What are Departmental Honors?
It is important that we encourage our best students to complete the honors track in their major (students in the Scholars Program are required to do so). The report of the Committee on College Honors, which the Arts & Science faculty approved in April 2005, states that the goal is to have the top 15–20 percent of all graduates complete an enriched curriculum that culminates in a sustained piece of research and writing in the student’s major. The report contains the following provisions, which apply to students entering honors programs in fall 2005 and thereafter:
Students seeking admission to and graduation with departmental honors are expected to have a minimum GPA of 3.65 both overall and in the major. Departments may exercise some flexibility in admissions as follows. In rare cases where a candidate for admission to a departmental honors program falls short of the expected minimum GPA, the DUS or Director of Departmental Honors may petition the Director of College Honors for an exception. In all cases, once admitted, students are expected to maintain the GPA at the stipulated level in order to graduate with departmental honors (the final GPA must be based on a minimum of 64 graded credits in CAS courses). Should there be an exceptional circumstance in which the stipulated GPA is not maintained, the DUS or Director of Departmental Honors may petition the Director of College Honors for an exception. If the case is compelling, the latter will inform the Registrar’s Office of the waiver.
Honors programs must, at minimum, consist of a two-term experience that includes a capstone research project. The capstone project, which typically culminates in a thesis, should reflect sustained original research over two semesters (6-8 credits). The scope and length of the thesis will vary by disciplines, but theses are typically 40–60 pages in length.
Programs are strongly encouraged to initiate, whenever possible, honors coursework in the junior year and to expand requirements to as many as four courses. It should be noted that the Dean’s Undergraduate Research Fund (DURF) welcomes applications from sophomores and juniors.
Final honors projects may be evaluated by a faculty adviser or by a committee. It is important, however, that final honors recommendations for graduation with high honors or honors not be determined by a single faculty adviser or even the DUS, but rather by a standing honors committee of the department, ratified by a vote of the department as a whole. The honors committee should be looking at the GPA when it determines its final recommendation for honors, but that determination should be based on an evaluation of the combination of the thesis grade, coursework, and any other salient aspects of performance in the honors program and the major.
Recommendations for different levels of departmental honors should follow these guidelines: honors will normally be equivalent to A- work; high honors will normally be equivalent to A.
All students completing departmental honors must make public presentations of their work, preferably at the CAS Undergraduate Research Conference (URC) held at the end of the academic year, or in a departmental forum held in conjunction with the URC. (Departments should notify the Director of College Honors well in advance of such a departmental event, so that it can be listed as an off-site part of the URC.)
Students with double majors in discrete, unrelated disciplines must complete honors programs in each major for which they seek honors. Students with double majors in interdisciplinary or related fields may, if the two departments concur, convene a joint honors committee to establish an interdisciplinary research program of coursework that culminates in a single thesis. Similarly, in the case of joint majors, the relevant departments have to work out an agreement on the requirements for honors and on the supervision and evaluation of students’ theses or projects. The joint committee should notify the CAS Committee on Academic Standards of joint projects.
After the end of each semester the Registrar’s Office asks departments/programs to nominate their graduates for departmental honors and to indicate what level of honors. This can now be accomplished directly in Albert via the Graduation Tracking Page (see SIS/Albert information page).