The University of New Mexico Honors Program was founded in 1957 by Professor Dudley Wynn as part of a national movement in American Higher Education. A group of 30 students participated in that first year. Inspired, in part, by the English tutorial system, the American Honors movement began in the 1920s in Eastern private colleges. In the mid-1950s, a new wave of programs caught hold in state universities. UNM’s program began in 1957 and was among the first at a major state university. The tutorial system stressed intensive individual study on the part of students combined with a close working rapport with faculty members who helped direct the students’ reading and worked on communication skills with them.
On April 12, 1988, the Regents of the University of New Mexico formally designated the west wing ground floor of the Humanities Building the Dudley Wynn Honors Center. In doing so, the University acknowledged the pioneering efforts of Professor Wynn who, as Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences, drafted plans for a sequence of small seminars in general studies to be called the General Honors Program.
In 1989, the Burlington Resources Inc. gave the Honors Program $1 million to establish a Chair. The Garrey Carruthers Chair began in 1992 with Cornel West, Johnella Butler, and David Palmer. Thereafter, the Honors Program has had many visiting scholars from a variety of fields.
In 1992, the Senior Options required for graduation were extended, each with six hours of credit. The seniors could now choose among a Colloquium with a service-learning project component, student teaching, or a research project/thesis.
In 1995, the Honors Program initiated a process for promotion and tenure of its full-time faculty. Dr. Rosalie Otero was the first faculty member in both the UNM Honors Program and in honors programs across the country to be promoted to Associate Professor and tenured. Thereafter, all new full-time hires in the Honors Program have been given a tenure-line position.
In 1998, the name of the program was changed to the University Honors Program (UHP) to reflect more precisely the nature of the program.
In May 2000, the UHP relocated to renovated space on the ground floor of the Student Health Center. Appropriately, the name “Dudley Wynn Honors Center” relocated as well. The new Honors Center was designed by George Pearl, an eminent architect. The large forum, library/computer lab, six classrooms, main office, and sixteen faculty offices gave the Honors Program more room than was available in the previous center.
In 2005, the Honors Center expanded to include the remainder of the ground floor with additional offices and classroom space.
In 2010, a Task Force was established to explore the possibilities of an Honors College at UNM. The Task Force unanimously supported the idea. The following year, a Planning Committee was formed to work out the specific characteristics and features of an Honors College. The final phase of this project is now in progress. The UNM Faculty Senate must approve the final design followed by the approval of the University Regents. The plans are to inaugurate the new Honors College in the fall 2013.
In 2012, the UNM Faculty Senate and the UNM Board of Regents approved the plans to create the UNM Honors College. This plan included providing students with three options for participation in the new college: the Designation, the Interdisciplinary Studies Minor, and the Honors Interdisciplinary Studies Major.
In 2013, the new college was officially opened, and in the fall of that same year, the college accepted its first freshmen class.
In Spring 2015, the first two students graduated with the new Honors Interdisciplinary Liberal Arts Major. That same year, the college created two new 3-2 programs which allow students to major in the Honors College and complete a Master's degree all within five years.
In Fall 2015, the Honors College introduced the Honors College House System. Incoming students established House Councils and began the work of a smaller community of scholars.