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Freshman Joanna Martin—part of UT’s new 1794 Scholars Program—may have just started her college classes, but she’s already enjoying the full Volunteer experience.

Last week, she spent time volunteering at the Muse and Knoxville Area Rescue Ministries as part of Ignite Serves, a four-day leadership and service program for 500 students run by UT’s Center for Leadership and Service. She also started a part-time job at the VolShop, and she’s looking forward to getting involved with several campus organizations.

Joanna Martin, a 1794 Scholars Program student.

One of two new honors programs this year, the 1794 Scholars Program will provide participants with academic engagement and activities that focus on global and cultural awareness, campus involvement, and the Volunteer spirit. 

For Martin, a Knoxville native who is majoring in architecture, being a 1794 Scholar will mean expanding her Volunteer experience by taking a sustainability course, volunteering in environmental programs, and participating in related student organizations.

“I got a taste of some campus volunteering opportunities during Ignite Serves, which was fantastic,” Martin said, adding that being part of the new honors program is a benefit she takes seriously. “It’s truly an honor to have been selected, and the name ‘honors student’ will encourage me to do my best.”

The 1794 Scholars Program, named after the year UT was founded, has about 315 freshmen enrolled. It is a two-year program for students whose ACT scores range from 28 to 30 with a high school GPA of 3.8 or higher. After the two years, students can transition into the Chancellor’s Honors Program or the honors program within their discipline.

Also new is the Honors Leadership Program. With about 50 students enrolled, it caters to students with a record of leadership experience and a vision for being future leaders. It has the same academic requirements as the Chancellor’s Honors Program—an ACT score of 31 or higher and a high school GPA of 4.0 or better. Students will complete an honors version of the leadership minor as well as a co-curricular service requirement. The Center for Leadership and Service and the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies assist with programming.

These two new Honors and Scholars programs dramatically increase the number of UT students who benefit from honors programming. 

Associate Provost Timothy Hulsey, who directs Honors and Scholars Programs, said the number of incoming freshmen enrolled in an honors program is up by 37 percent; one in every seven freshmen is in honors.

The programs also bring UT’s total honors enrollment more in line with that of its peer universities. 

“Our honors applicants’ academic credentials have been rising every year, and we knew there was a whole segment of academically accomplished students we were missing,” Hulsey said.

Being involved in an honors program gets students engaged with the university thoroughly and quickly and gives them access to faculty and courses they wouldn’t have otherwise, Hulsey said.

Both programs have dedicated living and learning communities. 

“Honors students at UT have more than high test scores and excellent GPAs,” Hulsey said. “They are broadly curious, they become leaders on campus and in the community, they learn because they love to, and they push themselves in directions they might never have imagined. 

“Our programs attract and serve the kinds of students who win places in prestigious medical, law, and graduate schools. They also win major national and international scholarships and fellowships, including the Rhodes, Truman, Goldwater, and Fulbright scholarships. They go into public service, start nonprofits, join corporations, and even become world-class opera singers—in short, just about anything they want.” 

The two new honors programs complement the university-wide Chancellor’s Honors Program, which is welcoming about 350 freshmen and will have a total enrollment of about 1,600, and the Haslam Scholars Program, which is the university’s premier honors program and enrolls about 15 freshmen each year. 

UT also offers a variety of discipline-specific honors programs through its academic colleges and departments. Typically, admission to these programs occurs during students’ sophomore or junior years and is not contingent on enrollment in an Honors and Scholars program. Students can be involved in both a college honors program and an Honors and Scholars program.