Features of the Honors Program

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Specially Designated Courses

Honors courses offer an honors-quality track for satisfying general education courses required for all students. For instance, while all Bellarmine students take a freshman seminar, Honors students choose a specially designated honors section of the freshman seminar. In addition to the freshman seminar, students in the program may earn general education credits such as the literature, science, fine arts, theology, and philosophy requirements, as well as the U.S. Experience, the Transcultural Experience, and the Senior Seminar. These honors courses offer small, discussion-oriented sections. A significant benefit of the seminar sequence is the experience of moving through a series of classes with a group of academically motivated peers, people you will come to know and often cherish, both intellectually and socially.

Honors courses differ from regular courses on a qualitative rather than quantitative basis. In other words, Honors work involves less memorization and more critical thinking and writing, less lecturing and note taking, more interaction and discussion. Thus, we aim to encourage participatory learning through the interchange of ideas between students and professors and among students themselves.

Honors courses are offered in a variety of disciplines and meet general education requirements. In this way, completing the honors program does not require students to take "extra" classes. Honors courses as a whole emphasize the following:

  • Depth
  • Intensity
  • Discussion 
  • Critical thinking 
  • Writing 
  • High standards
  • Student responsibility for learning
  • Assimilation of knowledge
  • Contact with professor
  • Learning opportunities outside the classroom if appropriate
  • Use of primary texts when applicable
  • Reduced class size in many cases

Senior Thesis

During the junior year, Honors students begin designing independent studies under the guidance of a primary advisor and a committee of two other mentors/professors; these projects continue with in-depth study through the senior year, culminating in a Senior Honors Thesis. The Senior Honors Thesis is the capstone of the program and truly a crowning achievement for any undergraduate. This experience provides crucial preparation – and a key credential – for future work in graduate and professional schools (law, medicine, dental, etc.), as well as for many professional careers. Most students produce a thesis in the discipline in which they are majoring, but some students choose to pursue an interdisciplinary thesis or a thesis in a minor area of study. Typically, students develop a committee and topic during the fall semester of the junior year. Honors students receive 3 research credit hours during the two semesters of the senior year as they research and write the thesis. Students present their work at a public celebration held throughout the spring semester of the senior year.

Social Learning Opportunities / Honors Housing

On the social front, throughout the four years, Honors students are invited to a number of formal and informal cultural and social events; we have picnics, receptions, ice cream parties, trips to the zoo, trivia night, movie nights, and more. In addition, tickets to plays, concerts, ballets, and operas are made available to Honors students at no cost. Honors students are invited to meet distinguished visitors to the campus in small group discussions; recently, this has meant that Honors students have been able to engage in discussions with such figures as recent-Poet Laureate Billy Collins, internationally acclaimed novelist Isabel Allende, journalists Andrea Mitchell and Seymour Hersh, best-selling author Michael Pollan, and Pulitzer-Prize winning scientist Jared Diamond, among others. Honors students are invited to dine with faculty and hear faculty discuss their research. Honors students also have the opportunity to take advantage of specialty housing. Suites of rooms/entire floor(s) in one residence hall are designated for Honors program participants, providing the opportunity for more out-of-class interaction and a quieter study environment. Honors housing provides educational and social programming beyond that typical to Residence Life.