One of the ways MCLA explores its Liberal Arts mission is to foster a cohort of passionate
students - students who are intellectually engaged with each other and the world,
who love books, writing, and learning for their own sakes, whose curiosity ranges
beyond conventional disciplinary boundaries, and who crave intellectual challenges.
The honors program aims to offer a home for such students. The idea behind honors
at MCLA is not that you are undertaking more work, but that the work you undertake
is more interesting.
Any MCLA student may apply at any time to be a member of the honors program by meeting
with the director. To remain a member of the program in good standing and receive
its benefits and prerogatives, students must maintain a cumulative GPA of at least
3.2 and take at least one honors course each academic year. Completion of the honors
program, and graduation with All College Honors, requires completion of at least six
honors courses (18 credit hours, at least half at or above 300-level) with a grade
of B or better in each of them, and a cumulative GPA of at least 3.4
Honors is an academic program, analogous to an academic minor concentration, which
is compatible with any major (or even, with careful advisement, double major). Many
of the courses cross-list within departments, but each is designed specifically as
an honors course - reading-intensive, writing-intensive, intimate, participatory,
interdisciplinary, and offering opportunities for individual and collaborative research.
Students who aspire to become honors students, regardless of their past academic records,
may request an interview with the program director to be admitted provisionally into
the program. Those with an academic track record at MCLA are eligible if their cumulative
GPAs are 3.2 or above.
Remaining a member in good standing of the program entails maintaining a cumulative
GPA of at least 3.2, and taking at least one honors course during each academic year.
Completing the program to graduate with all-college honors involves completing a minimum
of six, three-credit honors courses (at least half at the upper division) with a grade
of B or better in each, and having a GPA of at least 3.4 upon graduation.
Some honors students choose to graduate as Commonwealth Scholars in addition to All
College Honors. This option involves a year-long process of researching and writing
an interdisciplinary thesis, culminating in a public presentation and defense in the
Spring. The Commonwealth Scholar makes an additional presentation at the Commonwealth
Undergraduate Research Conference in Amherst. If this challenge interests you, start
a conversation about the possibility sometime early in your junior year. Prospectus
and Thesis guidelines here.
Many honors courses, especially at the lower division, are designed specifically
as CORE courses. Some honors courses can also be used to fulfill requirements for
your major and minor programs, with departmental permission. You will need to consult
your department chair or advisor to determine this on an individual basis.
Part of the point of the program is to get students out of their comfort zones, doing
intensive intellectual work in areas beyond their specialties (and bringing the investigative
tools of those specialties to other subject-matters). Thus it is actually best to
select most of your honors courses outside your major or division.
MCLA's campus is rather small, so one measure of whether you might be honors material
is your ability to locate the center on your own. (Hint: it's in Mark Hopkins Hall,
None. The MCLA Honors Program is an academic program (a bit like an interdisciplinary
academic minor). We have no induction ceremonies, no keys, no dues, and no national
directories to buy.
Only if you choose to. As an honors student, you may take whatever honors courses
you like, in consultation with the honors directors, who serve as secondary academic
advisors (after your major advisor). It is a very good idea, however, to succeed at
a 100-level honors course before diving into the deep end.
Honors work is not designed to be more work, but rather more interesting work, which
is to say more challenging and engaging, and hence also more fun. Specific course
requirements vary from course to course, and some courses will have a specific honors
project. Either way, honors students are generally expected to do background and supplemental
reading on their own initiative, and to take the lead in class in drawing the other
students out and steering the discussion in intellectually stimulating directions.
This varies a bit with different courses and professors, but in general honors courses
are reading intensive (with a preference for primary-source material), writing intensive,
interdisciplinary, collaborative (most are small seminars), and present opportunities
for independent research. All are designed specifically to take students who want
to be challenged and push them to new levels, in fascinating areas of inquiry.
The honors directors, in consultation with the honors students and faculty, develop
the schedule of honors courses. We regularly develop or repeat specific courses in
response to student interest. As an honors student, you will be invited to a gathering
at least once a semester, one purpose of which is to brainstorm about the future honors
schedule. Of course, if you can't make those meetings, the honors directors always
welcome your ideas and suggestions at any time.
Part of what it means to be an honors student is to participate fully in your own
larger learning process, seeking out intellectual and cultural experiences to attend
and discuss with friends. We encourage you to do this as much as possible, and to
try things you know nothing about rather than sticking to what you are already interested
in. Another important principle in honors learning is autonomy--making your own choices,
as an adult, about what events to attend and when. Thus we have the strong expectation
that you will participate in Honors-sponsored and many other events, but we have no
formal requirement, and do not take attendance.
We would consider that a good sign. Feel free to contact the Director of the Honors
Program, Professor Zack Finch at D.Zachary.Finch@weissmann-gilles.net or 413-662-5137.