Gleich Honors College Introduces Students to a Whole New World of Opportunity

Emerald Habecker and Sarah Morgenthaler, the first two Gleich Honors College Students to earn a degree at Webster University.Emerald Habecker and Sarah Morgenthaler, the first two Gleich Honors College Students to earn a degree at Webster University. They graduated in Spring of 2023.

As far as honors colleges go, Webster University’s Gleich Honors College has broken the mold. Traditionally, an “Honors College” only serves students who enter a university after earning top grades at their high schools or top scores on the SAT or ACT tests. Studies have shown that most students who are offered positions in an “honors college” tend to come from white, affluent families and those kids had resources that others do not, such as tutors, access to exclusive after-school and summer programs, and opportunities to travel the world while they were children. 
Webster’s Honors College is designed to be accessible to motivated and talented students from all backgrounds. Instead of recruiting students solely on the basis of test scores and high school grades, the program invites all students to complete an application that gauges their creativity and their communication skills, intentionally seeking students diverse in terms of socioeconomic backgrounds, ethnicity, geographic origin, disciplinary interests and learning styles. 
It is a program for students who want to push themselves to learn in and beyond the classroom. 
“The Gleich Honors College reflects a distinctly Webster view on what constitutes an ‘honors’ student,” said Emily Thompson, director of Webster’s Gleich Honors College. “At Gleich, we adopt a student-focused approach that privileges high-impact practices, like undergraduate research, place-based service learning, and collaborative projects.”

The Honors College was built upon an earlier program, the Impact Scholars, which was established in 2018 for undergraduate students. The Impact Scholars program connected students with opportunities for social justice work and community service locally, regionally, and internationally.

In the Honors College, students work together collaboratively and cultivate relationships with different communities, accumulate transnational experiences and practice the intercultural skills required to do so with confidence and sensitivity. Students complete a research project outside their major area of study that requires them to apply different research methodologies to complex problems with the help of a faculty mentor. In the past two years, students have participated in research projects and in collaborative community service projects with local non-profit organizations, such as Bridge Builders STL and the St. Louis Kaplan Feldman Holocaust Museum.

A group of Gleich Honors College students on an academic excursion to the St. Louis Art Museum.A group of Gleich Honors College students on an excursion to the St. Louis Art Museum.

The program is open to all undergraduates, including transfer students. Students are chosen through an application process that asks them to reflect on the complexities of global connections, on their own civic responsibilities and on the particular skills that each student hopes to develop through the undergraduate experience at Webster. Once accepted, the Gleich Honors Students are advised by a committee of faculty, staff and administrators who designed the program with the help of current and former students.

Gleich Honors students are also given the opportunity to participate in the Global Student Leadership Summit (GSLS), which convenes every few years on one campus in Webster University’s worldwide network, bringing together student leaders from every campus. The GSLS offers an exceptional opportunity for Webster University student leaders to gain knowledge, skills, and to create positive change in a global environment. By developing relationships with peers from throughout Webster’s global network, participants will gain a better understanding of the impact student involvement has on their local campus and Webster University worldwide.  

Webster students attending the GSLS gather for a group photo outside of Webster Leiden, where the summit was held in 2023.Webster students attending the GSLS gather for a group photo outside of Webster Leiden, where the summit was held in 2023. 

The Gleich Honors College was launched in 2021 after longtime Webster supporters Marianne and Peter Gleich donated $1 million for the project. Marianne Gleich, an alumna with a degree in French, has been a donor for four decades. She and her husband, Peter, have also established Webster scholarships for French, international business, and study abroad programs. Another generous Webster supporter, Alan Merschen, sponsored the 2023 GSLS and is involved in the planning and financing of the upcoming 2025 summit. 

To learn more about the program, visit

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