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When Duncan Harris made a phone call to ask for help unloading furniture for the new University of Wyoming Honors Program home, more than a dozen students showed up within 10 minutes.
“They wanted to get a sneak peek,” says Harris, the program’s director.
The students’ eagerness to assist is understandable. Students in UW’s Honors Program had anticipated the move into the home as they watched construction progress on the facility that is known simply as the “Red House,” a residential home that was built around 1909 for the Rev. Arnold G.H. Bode, who served as the pastor at Laramie’s St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church. When Ivinson Memorial Hospital was constructed across the street in 1916, the house was rented as a dormitory for nurses -- a purpose it served until around 1950.
But the students weren’t overly interested in the building’s fascinating history, or that its unique Colonial Revival style was designed by the prolific architect Wilbur Hitchcock. They were just happy to have a place to call home.
“I was truly amazed when I first saw the new home,” says Stephanie Strasbaugh, a sophomore psychology major from Fort Collins, Colo. “I had walked by the outside a few times and was already impressed. But when I finally got a chance to go in and use the facilities, it was really something else. I think the home has an old-fashioned kind of charm to it and makes for a great study space.”
“It’s adorable,” says Jenny Voltmer of Torrington, a pre-pharmacy sophomore who minors in theatre. “It really feels like a home -- and such a nice one at that.”
Stan DeVore, a physiology major from Casper, agrees.
“We don’t call it a facility or a building; we call it a home,” he says. “And that’s what it is -- a place where we can feel comfortable in our surroundings as if it were our own home, which brings us together as a family.”
That feeling of community is one of the major advantages offered by the Red House, Harris says. Unlike the program’s previous home in Merica Hall (one of the oldest buildings on campus that houses a bulletin room for agricultural publications and programs such as the UW Facilities Planning office), the Red House provides a homey atmosphere for students and visitors alike.
“We meet with prospective students at least five times a week and, often times, host their parents and other family members,” Harris says. “The living room provides such a nice place for them. The Red House is bolstering our recruiting efforts.”
It offers other advantages, too. For the first time, all of the Honors Program faculty members are in one place, providing the students much easier access to them. There’s a well-equipped classroom, a computer room and even a kitchen with a microwave oven, a large refrigerator and plenty of space to host catered events.
The students agree the Red House makes the Honors Program experience even more enjoyable and beneficial.
“I love the community that comes out of the program. I live in the Honors House (a residential home for Honors Program students). I couldn’t ask for a better place to live during the semester,” DeVore says. “The benefits of the program are great -- priority registration, the wide variety of classes that can strike anyone as interesting; and how close we can work with the professors, Duncan and Cass (Cassidy Bolin, the program’s office associate).”
Voltmer echoes DeVore’s praise, noting, “Every class offers the opportunity to meet new friends and see old ones. The professors are fantastic and really passionate about what they teach, and the small class sizes give a unique opportunity for in-depth discussion.”
In the classroom, Honors Program students enroll in two honors classes during their freshman year and one course each subsequent year. Courses are taught by some of UW’s top professors who are known for promoting class debate and intellectual discussions.
The honors experience culminates in an independent senior research project that gives students an opportunity to work closely with faculty members in their chosen field.
Students in the Honors Program have priority registration privileges, ensuring they will be able to take the courses they want.
The Wyoming Honors Organization gives students a voice that helps determine the program's direction and sponsors many social and cultural activities each year.
The UW Honors House opened in 2006 in a thoroughly renovated facility. It was originally built in the early 1940s as a home for the Kappa Sigma fraternity. Many of the original features of the house were retained, including a beamed, 2.5-story great room and a paneled dining room/meeting room. The modern building shows off energy-efficient windows, a full modern kitchen, new stairways, an elevator and new bathrooms throughout the house.
Honors students may choose to live among their peers in two special honors floors in the UW residence halls, which provide a setting that invites a diversity of thought, opinion and culture; and where residents respect each other’s desire to study.