It began in 1985 as an honors program and grew into a full-fledged honors college 10 years later. Since then, NJIT’s Albert Dorman Honors College (ADHC) has provided its students with a rich, challenging and individualized educational experience that includes not only a full curriculum of honors courses, colloquia, study tours, dual-degree and study abroad opportunities, but also internships, undergraduate research, community-service involvement and accelerated programs through partnerships with neighboring universities.

Just this past October, ADHC ranked among the Top 10 honors colleges and programs in the United States in the new book INSIDE HONORS: Ratings and Reviews of Sixty Public University Honors Programs, published by Public University Press. Inclusion in this Top 10 listing was based on many factors, including curricular requirements, co-curricular requirements, class size, SAT, GPA, merit scholarships, prestigious fellowships, honors housing and more. The college received the highest possible ranking of 5.0 “mortarboards,” translating to Top 10 status, following the publication’s data analysis of 60 public university honors programs across the country.

 “Since being established in 1995 with about 120 students, NJIT’s Albert Dorman Honors College has grown to roughly 700 students who are sought after by many of the best universities across the country,” said NJIT President Joel S. Bloom, who served as the college’s first dean. “They are choosing NJIT because, by attending the honors college at one of only 32 polytechnic universities nationally, they are in incredible demand by employers upon graduation and are well prepared for career success.”

What Students Have to Say: ADHC Junior Feels Right at Home

Both current students and alumni of the Honors College are grateful for their experiences there and at NJIT. Take Kiera Nissen, from Wall, N.J., who is pursuing a B.S. in civil engineering and an M.S. in environmental engineering. Nissen remembers playing with Lincoln Logs with her great-grandfather, a draftsman with a technical background, when she was just a toddler. “We’d make the house and I always made sure the roof was straight.”

She attended High Technology High School in Lincroft and achieved high marks: a 95 GPA and ACT scores of 35 in science and 34 in math. During her junior year, she came to Newark College of Engineering’s Career Day on a field trip with her civil engineering and architecture class. When the time arrived to apply to college, NJIT was on her list.

“I felt here, especially within the Honors College, the atmosphere was so similar to my high school,” she said. “I loved my high school, most people don’t, but I didn’t think it could get better than that and then it did here. I felt so comfortable. I felt that I could really prosper here.”

Now a junior, Nissen recalls having wonderful resident assistants her freshman year, noting that they encouraged everyone to socialize with one another and made her feel at home. “I’m an introverted person, so I like having my time alone. But I was just so happy and met the best people there. Still, my best friends are people I was on the floor with.”

As an ADHC student, Nissen has been involved in numerous activities to fulfill the college’s leadership and community-service requirements. She was president of her Hall Council her first semester, as well as vice president of programming for NJIT’s Residence Hall Association, for which she planned large-scale on-campus events. This semester, she is engaged in research for the university’s Center for Natural Resources Development and Protection and working with its director, Professor Michel Boufadel. Nissen is examining stormwater runoff on the NJIT campus with the intention of designing a stormwater-management model. She was notified of the opportunity by the honors college via an email sent this past summer.

“I would not have even known about it if it weren’t for the Honors College,” she said

Michael Anderson is in design engineering at Scaled Composites.

What Alumni Have to Say: ADHC Alum’s Career Takes Flight

NJIT alumnus Michael Anderson ’13 also values the Honors College experience, which he happens to share with three of his four brothers. A mechanical and computer engineering student, he lived on the Honors College floor in Redwood Hall his freshman year and throughout his college career enjoyed spending time with his honors college colleagues. “We did a lot of classes together, did a lot of homework together,” he said of the Honors College’s mechanical engineering group. “It was a great little community.”

Anderson received a full scholarship from ADHC to attend NJIT. He was named the Outstanding Honors College Student for the 2012-2013 academic year. 

While his double major did not afford him much free time, he was able to become involved in a variety of campus clubs and activities. In addition to serving on the Honor College’s Recruitment Committee, he joined the NJIT chapter of the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) and served as its president. He also worked on an engineering team to design and build an unmanned aerial vehicle for the SAE’s annual international aerodesign competition. His team’s project, the Flying Highlander, an oversized model airplane with a three-foot wingspan, took fourth place.

This achievement seems almost a given for Anderson, who as a youngster growing up in Hammonton, N.J., built and flew remote-controlled airplanes. Today, he is helping build the biggest airplane in the world (by wingspan) for Paul Allen’s Stratolaunch venture at the California-based aerospace company Scaled Composites. The plane, nicknamed Roc after the mythical bird of prey, will provide a platform for air launches into space.

“What Scaled Composites does is rapid prototyping of one-off aircraft, so we never really build more than one of anything, as opposed to Boeing and other commercial aircraft manufacturers, where they build hundreds of thousands of airplanes,” explained Anderson, who is on a team of less than 100 engineers working on Roc. “We design, analyze and build it all basically ourselves. Engineers are expected to take part in all aspects.”

He attributes his getting the position to his participation in the SAE competition, and his success on the job to his NJIT Honors College education. “I think it prepared me well for this type of environment, because they went above and beyond the normal classes,” he said. “They challenged me to think more, challenged you to not just learn formulas, but learn how and why things work. That’s really important here.”  

Quality of Students Factor in Esteemed Ranking

Interim ADHC Dean John Bechtold, who was the driving force behind the college’s first-time request to be evaluated for inclusion in INSIDE HONORS, noted that the students the Honors College attracts are top quality—a fact that he feels likely contributed to the national ranking. 

“Prospective students are going to see we’re ranked so highly and will further consider us as one of their top college choices,” he remarked. “They will realize the caliber of our students and the opportunities afforded to them.”

Both Nissen and Anderson can definitely affirm Dean Bechtold’s point of view!