Jul 27, 2021  
2015-2016 Undergraduate Catalog 
2015-2016 Undergraduate Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

University Honors Program

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Sean H. McDowell, PhD, Director
Web: http://www.seattleu.edu/artsci/departments/honors/



The University Honors program provides students of high ability and motivation the opportunity to join a small, select, two-year-long learning community. The program is taken during the freshman and sophomore years and 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, and history, along with other areas of study in the humanities.


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.

Program Requirements

The Honors program consists of seventeen courses over two years for a total of 68 credits. Because each seminar is four credits, Honors students usually enroll in one class a quarter outside the program, allowing them to begin coursework in their major or to explore other disciplines outside Honors. Completing the Honors course sequence satisfies the University Core Curriculum requirements except for the Module 1 UCOR 1200 - Quantitative Reasoning  and UCOR 1800 - Inquiry Seminar in the Natural Sciences  courses. Students who do not satisfy these two requirements through AP credits must take these courses at SU.

For the first five terms, students in the program take three interrelated Honors courses each term in a seminar style learning environment that emphasizes student interaction, along with the development of critical writing skills. Then, in the Spring term of the second year, they take two seminars focused on problems or issues in the contemporary world. 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.

Co-curricular Activities

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 Christmas 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. 

Degree Program

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.

Program Requirements

Required Course Sequence

 Typical program of study:

Research Practices and Oral Exams

The University Honors Program seeks to provide students with a comprehensive understanding of the humanities in an historical framework. With the exception of the final term, in each of the other five term students take as a cohort three courses in three areas within the humanities, with a majority of the courses in philosophy, literature and history. Beginning with ancient civilization, each term processes through a historical period, culminating with a focus on the contemporary world in the sixth and final term. In each term, the texts being discussed are treated in-depth. By linking the three courses each term through a historical sequence, students are able to better integrate their learning across the different disciplines. The focus on the historical cultural tradition from ancient times to the contemporary age recognizes that this tradition has been interpreted differently in different times. It is also a tradition that has been shaped by its interactions with different cultures. At a time when many borders between cultures are crossed and new ideas are discussed, University Honors seeks to instill in students a desire to question and understand the world by making them conscious of who they are both as historical beings and as actors in the present. Within the atmosphere of continuous interdisciplinary dialogue, the University Honors Program aims at instilling in students a love of learning that encourages them to think critically, broadly, and creatively about the world in which they live. 

Throughout the curriculum, the program employs seminar method that combines the Socratic dialogue with the Jesuit tradition of challenging students to learn for themselves. The seminar method is essential in teaching students to become self-motivated learners who can articulate their insights cogently in the context of the seminar. Whether through the pursuit of answers to individual questions or the intensive study of general problems, students learn quickly how to critically assess ideas and to better understand their own points of view. The ideas and issues raised in discussions frequently lead to further discussions and questions that are then considered in subsequent seminars. The ideal seminar discussion generates a dynamic of learning and discovery among students. 

It is customary that Honors students write expository papers for their seminars. Because writing is a process, the program involves peer review of papers in draft. With the help of the professor, students form small groups for a paper conference to plan, read, critique, and improve each other’s papers.  Students typically read the papers of the group members and write evaluations of each essay, as does the professor. Through the intensive writing process students learn not only to find their own voice, but also to hone their skills for writing scholarly papers in a discipline.

At the end of each term, students take an oral exam with all three professors present. The oral exam is the occasion for a student to demonstrate his or her ability to analyze and synthesize the course materials and the ideas that are common to the three courses in each term. The oral exam develops skills the student carries far beyond the Honors Program into situations that involve interviews of all kinds for scholarships, graduate schools or jobs.

Once every term the faculty and students from their respective classes come together for a plenary session outside of the classroom. Typically, the session involves attending a cultural event, such as a play or a musical performance, which has a connection with the historical period the students are currently studying. The plenary also can be a lecture by a visiting scholar or a visit to an exhibit. Faculty and students together have an open discussion after each session.

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