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Honors Program

The Honors Program provides an interdisciplinary curriculum of inquiry. Students across the liberal arts spectrum are challenged to develop wide-ranging perspectives. Through literature, writing and research, they develop the habits of mind that lead to excellence in scholarship. The program provides many venues in which exceptional students can meet, share ideas and stretch their intellectual boundaries. Opportunities include honors classes, independent research projects and co-curricular activities and events.

The program is designed to:

  • foster the critical thinking skills, cross-disciplinary curiosity and analytical and creative rigor expected in honors courses in all disciplines;
  • enrich the experiences for entering and lower-division honors students through intellectually challenging course work;
  • encourage upper-level students to undertake Junior and Senior Honors research projects;
  • provide opportunities for students at all levels to interact with an academically energetic cohort, both inside and outside the classroom, during four years of Honors study.

For perspective on the role of an Honors Program within a college academic community, we encourage students to review the information on the website of the National Collegiate Honors Council (NCHC), the association of honors programs and colleges, of which Sweet Briar is a member.

Click here to read the latest issue of our newsletter and find out what's happening this semester in the Honors Program.

Joining the Honors Program 

First-year students who do not join the Honors Program at the start of their first semester may seek designation into the Honors Program after one semester on campus, and no later than the end of the fall semester of sophomore year.

Students seeking designation must be recommended by a Sweet Briar College faculty member and submit an application to the Honors Committee. Students must have a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.3 at the time of application and must maintain a cumulative GPA of 3.3 or higher to retain eligibility.

The student’s application must include:

The Honors Committee will consider the strength of the recommendations, the student’s statement of interest, her academic program and her course load. The Committee will make a determination regarding evidence that supports the student’s likelihood of success in the Honors Program. The student and her adviser will be notified in a timeframe coordinated with the advising and registration period for the following semester. 

Transfer students who are invited into the Honors Program as incoming new students may submit a petition to the Honors Committee during their first semester at SBC, requesting honors credit for alternate course work in order to meet the honors course requirements for the Honors Degree. Transfer students who do not join the Honors Program as incoming new students will follow the same procedure as all other students (described above) who wish to apply for admission into the Honors Program.

Honors Courses  

Honors courses are more rigorous than standard courses. Honors courses “[help] students understand how scholars and artists think about problems, formulate hypotheses, research those problems, and draw conclusions about them.”
(NCHC — nchchonors.org/faculty-directors/honors-course-design)

They often demonstrate pedagogical innovation through new approaches within a discipline or through cross- or inter-disciplinary study. In a level-appropriate way, students typically (but are not unreservedly required to):

  • Engage in open exploration and discovery
  • Acknowledge and confront complexity in creating new knowledge, rather than passively accepting received knowledge
  • Are intellectually adventurous
  • Conduct original research and/or creative endeavors
  • Focus on primary texts and source
  • Interrogate and challenge fundamental assumptions


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.

  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. They may also fulfill requirements for a departmental major or minor at the discretion of individual departments. All honors seminars require the permission of the instructor to enroll.
    1. 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.

  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. To register for an honors variant, complete the attached Honors Variant Contract and submit it to the registrar by the deadline.


    
Honors Course Information for students who join the program after one semester on campus:

    • A student accepted into the program at the end of her first semester (fall) should begin her honors course of study by taking a First-Year Honors Seminar in the spring; she also may take an honors variant (as a substitute for the missed First-Year Honors Inquiry). Students who enter the program this way and are in good standing will be eligible to apply for the Pannell Scholarship.

    • A student accepted into the program at the end of her second semester (spring) should begin her honors course of study by taking a 200-level honors seminar during the fall semester of sophomore year. She also will need to take two additional honors courses before graduation as substitutes for the missed First-Year Honors Experience. The two courses must include at least one honors seminar at the 200 or 300 level and may include an honors variant. It is strongly recommended that the student take a 200-level honors seminar in the spring semester of the sophomore year to maximize her options and flexibility later.

    • A student accepted into the program at the end of her third semester (fall of the sophomore year) should begin her honors course of study by taking a 200-level honors seminar during the spring semester of sophomore year. She also will need to take two additional honors courses before graduation as substitutes for the missed First-Year Honors Experience. The two courses must include at least one honors seminar at the 200 or 300 level and may include an honors variant. It is strongly recommended that the student also take an additional honors course (seminar or variant) in the spring semester of the sophomore year to maximize her options and flexibility later.

Graduating in the Honors Program 

Departmental Honors
Departmental Honors in the major is awarded to those students who successfully complete a Senior Honors Thesis project in their major. Departmental Honors at one of three levels — Honors, High Honors or Highest Honors — will be indicated on the student's transcript and will be announced at graduation.

Honors Degree
The Honors Degree is the culmination of an honors course of study at Sweet Briar College, and may be sought with or without Departmental Honors (a Senior Honors Thesis project). The award of the Honors Degree is announced at graduation and is noted on both the student's transcript and diploma.

Activities and Opportunities 

  • Honors Colloquia
  • Honors Program Student Council
  • Honors Student Travel Grants
  • Honors Summer Research Program
  • Honors Journal
  • MARCUS Conference