Honors Program Theses


Open Access Honors Program Thesis

First Advisor

Leisl Carr-Childers


Universities and colleges--Honors courses--Iowa--Cedar Falls;


In 1959, the faculty of the Iowa State Teachers College (ISTC), what is now known as the University of Northern Iowa (UNI), approved the creation of an honors program for gifted students, those who performed “above the norm for their age.”1 Over the next 50 years, this program’s structure evolved and expanded to meet the changing needs of both the university and students from various backgrounds. The UNI Honors Program’s creation and evolution were not isolated events; rather, they reflected various local and national trends in education. UNI’s first honors program began as a reflection of ideas promoted by other universities and an organization known as the Inter-University Committee on the Superior Student (ICSS), which influenced honors programs across the country in the 1950s, 1960s, and beyond. One of the ideas that this program relied on was that of the academically superior student, which it based on qualities such as grade point average. During the early 1970s and 1980s, the program evolved in reaction to changing national attitudes about race and gender in education and removed its academic entrance requirements in order to include students from diverse backgrounds. Finally, at the turn of the century, UNI created an honors program that reflected not only the idea of the superior student but also the university's desire to provide opportunities to a variety of students. Despite the program’s connection to these trends and attitudes, its history is not well-documented. The only historical literature that discusses the honors program at UNI is William C. Lang and Daryl Pendergraft’s A Century of Leadership and Service: A Centennial History of The University of Northern Iowa, which briefly mentions the program’s first few years.2 This study builds upon this literature by exploring the program’s evolution and its connections to national trends during its first 50 years. Through its examination of these topics, this study serves as the first in-depth historical analysis of the UNI Honors Program.

Date of Award



Department of History

University Honors Designation

A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the designation University Honors

Date Original


Object Description

1 PDF file (41 pages)



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