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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: 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), Richard Rodino (English), Mathew Schmalz (Religious Studies), Victoria Swigert (Sociology), Frank Vellaccio (Chemistry), and Helen Whall (English).

Students enter the Honors Program as second-semester sophomores, after a rigorous selection process. A common course for sophomores consisting of plenary and seminar sessions is taught by College faculty. Students take a second seminar in their junior year, although students who study abroad as juniors can complete this second seminar requirement upon returning. 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.

For the 2018-2019 academic year, the seminars for juniors and seniors in the fall will be "Machiavelli: Life and Works" taught by Professor Faisal Baluch (Political Science), and "The Ethics of Tainted Legacies" taught by Professor Karen Guth (Religious Studies); next spring, students can take "End-of-Life Care" taught by Professor Ara Francis (Sociology). The topic and faculty for the sophomore seminar in spring 2019, have not yet been announced.

In addition to the seminars, all students on campus participate in the Honors Colloquia, a series of interdisciplinary discussions and advanced academic practicums 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 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 and Sociology and Anthropology. Students interested in these programs should contact the relevant department.

Examples of Recent Honors Seminar Topics

  • Evolving Ethics in Economics
  • Cultures at Risk
  • Tolstoy and Christianity
  • Philosophies of Capitalism
  • High Comedy in the 20th Century
  • Religion and the Erotic
  • The Analogical Imagination
  • Religion and Science in the Media
  • The Forking Paths of Borges
  • The Language Instinct
  • Theatre and Film
  • Religion and Nationalism
  • Memory and Material Culture
  • Revenge, Violence, and Justice: The Ethics of Tragedy
  • Biology, Evolution, and Western Morality
  • War in History and Cinema
  • Green Urbanism: Urban Planning and the Environment
  • Modern Religious Novels
  • Cartography as Art and Science
  • Mind and Consciousness
  • Music, Painting, and Poetry: Paris 1870-1930
  • The Nature of Color and the Colors of Nature
  • Representing the Law in Courtroom Drama
  • The Sociohistory of Medicine
  • Transitions to Democracy
  • Thomas Jefferson's Neoclassical Architecture