The College, recognizing its special responsibility to students with superior ability, has established a four-year program to provide opportunities for greater depth of study throughout the undergraduate years. Michigan Honors is a four year program. In each term of the first and second years, students elect two Honors courses among the total of four courses normally comprising their schedules. In the junior year students are admitted to an Honors major ("major") from among approximately forty departments and programs in the College. Students may also choose to pursue Honors in the Liberal Arts.
Among the features of the Honors Program are special Honors courses and Honors sections in regular courses, opportunities to participate in the research projects of faculty members, or in individual research, faculty-student seminars, and special academic advising.
All departments and interdisciplinary programs offer Honors versions of their majors, which are coded as Honors Plans. At the beginning of the third year, or when it is appropriate in the department's process, students may apply to a departmental Honors major. Students who meet departmental criteria are eligible to apply whether or not they have previously been in the Honors Program. Admission of upperclass students is determined by LSA departments and programs. Students will be required to have a cumulative GPA of 3.4 to graduate with Honors; they may embark on an Honors major before they have reached that threshold, but the minimum should be attainable by the time they graduate.
Students who are accepted into an Honors plan automatically become LSA Honors students.
Honors majors are described under the relevant departmental listings. Candidates for graduation with Honors must perform very well in courses and also demonstrate ability in original thesis work, and, in some majors, pass a comprehensive examination. Effective in Fall 2004, students graduating with an Honors plan are required to earn an overall GPA of 3.4. Individual departments may have higher GPA requirements for courses in the major. Check Honors plan guidelines in individual departments..
Many departments require their Honors majors to register for special seminars and independent study research courses. During the senior year, Honors majors carry out research and write a thesis under the direction of a faculty mentor. With only a few exceptions, graduation with Honors requires the completion of a Senior Honors thesis.
After an evaluation of the thesis and the overall academic record, Honors department advisors recommend that students graduate with an Honors degree.
The department will then send one of four possible recommendations to the Honors Office: "No Honors," "Honors," "High Honors," or "Highest Honors." No Honors is given for work that does not meet departmental standards, and for students with GPAs under 3.4 ("No Honors" is not noted on the transcript or diploma). The other three will be posted on the final transcript and diploma. Honors majors are described under the relevant departmental listings under Majors & Minors.
Students may also petition the Honors Program for approval of an Honors Individual Major Program (HIMP). Information about the Honors Individual Major Program is available in 1330 Mason Hall.
In some rare circumstances, departments may ask the Honors Academic Board to graduate with Honors a student whose cumulative GPA is below the required threshold at the time of graduation. The request should be made by the faculty advisors who knows the student's work and history best, but must be endorsed by the Director of Undergraduate Studies and the Chair of the Department. The letter(s) for this request should explain the student's circumstances, describe the Honors work, and provide a justification for making an exception to the GPA requirement.
The Honors IMP is intended for exceptional students who wish to undertake a liberal arts program of study not currently available in an existing departmental major or program. HIMPs are interdepartmental or interdisciplinary in character and include courses from a variety of sources. While the HIMP encourages diversity and flexibility, each HIMP must have an identifiable academic focus within LSA, an appropriate disciplinary base, and unifying theme, and culminate in the writing of an Honors thesis. An HIMP should not be a specialization within an already existing major. It should include an adequate number of prerequisite courses.
Since HIMPs require an unusual level of intellectual competence and maturity, an overall GPA of 3.5 and, in most cases, a 3.7 in courses related to the HIMP subject are required for admission to the program. The Honors Academic Board reviews all proposals.
Graduation with "Honors," "High Honors," or "Highest Honors" is granted upon recommendation of the thesis advisor and readers.
Honors Advising. Students interested in submitting an HIMP should schedule an appointment with Dr. D.L. Wessel Walker, Associate Director of the Honors Program, to discuss goals and procedures. A formal prospectus, developed in consultation with appropriate faculty advisor, is then submitted for review and approval by the Honors Academic Board.
Honors in the Liberal Arts (HLA) provides an alternative to the traditional Honors major as a means to earn an Honors degree. The degree is intended for Honors students who have been academically successful during the first and sophomore years and who wish to explore and develop deep interests across major boundaries through especially advanced work primarily outside the major. This work may be elected either in addition to an Honors major or to supplement a non-Honors major. The courses proposed for the HLA must represent areas or aspects of a central theme which span the curricula of several departments or programs. Only one HLA course may come from any of the student's major(s) or minor(s). HLA proposals will reflect the unique academic interests of each individual student. Students who make this choice will graduate with Honors in the Liberal Arts. It is possible for students to complete both Honors in the Liberal Arts and Honors major degrees if they complete a sufficiently rich and challenging curriculum outside the major in the third and fourth years.
Requirements for Honors in the Liberal Arts
- Completion of the Honors Program requirements in the first two years: eight (8) Honors courses, including two (2) Texts and Ideas courses.
- Submission of a proposal and list of potential courses to the Honors Academic Board before the end of the junior year. Students should consult with an advisor while preparing their proposal.
- Five (5) HLA courses, each carrying departmental graduate credit (a minimum of 15 credits), to be selected in consultation with an Honors advisor. Four (4) must come from outside the student's major and minor.
- Students will submit a portfolio of work completed in their HLA courses to the Honors Program in the term they plan to graduate. This work will be evaluated by a committee, which will include faculty, to ensure that the academic program is sufficiently rigorous and includes written expression of a caliber that will warrant awarding the HLA.
- An overall GPA of 3.5.
Students are admitted to the Honors Program by invitation of the Director, though inquiries are welcomed from any highly motivated student. Approximately 10% of incoming first-year students are invited into the program, but continuance is based on academic accomplishment. Students may jointly enroll in Honors and other LSA programs, such as the Residential College, the Comprehensive Studies Program, or other MLCs, or in LS&A/Honors and another school, such as Music or Engineering.
Honors Admissions considers a number of factors when reviewing students: the high school GPA; the difficulty of the curriculum; teacher and counselor recommendations; the student's intellectual interests, enthusiasms, and goals; achievement test scores, SAT and ACT scores, and the student's essay. The Honors student body is diverse, with a range of backgrounds, scores, and grades. Above all, we look for evidence of exceptional intellectual engagement and energy.
Students who are not invited to participate in the fall of their first year may request admission for the winter of the first year or the fall of the second year. This should be done shortly after grades for at least one semester's work have been reported and prior to the beginning of a new term so that, if admitted, they can enroll in the appropriate Honors courses. Only students with distinguished academic performance in a full set of challenging classes are admitted at the second-year level.
Honors Housing is open to all students who are admitted to the Honors Program, but no student is required to live there. Honors Housing allows students to live near others who are taking some of the same classes, and promotes intellectual interchange and a feeling of community. At the same time, students have access to all of the facilities in the residence hall and can participate in its many programs and activities. Honors RAs run a number of programs through the year to promote community. Information about Honors Housing is sent to all admitted students.
Honors Advising. Perhaps the most valuable aspect of the Honors Program that students consistently mention is the high quality of academic advising they receive from the directors, the entire Honors staff, faculty, and peer advisors. Advising helps students make informed decisions. These decisions range from election of courses to choosing a major, from setting up an independent study to choosing a graduate or professional school, from going abroad to focusing on potential careers. This kind of ongoing dialogue assures that the individual student comes first. Students also profit from discussions with Honors department advisors.
The Honors Program believes that challenging work, including research opportunities, should be available to superior students from the onset of their college education. Several types of Honors courses are offered for first and second year students:
- courses offered by various departments intended only for Honors students
- sections of regular courses for Honors students
- courses sponsored by the Honors Program.
The Honors Core forms the foundation for an Honors education at U M. Designed specifically for Honors students by innovative faculty the Honors Core Curriculum provides rigorous, wide-reaching introductory courses across the three academic divisions in LSA: the Natural Sciences (NS), the Social Sciences (SS), and the Humanities (HU). The Honors Core builds on the fine tradition of our historic Great Books course, which remains a Core Humanities course. The Core extends to other areas the many strengths of Great Books: foundational content, critical analysis, excellent instruction in writing, and social bonding. The Core is also integrative by providing opportunities for interaction between students and faculty in its various courses through electronic media, virtual meetings, and occasional symposia. Because Honors students take Core courses in both first and second years, they have added opportunities to form study groups and friendships more broadly across the Program. Honors students are required to elect three Core courses in their first two years, one Core course in each LSA division. Core courses that are available in any given semester are listed in the Course Guide.
Small seminars (HONORS 250, 251, and 252) enable students to discuss matters of intellectual substance with a senior faculty member on a variety of topics. These seminars enroll a maximum of 15 students.
Some upper level courses also count as Honors courses for first and second year students and many courses may be converted to Honors courses with the agreement of the professor and the Honors Program.
No course elected Pass/Fail will receive the Honors notation on the transcript or be counted as an "Honors" course for the Sophomore Honors Award.
Underlying all the coursework in Honors is the firm belief that students should take learning outside the classroom and engage in an independent study research project (for credit) under the direction of a faculty member. The Honors Program strongly encourages qualified and able students to do independent study or research. These options allow students to concentrate a considerable amount of time and effort in an area of particular interest, to develop intellectual relationships with members of the faculty and research staff, and to make more informed decisions about the Honors thesis and perhaps even long-range goals. Students are encouraged to look for a research placement when they have had adequate preparation to make their participation useful to the project and interesting for them. Honors academic advisors will be happy to talk with students about strategies for finding a project and a mentor.
Honors research tutorials are available in any term by permission of the Honors Office. First-year students and sophomores elect HONORS 291 and 292 and may serve as research assistants for faculty researchers, receive instruction in research methods, or participate in some phase of University or individual research. Comparable courses are available for juniors (HONORS 390) and seniors (HONORS 490).
The Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP) is another avenue through which to find a research placement. Some departments (for example, chemistry and psychology) maintain lists of available research projects. Many of our students find research work by directly contacting faculty whose areas of specialization interest them.
General guidelines for underclass Honors students, if they are to remain in good standing in the Honors Program, are based on standards developed during the Program's history. They are designed to provide a sound base for the undergraduate experience and to allow students to acquire knowledge, develop analytic skills, exercise creative abilities and critical faculties of mind.
The basic four requirements for an underclass Honors student are:
- an average of two Honors courses per term for the four full terms of underclass Honors
- a course load of 14-18 credit hours
- an overall grade point average (GPA) of 3.4 or better
- the Texts and Ideas requirement.
The Sophomore Honors Award was created to encourage students to take full advantage of the opportunities in the Program and to recognize outstanding achievement during the freshman and sophomore years. To be eligible for this award, students (who were freshman prior to F14) must:
- Obtain a minimum grade point average of 3.7, with no grade below a "C" in any course.
- Complete an average of two Honors courses per term during the first four full terms (fall/winter) they are at the University of Michigan, including two terms of Texts and Ideas courses.
- Average 14 credits per term during the first four full terms they are at the University of Michigan.
- Apply for the Award after the conclusion of the sophomore year. Applications are available online and in the Honors Office.
Students are also encouraged to seek out supervised research or small seminar classes where they engage with a reasonably advanced topic.
During the senior year, Honors majors carry out research and write a thesis under the direction of a faculty mentor. With only a few exceptions, such as Math and Computer Science, graduation with Honors requires the completion of a Senior Honors thesis. This consists of detailed, original research in a student's chosen field. The thesis is normally completed during the senior year. Length and format requirements vary by department. Thesis research and writing is normally done under the direction of a professor who shares the student's areas of interest.
Many departments require their Honors majors to register for special seminars and independent study research courses. Other departments do not have these courses, so their students can choose to enroll in HONORS 490. Since thesis research and writing most often extends beyond one term, the course may be assigned a "Y" grade for the term or terms prior to completion. This simply means "extended course" or "work in progress." At the completion of the thesis, one letter grade will be assigned for all the terms involved. Unlike an "I" (for an incomplete), the "Y" does not remain on the record.
After an evaluation of the thesis and the overall academic record, Honors department advisors recommend that students graduate with Honors. Deadlines and procedures for evaluating senior theses vary by department. Some departments have a committee that evaluates all theses, whereas others are based primarily on the judgment of the student's advisor and the Departmental Honors advisor.
The Department will then send one of four possible recommendations to the Honors Office: "No Honors," "Honors," "High Honors," or "Highest Honors." No Honors is given for work that does not meet departmental standards, and for students with GPAs under 3.4 ("No Honors" is not noted on the transcript or diploma). The Honors Academic Board will accept petitions from departments requesting exceptions to the above minimum GPA requirements if there is compelling evidence that an Honors student's final GPA does not adequately represent the student's record of outstanding academic achievement. The other three recommendations ("Honors," "High Honors," "Highest Honors") will be posted on the final transcript and diploma. These are separate from the Distinction awards, which are also posted on graduates' diplomas and transcripts. Levels of Distinction are awarded on the basis of the student's final cumulative GPA.
All seniors are eligible to apply for senior thesis and travel grants. These include the Graf Research Grant, the Hellman Family Grant, the Davidson Grant, the Kennedy Travel Grant, and the Cutcheon Research and Travel Grants. Information is available in the Honors Office, and on the Honors website.
Honors Thesis Intent Form for the Upper-Level Writing Requirement:
Honors students have the option of using their senior theses to satisfy the Upper-Level Writing Requirement. A Sweetland Center for Writing Thesis Intent Form is available in the Honors Office, and must be filled out by the student and the thesis advisor. An Honors Director will then approve the request, and it will be forwarded to the Sweetland Center for Writing for processing. This form should be completed within the first couple of weeks of the term the student plans to finish the thesis. Completion of the requirement hinges on satisfactory completion of the thesis. The form is available in the Honors Office or is downloadable from the Honors website http://www.lsa.umich.edu/honors.
Deep Blue Archive. The Honors Program recognizes the significance of the scholarship in Honors theses by making it permanently available to the academic community. This can be done by Honors students depositing their thesis in the Honors Thesis collection of the University of Michigan's Deep Blue electronic archive. Every term after graduation, the Honors academic auditor sends all Honors graduates information and web links to submit the Honors thesis in the Deep Blue archive.
In 1981, the trustees of the Helen L. DeRoy Testamentary Foundation of Detroit established the Helen L. DeRoy Visiting Professorship in Honors to invite distinguished persons in business, government, labor, law, writing and various scholarly disciplines to teach seminars for Honors students. Since enrollment in seminar courses is limited, there is usually an application process for these courses.
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