cohort, likely 250 to 300 students, is slated to be welcomed for the fall 2024 semester. The college is expected to serve roughly 1,000 students in total.
There are several opportunities for students to join the honors and scholars college after coming to UNH, as well, including January Join, which allows high-achieving first-year students not selected at the time of admittance to be invited after their first semester. Students are invited to apply at any point after joining UNH, and faculty are encouraged to nominate students they believe would thrive there.
“At UNH, we pride ourselves on prioritizing the undergraduate experience above everything else – that's in the institution’s DNA. The Hamel Honors and Scholars College will allow us to strengthen that even further,” Catherine Peebles, director of the UNH honors program, says. “The new honors college curriculum will be a lot more hands-on, a lot more experiential, with our students getting out into the world and into our community.”