History of Barrett

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Barrett Tempe Grand Opening Event - 2009

History of Barrett, The Honors College at Arizona State University

Barrett, The Honors College at Arizona State University, is a preeminent honors college in the nation.

In 1988, the Arizona Board of Regents authorized the creation of the University Honors College at ASU. With this designation, the first four-year, undergraduate, residential honors college in the United States became a reality with Dr. Ted Humphrey as the college’s founding dean.

Barrett, The Honors College is named in honor of longtime ASU supporters Craig Barrett, former Intel CEO, and Barbara Barrett, former U.S. secretary of the Air Force. The honors college was renamed in 2001, when then-ASU President Lattie Coor surprised the Barretts with the news that the Arizona Board of Regents had determined to name the college after them.

In 2003, Mark Jacobs was named dean, ushering in an era that would bring not only new leadership, but new and unprecedented growth.

Over the last fifteen years, first-year student applications have more than quadrupled from 1225 for fall 2007 to over 5500 for fall 2021. This explosion in interest has allowed the college to successfully grow its incoming class from 677 in the fall of 2007 to an expected 2,000 in the fall of 2021.   

Total enrollment is now more than 7,400 Barrett students across all four Phoenix metropolitan ASU campuses. The number of annual Barrett graduates also has increased over the years - for example, from a total of 275 in 2004 to more than 1,150 in 2019.

“The vast increase in applications and student population over the years reflects Barrett’s status as one of the best places in the country for intellectually-engaged undergraduates,” Jacobs said.

Barrett attracts national and international scholars

From its inception, the honors college has attracted stellar students including National Merit Scholars, College Board National Recognition Program recipients, Gates Millennium Scholars, Presidents Scholars and Provost Scholars. Barrett also attracts high achieving international students from across the globe, including students from China, Canada, India, Mexico, South America, Africa, and Europe.

Arizona State University is a perennial top-producer of Fulbright recipients, many of whom are Barrett Honors College graduates. For eleven consecutive years, ASU has been among the top 20 universities in the U.S. for recipients of this prestigious fellowship, and is the second highest-ranking public university. Sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, the Fulbright U.S. Student Program provides full-cost awards to support yearlong post-graduate study, research, artistic, and teaching experiences in over 140 countries.

Barrett also helps produce some of the world’s best young scholars. In 2017, ASU was one of only four universities in the United States to graduate a Churchill, a Marshall, and a Rhodes scholar in the same year, and they all were Barrett students.

Unique honors opportunities

Barrett offers unique honors-only opportunities for students. Honors course offerings, such as signature classes called The Human Event and The History of Ideas, are supplemented by study abroad programs in Greece, Italy, England, Ireland, Scotland, Peru and Costa Rica. The college also has an honors domestic travel/study program called Great American Cities in which students visit such famous locales as New York City, Washington, D.C., New Orleans, and San Francisco.

With the support of a gift from Craig and Barbara Barrett, the honors college developed more global engagement programs, including enhanced student travel opportunities, the Barrett Global Classroom, GlobalResolve and the Distinguished Global Leaders lecture series.

In 2019, the T.W. Lewis Center for Personal Development was established at Barrett Honors College. The center, which is supported by funding from the T.W. Lewis Foundation, provides innovative courses, workshops, and an engaging speaker series designed to help students achieve their personal best both during and after their college experience.

The growth of Barrett

Barrett’s physical presence has exploded throughout the college’s existence, with major growth happening during Dean Jacobs’ tenure. The college consisted of 198,132 square feet of living and learning space in 2003-04, and now totals over 1,600,000 square feet.

In 2009, Barrett opened the nation’s only four-year residential campus for honors students on nine acres at the southeast corner of ASU’s Tempe campus. That Barrett complex has residence halls accommodating 1,700 students, classrooms, social lounges, a dining center, café, courtyards, an outdoor fireplace, an environmentally sustainable residence hall with a rooftop organic garden, and offices for administrators, faculty and staff.

Barrett @ Vista del Sol - a complex covering more than 20 acres - accommodates 1,800 sophomore, junior, and senior students in an apartment-style living community that offers easy access to faculty and staff, classrooms, the dining hall and other services. Apartments include a living room, full kitchen, and washer and dryer. 

All Barrett students have access to the swimming pool, barbecue and grill facilities, volleyball and basketball courts, 24-hour gym, and a recreational lounge in Barrett @ Vista del Sol. 

The Gold Dome, adjacent to the Barrett @ Vista del Sol complex, is an outdoor venue used for student organization gatherings, yoga classes and alumni events. The Barrett Student Center located at Vista del Sol has a computer lab and print anywhere station. It is a convenient location for meetings, events, and studying.

Barrett at all four ASU campuses

In addition to the ASU Tempe campus, there are unique honors-only living and learning communities at the ASU Downtown, Polytechnic, and West campuses. In every way, Barrett students at Downtown, Polytechnic, and West enjoy a fully developed honors experience with physical amenities designed to support their classroom learning, extracurricular involvement, professional development, and personal growth. 

Barrett at ASU Downtown

At ASU Downtown, the Barrett Residential Community in Taylor Place is an engaging living and learning environment consisting of a diverse group of multi-disciplinary honors students. The Barrett Downtown Suite located in the Mercado houses faculty and staff offices, classrooms and meeting spaces.

Barrett at ASU Polytechnic

Barrett Polytechnic students live in Lantana Hall, which opened in fall 2020. Lantana Hall also houses the Barrett Polytechnic Suite, where students can connect with honors advisors and staff and participate in Barrett events and programs.

Barrett at ASU West

Barrett students at the ASU West campus live in the honors hall at Casa de Oro. The Barrett West Suite, located in the University Center Building, has faculty and staff offices, meeting rooms and event space.

Barrett is a model for other honors colleges

Honors colleges throughout the country, including those in Indiana and Kentucky, are modeled after Barrett Honors College. The New York Times has called Barrett “the gold standard” among honors colleges throughout the nation.

Public University Honors, online review of honors colleges by John Willingham rates Barrett Honors College highly for its strong honors program, support for students, well-appointed residence halls, and a dean, faculty and staff committed to student success.

Dean Jacobs sees a bright future for the honors college. “The goal of attracting the state’s and the nation's best students to ASU and Barrett is being achieved and we are now focused on broadening our appeal and reputation in the world beyond. We are well along that path.”