The Honors Program is designed for students of exceptional initiative and ability who enter the program as first-year students by invitation, or by application within the first two years of their college career. The Honors Program is designed to foster the kinds of critical thinking, cross-disciplinary curiosity, analytical and creative rigor expected in Honors courses in all disciplines, to enrich the experiences for entering and lower-division Honors students through intellectually challenging course work, and to provide significant opportunities to interact with an academically energetic cohort during four years of Honors study. Sweet Briar students who are not accepted into the program as incoming first-year Honors students may apply for admission after the fall semester. Students who transfer to Sweet Briar from another institution also may apply for admission to the program.
There are four types of Honors courses. With the exception of the First-year Honors Inquiry and First-year Seminar, Honors courses are open to all interested students, with permission of the instructor.
1) First-year Honors Inquiry: Incoming Honors students begin an Honors course of study by enrolling in a one-credit Honors Inquiry class in the fall. The Honors Inquiry class provides a foundation in critical and creative thinking across and among disciplines. By engaging with issues related to a theme, current news events, or the research interests of Sweet Briar faculty, students will be introduced to practices of scholarship expected in a sustained Honors course of study at Sweet Briar.
2) Honors Seminars: seminars developed especially for the Honors Program designed to foster critical and creative thinking. Honors seminars are offered at the 100-, 200-, and 300-level. Honors seminars are often interdisciplinary and some are team-taught. All Honors seminars require the permission of the instructor to enroll.
a) First-year Honors Seminar: all first-year Honors students enroll in the 100-level first-year seminar in the spring semester. This three-credit course provides first-year Honors students with a shared academic experience designed to foster intellectual curiosity and to develop analytical skills, The course will take a topical approach that looks beyond the approaches of a single discipline, and will further develop critical and creative thinking, and the research and writing skills necessary for upper-level Honors course work.
3) Honors Sections: departments with multiple sections of regularly offered introductory courses may offer one of the sections as an Honors section.
4) Honors Variants: individual or small group tutorials attached to regularly offered courses. Students may request that a course be offered as an Honors variant.
At the conclusion of an Honors course of study, Honors student at Sweet Briar College have two options for programmatic recognition: I.) The Honors Degree and II.) Departmental Honors
I. The Honors Degree
The Honors Degree is the culmination of an Honors course of study at Sweet Briar College. A student wishing to pursue the Honors Degree should consult with her advisor and the director of the Honors Program as early in her college career as possible. The Honors Degree may be sought in conjunction with or without Departmental Honors (the Honors thesis component).
1) Successful completion of seven Honors courses which will include:
a) the First-year Honors Inquiry
b) the First-year Honors seminar
c) one 200-level Honors seminar
d) one 300-level Honors seminar
e) two additional Honors courses (seminar, variant, or section) and
f) the 470 Advanced Honors course in the student's major department
2) A cumulative grade point average of 3.4 or higher at graduation
Students who are not admitted to the Honors Program at the start of their first year may petition the Honors Committee to accept alternate work as the equivalent of the first-year Honors course(s) in fulfillment of the Honors Degree requirements, if they are accepted into the program after their first semester. Transfer students may also petition the Honors Committee for Honors equivalency credit for appropriate work completed at their previous institution to count toward the course requirements for the Honors Degree. Students who complete a Sweet Briar approved course abroad may petition the Honors Committee to accept it as the equivalent of an Honors course.
Students must earn a grade of B or higher in the first-year sequence (the Inquiry and seminar, overall) and in all subsequent Honors courses in order to receive Honors credit.
The award of the Honors Degree is noted on both the student's transcript and diploma. A student who also successfully completes the Senior Honors Thesis project in her major department will be awarded the Honors Degree with Honors in the major (Departmental Honors).
II. Departmental Honors
In order to receive Departmental Honors at graduation, a student must successfully complete the Senior Honors Thesis project. A student may earn Departmental Honors independent of the Honors Degree. The student will work closely with her faculty thesis advisor in developing her topic and executing her Senior Honors Thesis project. Departmental Honors at one of three levels (Honors, High Honors, Highest Honors) will be indicated on the transcript of those students who have successfully completed the Senior Honors Thesis project and these honors will be announced at Commencement. A student who is interested in completing Departmental Honors should consult with the department chair in her major, her faculty thesis advisor, and the director of the Honors Program early in her college career, particularly if she plans to spend a semester or more abroad. Students should confirm whether their major department requires the 470 Advanced Honors course as a prerequisite to initiating a Senior Honors Thesis project. If required by the department, the course must be completed before the start of the student's senior year. In no case shall a student be enrolled simultaneously in both 470 and 472.
To be eligible to initiate a Senior Honors Thesis project, a student must meet the following requirements by the start of the fall term of her senior year:
1) Completion of at least three courses that count toward the major
2) If required by the department, completion of the 470 Advanced Honors course in the major, or an approved substitution. If the Advanced Honors course is not required by the department, then the student may propose a Senior Honors Thesis project without having completed that experience.
3) A minimum cumulative grade point average of 3.0
Senior Honors Thesis Project
The Senior Honors Thesis project provides the Honors student with the opportunity to design and complete a long-term project in her major department. At the beginning of the fall semester of her senior year, the student submits a thesis proposal based on preliminary work done during her junior year. If the thesis proposal is approved, the year-long research project of creative endeavor moves forward under the direction of a faculty member from, or approved by, her major department. Periodically, she may meet with other students doing thesis work and with the director of the Honors Program. The Senior Honors Thesis project must be completed in a form specified by the major department no later than two weeks before the end of classes in a student’s final semester. The thesis project is evaluated by a committee made up of the candidate’s thesis advisor, a second reader from the College, and a third reader from outside the College, most often faculty from another college. The committee also conducts an oral examination on the thesis and determines the level of honors (Honors, High Honors, Highest Honors) to be awarded. To be recognized for Honors work, the student must earn a grade of B+ or higher on her Senior Honors Thesis project. A candidate who does not meet the requirements for successful completion of the Senior Honors Thesis project is transferred to candidacy for the regular degree and will receive credit for independent study for her work.
Prerequisite: Open to first-year Honors students; permission of the instructor. This First-year Honors Inquiry will examine recent questions, innovations, and discoveries in biology and medicine. Students will explore the scientific content of each topic as well as the social context. Students will conduct research utilizing digital and print resources, and will share the results of their exploration in written and oral presentations. Discussions and group work will be emphasized. Offered alternate years.
Prerequisite: Open to first-year Honors students; permission of the instructor. This is a First-year Honors Inquiry course. Virginia is the birthplace of historic preservation, and this seminar explores the movement’s impact in the state - and on our campus - with an emphasis on philosophical and ethical approaches, including the ongoing debate over preservation vs. restoration. The central tenets of historic preservation will be subject to the critical evaluation of competing perspectives, and supplemented by first-hand examination of historic structures, including visits to local sites such as Monticello and Poplar Forest.
Prerequisite: Permission of instructor. This is a First-year Honors Inquiry course. This course introduces students to the molecular world and the impact that molecules have on human systems and behaviors, ecological systems, the industrial world, war, art, and emerging technologies. We will discuss a feature molecule each week and consider it from structural and funtional perspectives. Students will learn about atoms, bonding, and molecular properties through case studies and will learn valuable research skills in terms of literature review.
Prerequisite: Permission of instructor. This is a First-year Honors Inquiry course. Part of what it means to be human is to be aware of your mortality - to know that one day you will die. What should such an encounter with death motivate in us? How should we think about ourselves as existing in time? In a seminar format, we will engage these questions by reading various texts in philosophy and literature.
Prerequisites: One First-year Honors Inquiry course and permission of the instructor. Not open to students who have received credit for HIST 108. A First-year Honors seminar. We often define “persons” only biologically, Homo sapiens sapiens. Yet the word applies to non-human entities (corporations), while some humans have been denied “personhood” (women and slaves). Many current legal and ethical controversies concern the “personhood” of fetuses, animals, etc. This course combines philosophical, historical, and legal perspectives on who (or what) should be granted the status and rights of “personhood.” Offered alternate years. III.W, V.1
Prerequisite: One First-year Honors Inquiry course and permission of the instructor. A First-year Honors seminar. We explore different forms of love in different times and places, and look at how different disciplines approach the study of love. From the philosophical discourses on love in Plato’s “Symposium,” to the ecstasy of St. Theresa, to the role of love in family life across cultures, and to the global reach of Valentine’s Day, we bring perspectives from anthropology, literary studies, history, philosophy, religion, psychology, and marketing. III.W
Prerequisites: Fall term Honors Inquiry course and permission of instructor. The literature that emerged from the September 11, 2001, attacks will be used as a lens through which to examine the various ways in which artists respond to dramatic and devastating political and social events. Both earlier and more recent instances of artists' responses to such events will be discussed. Texts will include Don DeLillio's Falling Man, Mohsin Hamad's The Reluctant Fundamentalist, and Jonathan Safran Foer's Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. V.2
Prerequisites: Fall term Honors Inquiry course and permission of instructor. This course will examine what it means to be Mayan today. While much has been written about the so-called Mayan prophecy for 2012, less attention is paid to the actual fate of the people to whom it is attributed. What do we know about the Mayans' ancestors, what happened to them after the European conquest, and what is the social, political, and economic situation of Mayan groups today? Reading will include historical accounts, travel writings, legends, poetry, and testimonials. V.4
Prerequisites: Fall term Honors Inquiry course and permission of instructor. Mathematical topics such as geometry, proportion, and symmetry often arise in analyses of artwork, and some artists explicitly incorporate mathematical ideas into their designs. This course explores mathematics in art, from prehistoric times through the present. The focus is on the visual arts, including architecture, but mathematics in music is also discussed.
Prerequisite: Permission of the instructor. The late Carl Sagan advised that “extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence.” Students in this course will critique pseudoscientific claims scientifically. In the process, distinctions between science and pseudoscience will become evident, leading to a discussion of their relative value and impact on society. Possible topics include: ESP, creationist science, homeopathy, and concerns over power lines. Offered alternate years. This course cannot be taken on a P/CR/NC grading option.
Prerequisites: GNDR 102, or 100- or 200-level ANTH course, and permission of instructor. How are gender and sexuality imagined and experienced in today's global political economy? This course focuses on the changing roles of men and women in the family and workplace due to transnational immigration and exchange. Case studies include the feminized economies of maids, nannies, and service workers, and the creation of masculine and gay identities on the global stage. May be counted as an auxiliary course toward the minor in gender studies. III.O, V.4, V.5
Prerequisites: ENGL 104 and permission of the instructor. Not open to students who have received credit for ENGL 233 in Spring 2008. A workshop-based course exploring the ethical and moral issues surrounding writing about poverty and privilege through writing creatively about our own experiences. Readings will include fiction, nonfiction, and poetry representing the lives of the poor, middle class, and wealthy. Emphasis will be placed on recognizing stereotype and cliche, how writers dramatize and critique the effects of poverty on individuals, families, and communities, as well as attitudes toward poverty and wealth. May be counted as a workshop toward the major or minor in English/creative writing. III.W, V.6b
Prerequisites: Sophomore standing and permission of the instructor. This course will examine the rich array of contemporary literature throughout the world. Students will read and discuss the writers’ work and will explore the particular historical, cultural, and political circumstances out of which these works have emerged. Students will be encouraged to apply their own particular interests in the humanities (e.g., anthropology, history, government, modern languages) to their research projects, oral presentations, and written assignments. V.2
Prerequisite: Permission of the instructor. We will study how - through decoration, manipulation, or depiction - cultures respond to the land and objects that populate it. The class will cover topics such as the stone lines of the Nasca in Peru, visionary paintings of the Aboriginal people of Australia, nationalistic landscapes of J.M.W. Turner in Great Britain, Zen rock gardens of Japan, and feminist public art of the Garbage Girls. A hands-on project will be encouraged. V.4, V.6a
Prerequisite: Permission of instructor. A study, through literature, of French historical figures who have had an impact on people's imagination. We will look at the literary expression of such mythical characters as Charlemagne, Joan of Arc, and Napoleon in plays, poetry, novels, and essays, and also to some extent, in paintings, sculpture, music, and films. May be counted toward the major or minor in French if written assignments and examinations are done in French. III.O, V.2
Prerequisite: Permission of instructor. Students will learn about ancient Egyptian culture and literature. Texts will include tomb inscriptions, imaginative stories, royal stelae, and poetry about life and the afterlife. The class will explore Egyptian religion, daily life, politics and empire, history, and mythology. We will also consider the status and influence of Egypt in relation to the cultures of Greece and Rome. V.1
Prerequisites: One or more 200-level courses relevant to the research project; research proposal must be approved by sponsoring department and dean. Students must be engaged as full-time research assistants on campus for a minimum of eight weeks during the summer. In addition to research duties, the student must complete a culminating paper or project to be mutually conceived by the student and her faculty sponsor. This course is graded P/CR/ NC only.
Prerequisite: Permission of the instructor. Topics will vary by semester and concentrate on interdisciplinary studies in the humanities. Course to be taught by the Honors Fellow and may be repeated when topic is different. Offered alternate years.
Prerequisite: Permission of instructor. Recommended: One course in ANTH, GNDR, HIST, or SOCI. Many people define marriage as a sacramental union between one man and one woman. However, this definition has changed significantly over time. This course charts the varieties of marriage in western history from sibling-marriages of Egyptian pharaohs, to civil unions under Roman law, to Christian sacramental marriage in the Middle Ages. It finally considers the current legal and ethical debates over same-sex marriages. This course cannot be taken on a P/CR/NC grading option. May be counted toward the major or minor in history and as an auxiliary course toward the minor in gender studies. V.1, V.7
Prerequisite: Permission of instructor. Not open to students who received credit for HNRS 191 in Fall 2008. As lifestyles, technologies, and values have changed over time, the relationship between humans and the American landscape has also evolved. Through examination of the issues of food and agriculture, urbanization, and wilderness protection, this course analyzes how and why people's connection with the land has changed through time. The emergence of the American environmental movement is also explored. Offered alternate years. May be counted toward the major or minor in environmental studies and environmental science and the environmental studies concentration for the major in liberal studies. V.1
Prerequisites: One or more 200-level courses relevant to the research project; research proposal must be approved by sponsoring department and dean. Students must be engaged as full-time research assistants on campus for a minimum of eight weeks during the summer. In addition to research duties, the student must complete a culminating paper or project to be mutually conceived by the student and her faculty sponsor. This course is graded P/CR/NC only.
Prerequisites: One or more 200-level courses relevant to the research project; a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.3; and research proposal selected by Honors Committee. Projects are undertaken and completed over eight weeks in the early summer. The student and her faculty sponsor together determine what the student will produce as the culmination of her research project. At the end of the program each student must turn in to the Honors Program and to her faculty sponsor the final product of her research project. The research papers will be published in a special issue of the Honors Journal. This course is graded P/CR/NC only.