Chelsea Scott


Chelsea Scott, who just completed her first year as a criminal justice major at Rutgers University–Newark, is a member of the Honors Living-Learning Community inaugural class.

Nick Romanenko

College honors programs traditionally admit students with high grade-point averages and SAT scores, but those measures don’t tell the whole story.

The Honors Living-Learning Community (HLLC) at Rutgers University–Newark opened in fall 2015 with 30 first-year students chosen for their extraordinary academic promise, leadership potential, intellectual capabilities, and hunger to positively influence their communities. A traditional application plus an intensive two-phase interview process replaced the usual acceptance metrics. Shirley Collado, executive vice chancellor of Rutgers–Newark, calls HLLC “a bold and  revolutionary way of identifying academic potential and a national model for redefining honors.”

“We’re looking to increase access for Newark residents and identify exceptional talent where it’s often missed,” says Marta Esquilin, associate dean of the HLLC. “By providing solid infrastructures for support, we believe these students will thrive and enrich the Rutgers University–Newark environment.” That support includes mentoring and an interdisciplinary curriculum that bridges classroom learning with community engagement.

HLLC administrators are committed to enrolling a diverse group of students,  and private support has been pivotal. A grant from the MCJ Amelior Foundation will support the initial 30 students’ room and board for four years. In addition, a curriculum focused on local citizenship in a global world was developed with the help of a Ford Foundation grant. Over the next few years, enrollment in the HLLC will reach 500 students, with the goal of about two-thirds of them being from Newark.

Chelsea Scott, a criminal justice major and a member of the HLLC’s inaugural class, says its diversity is one of its biggest strengths. “Everyone around me is  different, and their thought processes are totally different from mine,” says Scott, now a sophomore. That is exactly the point.

“Who better to address some of the country’s most complicated issues,” asks Esquilin, “than diverse students with innovative ideas?”