Honors is a 4-year academic program in LSA. It’s not over at the end of sophomore year! Here are the ways you can continue in and graduate with Honors.
The most common and traditional way to complete an Honors degree is an Honors major. Honors majors are available in every department and degree program in the College. (Most Honors students doing double majors do one Honors and one non-Honors; Honors major may also be combined with academic minors. There are no Honors minors.)
Talk to an Honors major advisor—in any department you’re interested in--to find out what that Honors major entails. Don't know whom to contact? Your Honors Program general advisor can tell you who the Honors major advisor is in every department. Some departments would like you to get involved in research projects before you declare an Honors major; others have courses you should take. In any case, you should find out what comprises the Honors major before you decide whether or not to go for it.
Take courses—this may seem obvious, but taking courses in departments whose subjects intrigue you is the best way to explore a field and test whether or not you want to pursue it. Taking courses is also the best way to meet faculty, whom you can get to know and who might become an advisor or help you to find an advisor for your thesis. Courses will also generate ideas for questions and issues as possible thesis topics.
Apply—some departments have formal application processes with deadlines for Honors majors. Check department websites and talk to Honors major advisors for details and deadlines. Other departments have less formal arrangements: check with the Honors major advisor to make sure you’ve done everything required.
Research and write your thesis—this is the traditional capstone experience to an Honors major and almost all departments require a thesis to graduate with Honors. Written in the senior year, the thesis is your first experience creating new knowledge in your subject, making a definite contribution to scholarship in your field.
You’re not alone writing the thesis, of course (though you’ll have many hours alone working on it!). You’ll have a faculty thesis advisor, and in some departments there is a thesis seminar that serves as a sounding board for ideas (as with History majors), resources for problem-solving, and a support group. You may enroll in credit hours to build thesis-writing into your academic schedule in your senior year. In most cases, the thesis builds upon earlier research experiences you’ve had, either in class or in a lab research group. Thesis topics often emerge from work you do in earlier, apprenticeship research activities, so if you’re in a lab group or a UROP project, talk with your research supervisor about the possibilities of developing your work into a thesis topic. If you want to pursue Honors in two majors, you may either write two theses or, with permission of both departments, you may write one thesis for both Honors majors.
Honors students have the opportunity to apply for Honors Summer Fellowships, which allow students to live on campus (generally between their junior and senior years) with a stipend for the summer.
Remember, your thesis is not the last hurdle to jump over before you reach the finish line of your degree: rather, it is an opportunity to explore a subject in depth, to become expert in one particular area, and to do genuinely original work. That may sound scary now, but don’t let the idea overwhelm you. If you lay the groundwork well, when you get there, you’ll be ready for it.
Are you interested in a field of study that cannot be covered by a single department or program in LSA? Do you want to combine your interests in a unique way? Then an Honors Individualized Major Plan might be for you. You may start talking about this with Dr. Wessel Walker, the Honors IMP advisor, as soon as you have an inkling of an idea; you should start making definite plans at the end of your second year or the beginning of your third year. Full details about this plan are in the LSA Bulletin under “Individualized Major Program,” since IMPs are available for all students in LSA.
You will need to develop your ideas into a coherent intellectual statement of what you plan to study and a justification for why your study cannot be conducted in any single LSA department. With Dr. Wessel Walker, you will draw up a list of courses, both prerequisites and at least 30 upper-level credits that will constitute your major. At least two faculty will need to provide their support, not just at the beginning of your project, but supervising your work and guiding your study all along the way. One of them will serve as your thesis advisor and the other will serve as a second reader. Your proposal will include a description of the direction you expect your thesis to take. While you may pick and choose among courses as you go, and develop your thesis idea as you learn, you should have a fairly good idea of what you’re doing when you submit your IMP proposal to the Honors Academic Board. You then embark on your course work and thesis research, working closely with Dr. Wessel Walker and your faculty mentors.
A fairly new alternative to Honors in a major, Honors in the Liberal Arts (HLA) is interdisciplinary in nature, individually designed, and course-based rather than thesis based. See the LSA Bulletin for full details of the requirements for this Honors pattern, and discuss it with your Honors general advisor.
If there is a topic or question that intrigues you but can be best studied from a variety of disciplinary perspectives, you can construct an HLA in which you can study that question through course work.
With your Honors academic advisor, at the end of your second year or the beginning of the third, develop a plan of courses that you might take to look at the issue.
Write a proposal in which you describe the issue you want to address and list the courses which you hope to take. Describe how the courses address the question or topic of your HLA. One course may overlap with your major(s) and/or academic minor. All HLA courses must carry graduate credit in their home department.
Submit your proposal and HLA form, signed by your Honors academic advisor, to the Honors Academic Board for approval before you start taking your courses. HLA is not something you grab on the way out the door as you graduate, so it may not be submitted for approval after the third week of Fall term your senior year.
Take at least five courses on your HLA list, keeping the work in those courses in a portfolio. In the spring of senior year, write a short reflection paper in which you discuss your topic, describe what you learned about it in the courses you took, and how those courses combine to provide you with an integrated look at the topic of your HLA. Submit that essay, and your portfolio, to the Honors Academic Board by April 1st of your senior year (December 1st for students graduating in December). Members of the Honors Faculty Advisory Board will read and evaluate your work, and decide whether to grant you Honors in the Liberal Arts. If so, the notation “Honors in the Liberal Arts” will be noted on the degree print of your transcript.