History and Description

The College Honors Program was founded in 1962 by Professors Edward Callahan (English) and Frank Petrella (Economics). In keeping with the multidisciplinary spirit of the Program, the directorship has rotated every three to six years among faculty members from the humanities, mathematics and natural sciences, and social sciences: Directors have included Professors Nancy Andrews (Classics), Ross Beales (History), Patricia Bizzell (English), Noel Cary (History), David Damiano (Mathematics), Mauri Ditzler (Chemistry), William A Green (History), James Kee (English), Suzanne Kirschner (Psychology), Richard Matlak (English), Theresa McBride (History), Ellen Perry (Classics), Richard Rodino (English), Mathew Schmalz (Religious Studies), Susan Elizabeth Sweeney (English), Victoria Swigert (Sociology), Frank Vellaccio (Chemistry), and Helen Whall (English).

Students enter the Honors Program as second-semester sophomores, after a rigorous selection process. They will enroll in a common course, the sophomore Honors seminar, taught by two faculty members from different disciplines. Students take a second upper level seminar in their junior or senior year.   In the senior year, all honors students register for two semesters of thesis research equivalent to one course each semester. The senior thesis is an advanced independent project, which can be either in or out of a student's major and which, in its ambition and scope, represents the finest work of some of the best students of the College. The senior year culminates with the honors class presenting its research publicly to the College community at the Academic Conference.

In addition to the seminars, all students on campus participate in the Honors Colloquia, a series of interdisciplinary discussions and advanced academic practicums that take place on Tuesday evenings and are organized by the Honors Director. 

A major purpose of the College Honors Program is to bring together highly qualified and motivated students, regardless of major. The program nurtures an intellectual and social community where students meet and work with other students who are willing to explore how knowledge from different areas can be tested and integrated across disciplinary lines.

In addition to the Interdisciplinary College Honors Program, a variety of departments offer their own, discipline-based, honors programs. Among these are: Chemistry, Economics and Accounting, English, History, Mathematics, Philosophy, Political Science, Psychology and Sociology and Anthropology. Students interested in these programs should contact the relevant department.

Examples of Recent Honors Seminar Topics

  • The British New Wave
  • Contemporary Art and Revelation
  • Emotions Engendered: Classical Literature and Its Modern Reception
  • Life Lessons: Antigone to Nero
  • The Musical Film
  • Messiahs and Worlds-to-Come
  • The Problem of Historical Memory
  • Revolution: Paris, 1789-2019
  • Tolstoy’s War and Peace