Commonwealth Honors Academy celebrates the program’s 24th year

By Dani Ray | Jul 9, 2024

CHA collage

The Murray State University Commonwealth Honors Academy (CHA) is a challenging three-week enrichment program for outstanding high school students who have completed their junior year of high school.

MURRAY, Ky. – The Murray State University Commonwealth Honors Academy (CHA) is a challenging three-week enrichment program for outstanding high school students who have completed their junior year of high school. The Academy requires each student to enroll in two college-level honors courses and a social development seminar. 

CHA recently completed another successful year, with the program taking place from June 8-29 with a total of 94 students participating. This year’s 94 scholars represented 59 different high schools. 

Since the program’s start in 2001, CHA has welcomed over 1,800 students from various high schools across the United States to learn, live and grow on Murray State’s campus. All students applying for CHA should have at least a 3.5 GPA and a 25 ACT score, and are notified by letter regarding their acceptance by mid-April prior to the start of the program in June. Dr. Laura Sullivan-Beckers is academic dean of CHA.

“CHA brings together some of the most innovative and engaging faculty to expose high-achieving students to a college-like experience,” Sullivan-Beckers said. “Students learn new content through hands-on projects that they present at the end of the three-week experience.”

Throughout the program students get to take field trips that enrich classroom experiences, attend speaker sessions and listen to professional artists perform and talk about their work and participate in social and personal growth seminars. All students, faculty and staff are housed in a residential college for the entire three weeks of the program. 

“This year, we are particularly excited to have a variety of academic disciplines including debate, earth science (natural disasters), literature, film,  media, cancer biology, AI, music and visual art,” said Sullivan-Beckers. “In addition to their courses, students are visited by many guest speakers that share their expertise and challenge students to expand their minds.”

One scholar, Ella Liutikas, of Elmhurst, Illinois, explained the value she found in some of her courses at CHA.

“In ‘Supernaturalism Naturalism in Literature and Philosophy,’ we synthesized the works of several philosophers and renowned authors to expand our knowledge on the intersection of religion and science, the supernatural with the natural,” said Ella. “I learned how to analyze and make sense of complex texts and films, applying their diverse perspectives to life and exploring the elusive meaning of it. In ‘Creating the Society We Desire: Addressing Social Issues through Dystopian Literature,’ we looked at what truly makes a dystopia dystopian by analyzing several creative and subtextual examples of dystopian works. I've learned more in these three weeks than I've learned in several year-long classes and I'm extremely grateful for everyone who made this possible for me and all the other talented scholars at CHA.”

Another scholar, Joshua “Junior” Knott of Hopkinsville, Kentucky, said he valued the connections and opportunities that CHA affords students.

“I wanted to be part of CHA because it's a great opportunity to meet new people, make connections, get college credit and an amazing scholarship,” said Junior. “I heard about it through my school, teachers and classmates who also went through CHA.”

Junior said while he lived on campus, he got a feel for the atmosphere and environment of Murray State, and it sold him on the University. 

“I've thought about going to Murray State University for a while now, but this experience has made up my mind; I'm absolutely going to college here,” said Junior. 

Upon completion of the program, students will receive six hours of tuition-free, transferable credit and are granted an in-state full-tuition scholarship to Murray State. 

“The CHA leadership team works hard to make CHA a multi-faceted experience,” said Sullivan-Beckers. “Of course, we hope students learn and grow in their courses, but there is so much more to the program. Students are building life-long friendships and making great memories participating in all of our fun activities (e.g. karaoke, ping pong and dodgeball tournaments, game nights, chess, water olympics and more.) We also work to demystify the ‘college professor.’ Scholars get to know our faculty on a first-name basis and see faculty outside of the classroom regularly. They learn that professors are real people too and that we are definitely people who can help them on their college journey. At the end of the program, I hope students feel confident and are excited about going to college.” 

High school juniors throughout Kentucky and other states are invited to apply. The deadline for applications is March 1 of each year. 

An electronic student application and more information can be found on Any questions may be directed to or by calling the Honors College Office at 270-809-3166.

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