History and Description

The College Honors Program aims to convene a vibrant, diverse community of students and faculty who approach the challenges of independent work with a spirit of curiosity and resilience. 

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).

Ordinarily, students enter the Honors Program as second-semester sophomores, after an intensive application and selection process. A small number of students are admitted as juniors each year as well. Students entering in the second year enroll in a common course, taught by two faculty members from different disciplines. In the junior or senior year, students take an additional seminar, and are expected to complete a thesis prospectus by the end of the spring semester of the junior year. As seniors, honors students register for two semesters of thesis research and writing, equivalent to one course each semester. The thesis is an ambitious, highly original project in any area, and is supervised by a faculty advisor and one or more readers. Theses represent some of the most advanced work done by undergraduates at Holy Cross, and are featured in presentations made by thesis writers at the academic conference each year. 

Additionally, honors students on campus must participate in the honors colloquium, which meets on Tuesdays. The colloquium offers opportunities both to engage with a wide range of faculty and to develop crucial skills that prepare students not only for independent thesis work but also for professional and academic challenges that arise after graduation.

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