Message from the Director

Education for Freedom

Jeffrey L. Wilson, PhD, Director, University Honors Program

With all its advantages, modern life holds clear threats to personal autonomy. Multinational corporations manipulate us for profit while political leaders do so for power. Both use social media to capture and hold our attention for their own purposes that may not match our own. It is all too easy in this environment for our humanity to become overshadowed. Our best defenses against these threats are developing our minds to understand the world and ourselves, aligning our hearts with consciously chosen meanings and values, and building relationships in which our common humanity is nurtured and lived out. These are the purposes of a liberal arts education anywhere it is available.

LMU’s distinctive mission within liberal arts education involves the encouragement of learning, the education of the whole person, the service of faith and the promotion of justice. The University stands in an almost 500 year-old tradition of Jesuit education, in partnership with the Marymount Sisters and the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange. Clint Albertson, S.J. established the LMU University Honors Program as a small community at the center of the University, strategically dedicated to these values. (Our dedicated Honors seminar room carries his name.) Today, the University Honors Program attracts students with many intersecting identities from all areas of study who want to be challenged in ways that go beyond academic success and career training. Through the Student Honors Advisory Council, current students participate in guiding and shaping the Program.

The encouragement of learning takes place in the Honors Core Curriculum, Honors Colloquia, public lectures, second language study, and students’ own original faculty-mentored research. Honors classes are roughly half the size of regular classes, to prioritize discussion and interaction over more passive learning methods. Many Honors students live together in our Living Learning Communities (LLC) and cultivate friendships with one another that last well beyond graduation, contributing to the education of the whole person. Social events throughout the year also contribute to this goal. Honors students engage in the service of faith and the promotion of justice both theoretically and practically. Students confront questions of faith and reason in theological studies and philosophy courses that place the Catholic intellectual tradition in dialogue with many non-Catholic and non-Christian faith traditions. Through the Honors service requirement, known as Contemplation in Action, students engage in hands-on work for justice in Los Angeles and beyond.

With funding from a generous group of donors who invest in Honors, we are able to offer a number of scholarships and competitive research grants to students. Donations also enable us to address emergent needs such as housing and food insecurity that would otherwise threaten to derail a student’s academic progress. There is much we are able to do in Honors that we could not do without support from alumni and others who believe in the values we embody and the work we are doing to put them into action.

On behalf of the leadership team of the University Honors Program—myself, Dr. Carissa Phillips-Garrett (Core Advisor), Dr. Sylvia Zamora (Research Advisor), Nubia Valenzuela, M.A. (Senior Administrative Coordinator), and Associate Provost José Badenes, S.J.—I invite you to explore this website to see the full range of what makes our Program a special community for the student who wants not just education but also formation for a life with meaning and purpose. You can reach us at, and we look forward to hearing from you!


For more information about Dr. Wilson, go to LMU Newsroom.