Courses and Curriculum

A Study in Honors

An honors course can and should be many things. There are potentially infinite arrays of valuable and useful approaches. One thing every true honors course should feature is the offering of an active, rather than merely a passive, learning experience.

One can distribute information pretty effectively using lecture methods, but only if the lecturer is skilled at the art, knowledgeable, and enthusiastic. When presented this way, the lecture can even be exciting for its recipients. It is difficult to “educate” people, in the highest and best sense of the term, unless the intended beneficiaries of the process are actively involved in it. To this end, all of the courses offered in our program’s special curriculum use predominantly seminar and discussion methods of instruction, rather than lectures.

One of the most important features of both teaching and learning in honors is the engagement of risk. The risk is both intellectual and practical. Honors faculty need to be willing to take risks in conceiving courses that stretch their comfortable disciplinary expertise. This is one reason why interdisciplinary approaches are such a common theme in honors courses. It forces teachers to stretch their knowledge and skills and to think beyond the routine borders of content courses and departmental turf.

Students in honors need to be open to risks, too, and willing to actively take part in developing their own education. They should be willing to suspend traditional forms of assessment for the sake of exploration and willing to put aside competitive structures of education in order to engage collaboratively and constructively in learning. In honors, students and faculty discuss motivation, challenges, critical thinking and service. They discuss how to improve honors, even when that involves risk taking. 

Professors are encouraged to ask questions such as, 

  • How do we change a syllabus?
  • How do I alter my reading list?
  • What kinds of different assignments should I construct?
  • What in-class and out-of-class activities should I devise to support honors goals?
  • How do I assess my work and students’ work differently to reflect different course philosophy?
  • How do I know honors students in an honors course are learning differently/faster/better/more deeply?

Answering these questions and applying the answers are the first step to any successful honors course.

Honors Program Curriculum Requirements

A student may be identified as an “Honors Program Graduate” after meeting graduation requirements in an academic department of the University and meeting the requirements of the University Honors Program.

The University Honors Program requires the completion of a minimum of twenty-four hours of coursework designated as “Honors.” A minimum of fifteen hours of coursework should be completed in the first two years of study. Honors courses in the first two years may be selected from Honors sections of core curriculum offerings, special courses which are offered on an occasional basis for Honors students, or through “Honors Contracts” with faculty teaching regular sections of the college’s overall curriculum.

All Honors students are expected to complete HONR 395, 400, and 401 in their junior or senior years. University Honors Program students are expected to maintain a minimum 3.0 grade point average.

To receive “Honors Program” recognition during commencement exercises, a student must meet the following requirements:

  • Maintain at least a 3.0 GPA;
  • Successfully complete a minimum of 27 hours in Honors courses including HONR 395, 400, 401;
  • Initiate, prepare, present and defend a senior HONORS thesis of at least 40 pages in length;
  • Complete a minimum of 80 hours of community service which contributes to the welfare of the community; and
  • Receive the recommendation of the Honors Committee.