Sean H. McDowell, PhD, Director
The University Honors program provides students of high ability and motivation the opportunity to join a small, select, two-year-long learning community. For two of its three tracks (“Intellectual Traditions” and “Society, Policy, and Citizenship”), the program is taken during the freshman and sophomore years; for the third track (“Innovations”), students take Honors seminars during the freshman, sophomore, and junior years. Each of the three tracks functions as an alternative to the University Core Curriculum. The program takes a highly distinctive approach to education. While focusing on the historical cultural tradition from ancient times to our contemporary period, it seeks to provide an interdisciplinary dialogue with in-depth learning in the disciplines of philosophy, literature, history, political science, sociology, fine arts, and economics, as well as the history and philosophy of science.
Application to the program is by invitation only. Qualified students who have been admitted to Seattle University will receive a letter of invitation to apply for University Honors. Those qualified students who wish to apply should complete the application materials indicated on the program website: http://www.seattleu.edu/artsci/departments/honors/. Students who are admitted to the program receive an Honors scholarship in addition to the financial aid awarded by the University. University Honors Program scholarships are awarded for four years, so that they follow the student after completing the program.
The Honors program consists of the following three tracks:
- Intellectual Traditions: freshman and sophomore years, 18 courses, 72 credits
- Society, Policy, and Citizenship: freshman and sophomore years, 18 courses, 72 credits
- Innovations: freshman, sophomore, and junior years, 15 courses, 60 credits
The courses in these tracks are taught as Socratic seminars, focused on the major works of the past 2,500 years and arranged in a chronological sequence that allows for students to experience the development of ideas, history, science, and culture over time. Because each seminar in each of these tracks is four credits, Honors students usually enroll in one or more classes a quarter outside the program, which allows them to begin coursework in their major(s) or to explore other disciplines outside Honors while completing the program. Honors students are not required to take University Core courses because the Honors program is an alternative to the Core, another way to satisfy the liberal arts or general education requirements at Seattle University.
All three of the tracks begin in the ancient world and all three share the same two-course beginning with “Origins of Philosophy” and “Polis, Republic and Empires”. Then each track takes a slightly different march through history, culminating in a focus on the 20th and 21st centuries. Through this progression, students learn to see the deep-rootedness of contemporary problems and issues and gain a better understanding of how our world has come to be the way it is. The program provides an excellent foundation for whichever major students choose. The professors who teach in the program are chosen from among the University’s finest teacher/scholars. Outside the classroom, the program also sponsors cultural and social events, and students still have time to participate in a wide variety of activities on campus. From this unique educational experience students come to form a community for shared learning and lasting friendships, both inside and outside the classroom.
In consonance with Seattle University’s mission, the Honors Program encourages service on and off campus as an important dimension of a student’s development as a whole person. Because each student’s life situation is different, the Honors Program does not institute service learning as a program requirement nor grant academic credit for service. However, the program assists students in establishing contact with service resource centers on campus. In addition, some students are able to serve on the program’s Honors Council. Representatives chosen from the first and second year meet once a month with the program director to discuss matters such as student concerns about curriculum or instruction. The Council also plans events and in general, advises the program director.
Each year the Honors Program sponsors the Touchstone Lecture. The lecture is often given by a faculty member who teaches in the program, but in some years an outside speaker is invited to speak on a topic important to a humanities education. The First- and Second-Year Honors students participate in this event as representatives of the program and interact with Honors Program and university alumni, the university community and the public in general. Occasionally, an Honors graduate of advanced standing in his or her major may be invited to give a Touchstone Lecture.
The Honors Program frequently co-sponsors visiting writers and scholars to the University. Honors students are invited to participate in such events by attending presentations or receptions for distinguished guests. The Honors Program also arranges opportunities for student attendance at Seattle’s cultural and intellectual events.
The students have an annual holiday party and an end-of-the-year dinner to celebrate the second year students who are graduating from the program. All Honors faculty are invited to the end-of-the-year celebration.
Students accepted into the University Honors Program are admitted to both their degree program and the Honors Program. Students may thus be advised in both programs until the Honors Program is complete. Students who decide to major in philosophy, English, or history and have completed the University Honors Program sequence in these disciplines will have already accumulated five quarters of foundational credits toward their major. All students are ready to move into upper division course work in their degree program.