Our History


Creating a Legacy of Excellence

Despite our relative youth, the Honors College draws upon a strong legacy of scholarly merit at George Mason University.

The Program in Alternative General Education (PAGE) was introduced to Mason in 1983, representing a new approach to incorporating research and interdisciplinary studies into a compressed general education format.

In 1987, Mason’s president, George Johnson, and Virginia's governor, Douglass Wilder, launched the Mason Scholars Program, an initiative designed to recruit a handful of extraordinary students. In the fall of 1988, the first class of Mason Scholars, each representing one of Virginia’s Congressional Districts,  enrolled, with full scholarships.

In 1991, a sister program, the Presidential Scholars Program, was created, offering smaller scholarships to both Virginians and out-of-state students; in 1997, these programs were merged, creating a unified University Scholars Program.

In 1997, PAGE was renamed the Mason Honors Program to accommodate for its growing size and scope. It reached beyond general education requirements and offered additional writing-intensive and research-focused, expanded upper-level course offerings.

As the university continued to grow, Mason developed several other programs to advance academic excellence for undergraduates:

  • The Undergraduate Apprenticeship Program, or UAP, was the original university-wide initiative to engage students in faculty-mentored individual research projects.
  • The Office of Fellowships was formed to help undergraduate and graduate students apply for prestigious national and international fellowships. 

Mason officially launched the Honors College in 2009. In its formation, the college unified the interdisciplinary activities of the previous Honors Program, with aspects of self-guided research of the Undergraduate Research Scholars Program, the academic excellence of Mason Scholars, and advancement efforts of the Office of Fellowships.

Since it was established, the Honors College has been an ongoing effort to answer the question: How can we work together to leverage Mason's disciplinary, socioeconomic, and cultural diversity in order to prepare the next generation to meet the many challenges facing us? The answer: inclusion at every level and in every form.

Over the past decade, the Honors College has served as an incubator for initiatives that strengthen Mason as a whole. In 2011, the UAP transitioned out of the Honors College and became Mason’s Undergraduate Research Scholars Program, a key component of the University’s nationally-recognized Office of Student Scholarship, Creative Activities, and Research (OSCAR). In 2020, the Office of Fellowships also transitioned out of the Honors College, where it can continue to serve the whole campus community while providing leadership around inclusion and diversity efforts in the fellowships community.

As it moves forward from a position of strength and resources, the Honors College is equipped to develop our students as scholars, leaders and change-making members of their communities. As our enrollment grows, we are envisioning new ways to serve and inspire our students to boldly reach for new horizons.

We are proud to claim our historic legacy as our identity. Whether you participated in PAGE, the Honors Program, or the Undergraduate Apprenticeship Program, whether you were a Mason Scholar, a Presidential Scholar, or a University Scholar, the Honors College is your home at Mason.