About the Program

The Davidson Honors College offers the intensive learning environment of a small liberal arts and sciences college within a larger research university.

The Davidson Honors College is open to students of any major and provides special opportunities for students to enhance their learning and leadership skills within and outside the classroom. 

The Davidson Honors College:

  • Serves 700 talented students within UM's community of 14,000 students.
  • Offers Honors courses capped at 20 students per class.
  • Supports its students' engagement in undergraduate research.
  • Offers mentoring for scholarships, internships, and study abroad.
  • Offers student organizations and activities that engage the greater campus and enhance the Honors community.

Mission and Values

The Davidson Honors College serves as a center and a symbol of the University's commitment to excellence in undergraduate education. As part of its mission, the DHC:

  • offers an enriched program of liberal arts education for outstanding students of all majors;
  • fosters both intellectual and civic values: inquiry, discovery, knowledge, and imagination, as well as responsibility, community, leadership, and service;
  • provides support for instructional innovation, and for the best possible teaching and learning circumstances for participating faculty and students.

Vision Statement

The Davidson Honors College aspires to become a program of national distinction, recognized as one of the most comprehensive and innovative Honors programs in the nation.

student in cap and gown


Originally founded in 1981, the Honors Program at The University of Montana began its life in a small office in Corbin Hall with a part-time director, Classics Professor John Madden, and a part-time secretary. Over the next decade the number of students in the program grew from a few dozen to approximately 300. In 1991, following a lengthy planning process and approval by the UM Faculty Senate, the UM Administration, and the Board of Regents, the Honors Program was transformed into an Honors College. Professor John Madden was selected as the College's first Dean. The new Honors College was housed in a small third-floor office in Main Hall, where Dean Madden and the College's secretary/advisor received and worked with the increasing number of students who wanted to take advantage of the academic and social opportunities the College could offer them.

In spring 1996, thanks to a large gift from UM alumni Nancy and Ian Davidson, and with the support of many other alumni and friends, the Honors College and its now 500 students were able to move into a marvelous new building located on the Oval just southwest of Main Hall. At that time, it became officially known as the Davidson Honors College. Due to the building's exemplary facilities, the DHC has since become a favorite location for many campus events, lectures, workshops, receptions, and courses, and has played a central role in the life of the campus.

On July 1, 2005, James McKusick became the third dean of the Davidson Honors College. In response to a growing need for professional advising and mentoring in the DHC, the half-time Academic Advisor position was reconfigured as a full-time position, and in August 2005 Laure Pengelly Drake was hired as the DHC's first Director of Advising and External Scholarships. Laure has mentored candidates for such prestigious awards as the Rhodes, Marshall, Mitchell, Truman, Goldwater, Udall, and Jack Kent Cooke scholarships. 

In Fall, 2015, the DHC welcomed Brock Tessman as the current dean of the Davidson Honors College. Dean Brock Tessman comes to the Davidson Honors College after nine years at the University of Georgia. At the University of Georgia, Tessman was an Associate Professor of International Affairs, Director of Graduate Programs in the School of Public and International Affairs, and Associate Director at the UGA Center for the Study of Global Issues. He was also extensively involved in teaching, advising, and scholarship advising through the nationally recognized UGA Honors Program.

The Office for Civic Engagement

The Office for Civic Engagement (OCE) began as Volunteer Action Services in the spring of 1992. Volunteer Action Services (VAS) was a program of the Davidson Honors College designed to coordinate student volunteerism on campus and in the community. The office served as a resource center for all students to identify potential volunteer opportunities and match students with community agencies in need of service. VAS coordinated a variety of service projects throughout the school year to expose students to the benefits of volunteering and offered service-based internships for students to gain credit for coordinating volunteerism. For the first three years the program was staffed by a part-time director and student interns.

In 2001, new programs were developed by Volunteer Action Services that encompassed an expansion of efforts to engage students and faculty in academic work in collaboration with community organizations. As a result, an additional staff member was added and the name changed to the Office for Civic Engagement (OCE). The OCE operates as a program of the Davidson Honors College and is housed in the lower level of the DHC building. The OCE employs one director, two program managers, two AmeriCorps team leaders, one graduate student assistant, nine student AmeriCorps members, and two student employees.