Departmental Honors Programs

Guidelines and best practices for Departmental Honors programs

Promoting programs

  • Target 10% participation for declared majors.
  • Recruit students early by publicizing departmental honors in core departmental courses and career classes.
  • Add departmental colloquia or poster sessions to bring honors students together as a cohort, increasing peer feedback and the visibility of undergraduate education in the department.
  • Formalize a departmental honors luncheon or reception to call attention to the hard work and good results of these students.

Administering programs

  • Investigate interdepartmental and interdisciplinary solutions that would allow students with popular double-major combinations to pursue an honors project endorsed by both departments without diluting the standards. This issue would need to be handled in light of College and University policy stating that multiple credentials cannot be awarded for the same body of work.
  • Offer interdepartmental colloquia jointly sponsored by small departments to facilitate classroom instruction in advanced research methods as a means of preparing students to be productive during their supervised reading and thesis hours.
  • Consider internal compensation policies to encourage and reward the efforts of committed Honors Program Directors.

Structuring programs

  • Create departmental honors tracks or tailor existing guidelines to allow students to study abroad or take advantage of internship opportunities while still pursuing honors.
  • Consider variations on the final project to increase flexibility and participation by distinguishing  between an honors paper and an honors thesis in terms of time invested (with safeguards to ensure quality).
  • Consider accelerating or scaffolding these completion timelines to give students applying to graduate schools a completed document for use as a writing sample (e.g., completed draft by end of fall semester senior year).
  • Consider stretching the timeline out from a two-semester sequence to a less intensive four-semester sequence to allow students with other time commitments to participate (see alternative below).
  • Condense the timeline to allow students to participate in a more focused course of study within one semester.
  • Clarify the nature of the thesis within the discipline, formalize the role of the proposal and prospectus, and otherwise sequence the steps in the project to ensure that students are working productively throughout the process.