Students, faculty and administrators recently gathered at the University of Mississippi to celebrate the dedication of the expanded and renovated home of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College.
The ceremony, outside the building’s east entrance, officially concluded a project that doubled the size of the Honors College’s physical space and renovated the existing structure.
The expansion added 15,000 square feet, including new classrooms, study areas, offices and student lounges. Moving into the new space was “a 10-year dream come true,” said Douglass Sullivan-Gonzalez, Honors College dean.
“The gift of the new and renovated building provides extraordinary public spaces for our students to dive deep into the questions that challenge us all,” Sullivan-Gonzalez said. “Our students enjoy deep conversations, and this is a welcoming space that encourages us to take time to engage in the thorny issues of the day.”
The ceremony featured remarks by Marcus Thompson, chief administrative officer and chief of staff for the State Institutions of Higher Learning; Honors College alumni Dr. Marc Walker and Christin Gates Calloway; and Jim Barksdale, who helped launch the Honors College when he and his late wife, Sally McDonnell Barksdale, agreed to invest $5.4 million to expand the university’s Honors Program in 1997.
A public reception followed the program, and student ambassadors conducted tours of the facility.
The program has grown tremendously from its initial class of 121 students in 1997 to a student body of more than 1,400 this year. The Honors College annually attracts high-performing students from across the state and country; the average ACT score for incoming scholars last fall was 30.9, and the average high school GPA was 3.97.
Praised as one of the nation’s best honors programs, the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College attracts acclaim for its blend of academic rigor, experiential learning and opportunities for community action.
“The Honors College is an example of the extraordinary personalized opportunities available to students at the University of Mississippi,” Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said. “Across our campus, faculty and staff are dedicated to transforming lives through education and service to the community, and this program helps us attract the ‘best and the brightest’ to Ole Miss.”
The $6.9 million expansion and renovation project positions the Honors College to continue its leadership role on campus and across the region, Sullivan-Gonzalez said.
“This provides the needed infrastructure to assure that this program will be the ‘tip of the spear’ to lead the university’s academic charge for years to come,” he said.
For more information on the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, go to http://www.honors.olemiss.edu/.
By Mitchell Diggs