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 thesis credit 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 2017-2018 academic year, the seminars for juniors and seniors will be "Cultures of Risk" taught by Profressor Daina Harvey (Sociology), and "Evolving Ethics in Economics" taught by Professor Kolleen Rask (Economics); next spring, students can take "Religion and the Erotic" taught by Professor Matthew Schmalz (Religious Studies). For Spring 2018, the topic for the sophomore seminar will be "The Book as a Concept and Object" co-taught by Professor Susan Schmidt (Visual Arts) and Professor Susan Elizabeth Sweeney (English).
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, English, History, Mathematics and Computer Science, and Political Science. Students interested in these programs should contact the relevant department.
Examples of Recent Honors Seminar Topics
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