PNW’s Honors College has largest, most diverse cohort yet

November 10, 2022

When Auzi Mahmood made her choice for where to attend college, she wanted a smaller environment so she could make better connections with her on-campus community.

“I’m very, very extraverted,” said Mahmood, a first-year Sociology major from Lahore, Pakistan. “That’s what made Purdue Northwest (PNW) so perfect. All levels of students are able to connect and really know each other, which builds a larger network and allows you to have support from many people. Because the class sizes are smaller, we get the freedom to really talk and interact with the material, as well as get to know the professors.”

When Mahmood received an invitation to apply for the Honors College, she said she first felt shocked, but then greatly appreciated.

“My hard work in high school was being recognized before I even joined PNW, allowing me to gain some insight into the core values of the college and further encourage me to come here,” she said. “I felt extremely excited to be surrounded by so many driven and ambitious people, students and faculty alike. I knew it was an honor, no pun intended, as well as a responsibility to keep excelling in my coursework and extracurriculars using the support from the PNW Honors community.”

Mahmood is just one of the over 330 students in the Honors College’s largest incoming class, adding to its largest total cohort of students in the 2022-23 academic year. PNW also now has one of the most diverse Honors Colleges in Indiana.

I felt extremely excited to be surrounded by so many driven and ambitious people, students and faculty alike.

Auzi Mahmood, first-year Sociology major

With over 600 high-achieving students, the Honors College offers enriched academic and research opportunities, leadership engagement, and community service to high-performing students seeking a PNW undergraduate education.

“What often is key to student success, which we know from the research, is that when they feel like they belong, when they feel that they have a home at the university, then they’re going to be successful,” said Jonathan Swarts, dean of the Honors College and professor of Political Science. “The students are more invested in their educational progress, they get active in the university community, they feel like they belong here, and it makes for a much more successful student, both academically and socially.”

Annual growth

Two honors college students pose while holding up hammers

In the 2022-23 Honors College’s incoming class, 57% self-identify as non-white or multiracial and 48% as first-generation. Approximately 17% are Indiana 21st Century Scholars and almost 10% are international students.

“We’re tremendously proud of the diversity of our Honors College — not as a matter of hitting some numerical figure, but because it’s a reflection of how I think we’ve made the Honors College a welcoming environment for people from all different backgrounds,” said Swarts. “One thing builds on another, and our diversity in turn encourages more students to join and experience that sense of belonging.”

Since 2016, the Honors College’s enrollment has more than doubled from 254 to more than 600.

“An Honors College of Opportunity”

Swarts says the Honors College’s motto is “Learn. Serve. Lead.” This reflects an emphasis on enhancing students’ academic experience, encouraging them to serve the university and the local community and to develop their leadership skills both inside and outside PNW.

An honors college student smiles while holding a hammer. He is standing on top of a framed wall.

“I like to say this is an ‘Honors College of Opportunity’ because we want to provide all of our students the opportunity to excel academically, to serve others, and to be, and become, leaders in the university, the community, and the world. Those are the constant goals we are always seeking to accomplish,” said Swarts.

Honors College students major in degree programs across PNW’s five academic colleges. Honors students are responsible for completing 24 credit hours in the Honors College. These courses involve a variety of academic experiences that enhance a student’s major plan of study. These can include special seminar courses on unique topics. This spring, PNW faculty experts will teach special courses on sports and entertainment law, and on the social and political significance of Bob Marley’s music. Students also engage in specialized undergraduate research in their majors in collaboration with PNW faculty – research that is presented at academic research conferences and even published in undergraduate research journals.

Students walk with Leo during the Honors College 5KHonors College students are also responsible for performing individual community service each academic year. In addition, Honors students collectively organize a philanthropic capstone project each year through the annual Honors College 5K walk to raise funds for a designated community organization. In 2022, the walk raised funds to purchase lumber and materials for NWI Habitat for Humanity’s wall build, where Honors Students helped construct the walls for a new Habitat for Humanity home. In 2023, the students have chosen to benefit the Food Bank of Northwest Indiana. The Honors College has also won the Chancellor’s Cup during Homecoming two years in a row for collecting the most goods to benefit the PNW Food Pantry.

The Honors College hosts numerous events for the PNW community and the public during the academic year. Within the college, a student-led advisory board helps choose the direction for campus and volunteer activity planning.

“The students are very involved and hungry for activities,” said Debbie Bachmann, administrator of Honors Student Leadership and Programming. “They come up with ideas, take everything from the planning stages to implementation, and run with it. We have a constant line of students asking about admission because they see their friends are involved.”