CORVALLIS - Oregon State University's first full class of University Honors College graduates will have a sample of success as they receive their OSU diplomas on June 13.

"The University Honors College is coming of age," said its dean, Joe Hendricks "During the course of 1999 we will graduate more than 70 students with honors baccalaureate degrees, awarded jointly with their academic departments. To date we have a 100 p ercent acceptance rate to professional and graduate schools and do very well with job placements as well."

OSU's Honors College Program began in the fall of 1995 with more than 250 students. From the beginning the college focused on offering small groups of students challenging courses taught by some of OSU's finest faculty, although students also take cour ses in other colleges throughout the OSU campus.

Since the start four years ago, the program has continued to grow and now attracts valedictorians and other top-ranked students from across the region. Students accepted to the college in 1998-99 had average grade points of 3.98 and the majority of the more than 400 students now enrolled in the college are in science or engineering fields.

"I've been in the program since the start," said Bryce Payne, a West Linn resident who is graduating with degrees in computer science and business. "Nobody knew what to expect, but I've been very happy and it's been very interesting. I'm very thankful for the honors program - for the smaller courses it offers and for the opportunity to know and work with some of the best faculty members on campus. Joe (Hendricks) knows how to inspire people and get them excited about the honors college."

Salem resident Kelli Cummings praised the "small college" atmosphere of the University Honors College at OSU. "My best classes have come from the honors college," Cummings said. "As an undergraduate, it really gives you a chance to get to know other st udents and the faculty members."

Dan Euhus, a Springfield resident who is planning to enter graduate school at Georgia Tech this fall, said the University Honors College is still evolving - "it isn't so bureaucratic that you can't make suggestions and get some things done to improve t he program."

Opportunities to pursue real-world research projects with practical applications appealed to Euhus, who is studying chemical engineering and did a senior thesis on pulp paper production process byproducts.

Jennifer Engels, an honors college graduate from Aurora, attributes much of her success to the structure of the college and its emphasis on small classes and individualized attention.

"The honors college staff is extremely supportive," Engels said. "It makes the university feel much smaller, something like a small liberal arts college. That's something I've really enjoyed."

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Tammy Henderson, 541-737-6400