The first two years in the Honors Program allow students to explore various academic disciplines and to create connections within an intellectual community of peers, faculty, and local leaders. Every first-year student must take at least one Introductory Honors seminar; as an added benefit, these courses also meet USU’s General Education Breadth requirements. The Honors seminars investigate big questions about cultural, socio-economic, scientific, and technological issues facing our global community and thus introduce students to shared concerns across academic disciplines.
In addition to their coursework, Honors students participate in at least three co-curricular events each year. Sponsored by colleges, departments, and the Honors Program, these academically oriented events all extend learning beyond the classroom and create a sense of campus community for students. The Honors program deepens this experience by offering regular special opportunities for students to meet and converse with faculty, visiting scholars, and performers on campus.
During sophomore year, students may continue to take Honors seminars for additional USU Breadth credit. Beginning in Spring 2016, they may also enroll in a “Think Tank” seminar that satisfies one of USU’s General Education Depth requirements. These courses unite scholars and community leaders in seeking creative solutions to specific local challenges. Honors will offer three sections of the Think Tank annually — one in each depth area (Humanities and Arts, Life and Physical Sciences, and Social Sciences) — and each section will approach the same problem (always focused on Cache Valley, but changing every year) from a different disciplinary angle. The sections will be taught at the same time so that faculty across disciplines can coordinate field trips, hold larger group discussions, or even teach one another’s sections at times. Topics might range from understanding and creating sustainable agriculture in Cache Valley to devising physical and aesthetic improvements in area senior centers to forging links between the arts and sciences in local elementary schools. Sophomores continue to attend at least three co-curricular activities per year and enjoy special Honors opportunities to interact with faculty and visitors on campus.
If the first two years in the Honors Program allow students to ask big academic questions and to join a scholarly community on campus, junior year allows them to discover practical applications for the skills learned in their majors. Attending co-curricular activities takes on new meaning as students declare majors: they now represent their respective disciplines at interdisciplinary events. Transfer students and new applicants may join the program as juniors and still graduate with Honors, providing they complete all junior- and senior-year requirements.
The Honors program offers juniors three main ways to apply their knowledge to real-world problems: the Honors “Think Tank” courses (3 credits/points each, see Second Year), contracted projects between students and mentors, and study abroad or internship credits. Each contract (3 points) is for a minimum 20 hours of academic work outside class, and this work can include research with professors, internships not taken for course credit, grant writing, scholarly presentations, or service projects. Students who choose to complete an internship or study abroad for academic credit may use up to 6 credits/points of their experience toward Honors. Students must earn a minimum of 9 practical-application Honors points, combining the above options in any way they choose.
Senior Honors students must complete capstone or thesis projects in their majors. These projects vary according to discipline, but all involve focused research or creative reflection in the major and yield a final product with professional and intellectual value for the student. These products may take many forms, including a traditional thesis; a single- or co-authored paper based on sustained research; a performance, fieldwork experience, or exhibition with thoughtful process analysis; or a detailed professional portfolio that goes well beyond the normal requirements of the major. Seniors have the opportunity to join interdisciplinary discussion groups exclusively for senior thesis writers and to share their work with other interested Honors students, alumni, and faculty. As the most experienced members of the Honors intellectual community, seniors also take on leadership roles in Honors Student Council, the Honors Advisory Board, and clubs and organizations within their departments and colleges. Their attendance at co-curricular activities by senior year should be driven, at least in part, by their involvement in shaping those activities for the campus community.