UMass Amherst Breaks Ground for New, $186.5 Million Commonwealth Honors College Complex

AMHERST, Mass. - University of Massachusetts officials and students broke ground this morning for a six-building, $186.5 million living and learning complex to house the Commonwealth Honors College at the Amherst campus.

University officials, including President Robert L. Caret, Chancellor Robert C. Holub and Priscilla M. Clarkson, dean of Commonwealth Honors College, were among those marking the occasion as part of Homecoming Weekend activities.

Site preparation work began in June and the complex is scheduled to open in the fall of 2013, providing the honors college with nine classrooms, administrative offices, a 300-seat conference center, a cafe and about 1,500 beds for students enrolled in the honors program. The six buildings, ranging from four to six floors, will be arranged around a series of courtyards, providing additional areas for students to interact.

The student housing will include a traditional residence hall for first-year students and apartment or suite-style living for other honors students. The complex will also include housing for faculty residents. Funding for the project is through the UMass Building Authority.

"When this complex opens in 2013, it will distinguish our flagship campus from other universities across the country," said Chancellor Holub. "While other institutions may have specialized honors programs for their top students, few public universities combine housing, academic and administrative services under one roof, as we will here. The new honors residential complex will be a testament to the campus’s commitment to academic excellence for undergraduates in all fields of study."

"The complex will offer students an outstanding residential facility to match the first-rate instruction that the college and the campus already provide," says Priscilla M. Clarkson, dean of Commonwealth Honors College. "We are not just constructing a set of residence halls, classrooms and offices; we are building a community."

Others taking part in the ceremony were UMass Trustee Richard P. Campbell; Paul J. Carney, a member of the UMass Building Authority, which is funding the project; James V. Staros, provost and senior vice chancellor for academic affairs; Alexander Nemtzow, a senior in Commonwealth Honors College, and alumnus Melvin Howard, a board member for the honors college.

Commonwealth Honors College currently enrolls 2,713 students in 88 majors. The colleges provides an intellectually challenging honors curriculum, creates a community of scholars and helps prepare future leaders by providing an academic avenue for highly motivated students to delve deeply into their studies. It is also the only such school in the region to provide a four-year honors course of study that includes a highly demanding six-credit honors capstone project. The college plans to gradually increase its incoming classes from 485 this fall to 600 per year.