Honors in the Liberal Arts

You may or may not have heard about a new degree option instituted by the honors program announced last week. I haven’t had the opportunity to write about it here, so I’ll catch everyone up. Announced last week by the honors program, they’ve launched an official Honors in the Liberal Arts website describing the requirements of the new program (see the end of this post). This is the end product of a multi-year process of reinvigorating and transforming the honors program not only to increase its size and activity, but better integrate the freshman and sophomore honors curriculum with the junior and senior year departmental honors programs which generally involve writing a thesis and conducting research. This degree would seem to provide an option for people who start in honors but opt not to write a thesis, but would like the option of pursuing a more challenging academic schedule. The Daily covered the announcement in their story, “Honors Program Offers New Degree,” and editorialized in favor of the program this week, “New honors degree option good for students,” causing Philosophy Professor and Honors program director Stephen Darwall to quip that it was “Very nice to have some good press” on his honors blog. In general I think I support the program because it increases options for students and encourages a multidisciplinary approach, although I think writing a thesis can be a rewarding experience.

“Requirements for Honors in the Liberal Arts

1. Completion of requirements of the Honors Program in the first two years: eight Honors courses, including 2 “Literature and Ideas” courses.

2. Five HLA courses (a minimum of 15 credits), to be selected in consultation with an Honors advisor. Four must come from outside the student’s concentration. The Honors Program will maintain and update the list of courses approved for HLA. Roughly speaking, any course that carries credit for a graduate (M.A. or Ph.D.) program in the department in question will be eligible for HLA credit. For example, since 400-level courses in Philosophy generally carry credit in both LSA and in the M.A. and Ph.D. programs in Philosophy, they will, with a few exceptions, qualify.

3. Students will submit a portfolio of work completed in their HLA courses to the Honors Program in the term they plan to graduate. This work will be evaluated by a committee, which will include faculty, to ensure that the academic program is sufficiently rigorous and includes written expression of a caliber that will warrant awarding the HLA.

4. An overall GPA of 3.4.” (Source: Honors website)

Author: Rob