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Honors Program Handbook and Policies

Spring 2024, Revised and Approved by Honors Faculty Council

  1. Eligibility
  2. Requirements for University Honors Scholars
  3. Honors Level Work
  4. Types of Honors Classes
  5. Timely Progress on Completion of Honors Classes
  6. Capstone
  7. Activity Point Requirements
  8. Probation and Dismissal
  9. Honors Faculty Council
  10. Exceptions

  1. Eligibility

 Incoming First-year Students: To be eligible for the Honors Program, students must have a minimum high school GPA of 3.5, plus either an SAT of 1220 (critical reading and math) or ACT Composite of 25. The Honors Program does not superscore. Students with one or the other of these credentials are encouraged to apply and receive conditional admission at the discretion of the Honors Program Director. International students do not need an SAT or ACT score.

 Transfer Students and Current USI Students: To be eligible for the Honors Program, students must have completed a minimum of 15 credits with a college GPA of 3.4. Enrollment and grades in dual credit classes do not count toward this minimum.

 We encourage students to join the Honors Program during the first or second year. Students later in their college career can still join the Honors Program, but they may have a harder time rushing to complete the required Honors courses.


  1. Requirements

 To graduate as a University Honors Scholar, students must:

  • Complete a USI undergraduate degree with a cumulative GPA at or above the Honors Program minimum GPA.
    • For students entering the Honors Program before Fall 2018, the minimum Honors Program GPA is 3.25.
    • For students entering the Honors Program in Fall 2018 or later, the minimum Honors Program GPA is 3.4.
  • Complete 7 Honors classes with a B or above.
  • Make timely progress on completion of Honors classes (see below).
  • One Honors class must be a 100-level Honors seminar, either UNIV 101.Hxx, HONS 101, or HONS 102.
  • One Honors class must be the Capstone (see below).
  • Complete 3 activity points per semester (see below).

 University Honors Scholars are recognized in the following ways:

  • University Honors Scholar designation on diploma
  • Notation on official transcript of Honors credit earned for each course and University Honors Scholar
  • Honors cords presentation ceremony
  • Honors cords worn at Commencement


  1. Honors Level Work

 Honors level work means a different kind of work, not just more work. Honors courses and projects enable broader, deeper, and more complex learning. Honors work should be student-driven and faculty-supported, enabling students to take a leadership role in their education.

Honors projects should involve some of the following:

  • Critical reading of primary texts
  • Multiple-draft paper writing
  • Synthesis of materials & connections across disciplines
  • Creative research focusing on process rather than product
  • Metacognitive questions such as “How do you know?”
  • Community engagement & projects that address real-world problems and lead to engaged citizenship
  • Enhanced opportunities for student-faculty interactions
  • Student-led seminar discussions and presentations
  • Problem-solving with creative approaches
  • Integrative learning focusing on local and global connections


  1. Types of Honors Courses

 Stand-alone Honors Courses: These courses are open only to Honors students. The classes are designed specifically for Honors students, which usually means small class-size, challenging and stimulating course work, and a high level of interaction with classmates and faculty.

 Cross-listed Honors Courses: These courses are listed twice in the class schedule, once as a  regular section and once as an Honors section. A subset of seats in the course is reserved for Honors students, but the class will consist of both Honors and non-Honors students. Honors students will be responsible for an additional Honors component designed by the faculty. Students in cross-listed courses do NOT have to fill out an Honors contract for the course. All students who receive a B or above in the class will receive Honors credit for the class, unless otherwise reported by the faculty.

 Contract courses: Almost any course at USI may be taken for Honors credit by adding an Honors component to the course. The student needs to discuss the contract with their faculty and fill out an Honors contract form, including a description of the agreed-upon Honors component and signatures from both the student and the faculty. An Honors component should require 15-30 additional hours of work and should be designed to enhance understanding of the course material. Students and faculty are encouraged to think about creative Honors components. Ideas for Honors components include:

  • Design a website or an app
  • Make a video
  • Complete a creative work--write fiction, paint, sculpt, do a performance piece—even if the class isn’t an arts class, this could be relevant and meaningful!
  • Perform original research in the lab
  • Translate texts
  • Lead a class session or give a major presentation
  • Write a research paper
  • Do a literature review or comprehensive annotated bibliography
  • Engage in a relevant service project

 Contract forms are available on the Honors webpage and are due in the Honors Program office (OC 1070) by these deadlines:

  • Monday of the 4th week of full semester course
  • Wednesday of 2nd week of 8-week course
  • Friday of 1st week of any course less than 8 weeks long

 The Honors Program will contact faculty at the end of the semester and ask for a grade report, where the faculty will provide the grade for the course and the grade for the Honors component. Students must earn a B or above for both the course and the Honors component to receive Honors credit.

 Students must write Honors contracts for classes they are currently taking.

 Students may withdraw from the Honors contract without withdrawing from the course itself, after notifying the Honors Program and their faculty.


  1. Timely Progress on Completion of Honors Courses 
  • Students must complete one Honors course each academic year in order to remain in good standing with the Honors Program. If students have already completed all Honors courses except for the Capstone, they can remain in good standing and wait until their junior or senior year to complete their Honors Capstone. If students complete all 7 Honors courses, they can remain in good standing and do not need to take additional Honors courses. 
  • To graduate as a University Honors Scholar, students must have completed at least 4 Honors courses before the beginning of their last semester at USI. In other words, students cannot attempt to finish more than 3 Honors courses during the semester before they are scheduled to graduate. 


  1. Capstone

 These updated Capstone guidelines apply to students who enter the Honors Program in Fall 2018 or after.

 The Capstone involves significant original research, design, or creative work related to the student’s major or minor. The Capstone must be presented in a public academic, professional, or creative forum, such as the Endeavor Awards Symposium or a symposium hosted by the Honors Program. 

1. Capstone Project

  • Involves the production of new knowledge, insights, or creative work rather than a summary of previous work in the field of study.
  • Is more in-depth and challenging than a typical Honors component. Typical Honors components should take 15-30 hours of work throughout the length of a semester. A Capstone Project should take 30-45 hours of work. Much of this additional work may consist of preparation for presenting the Capstone.
  • May take the form of a research paper, a performance, art work, creative writing, an applied design project, a software program, a poster presentation, or some other form appropriate to the specific discipline.
  • May supplement and extend a required major-related capstone project.
  • May be connected to a 300- or 400-level class in the major or minor. If the Capstone is not related to a current course, the student will register for HONS 499 Capstone Project, a 1-credit class.
  • Must be supervised by a faculty in the major or minor.
  • Must be approved by the Honors Program director.

2. Capstone Presentation

Students are required to present their Capstone publicly in some form. Depending on the student’s discipline, the presentation could be in the form of:

  • A lecture
  • A poster presentation
  • A reading or “unveiling” of a creative work
  • A concert or other type of performance
  • A “defense” of the research with the opportunity for questions, comments, and evaluation by the audience

 The presentation will take place at the end of the semester in an Honors-approved setting, such as the Endeavor Awards Symposium or a Honors Program symposium. Students who present their work at a professional conference or different type of showcase may be able to count this as their presentation at the Honors Program Director’s discretion.

 A presentation to other students in a class setting is NOT sufficient to satisfy the presentation requirement.

3. Capstone Timeline

  • Students generally complete their Capstone during their junior or senior year. Students are encouraged to complete their Capstone before their last semester at USI.
  • Students are encouraged to submit their Capstone Proposal Forms by the end of the semester before they intend to complete their Capstone. They MUST submit Capstone Proposal Form by Monday of the 3rd week of a full semester class or by Wednesday of the 2nd week for an 8-week class. (Note: this is one week earlier than the submission deadline for regular Honors contracts.) This enables students to spend adequate time preparing their Capstone during the semester.
  • Students are encouraged to meet with faculty EARLY in this process to make sure they find a Capstone supervisor.
  • Honors Program Director will examine each proposal within three days and immediately contact students with any problems.


  1. Activity Point Requirements 

The Honors Program encourages students to be actively involved and engaged on campus. To meet this goal, students must earn three activity points each semester. 

Activity points can be earned by attending:

  • Any event sponsored by the Honors Student Assembly.
  • Academic and cultural events on campus.
  • Events to promote the Honors Program, such as open houses, orientations, student information fairs, and major & minor fairs. 

The Honors Program Director will announce upcoming approved events via the listserv. Students can request approval for additional events by email the Honors Program Director. 

Students attending Honors Student Assembly events will sign in to receive their points. Students attending other approved events on campus will email the Honors Program with a thoughtful paragraph explaining what they learned at the event. 

Points do not carry over from one semester to the next, except by special permission from the Director ahead of time. 

If students do not meet their points requirement one semester, they must complete all required points plus one additional point the following semester in order to regain good standing. 

Students studying abroad are exempt from the activity point requirement. 

Students joining the Honors Program in the middle of the semester will be required to earn points on a pro-rated basis that will be clearly communicated to them. 


  1. Probation and Dismissal 

GPA Honors Probation: Students whose cumulative GPA falls below the Honors Program minimum GPA will be placed on Honors probation. 

  • For students entering the Honors Program before Fall 2018, the minimum Honors Program GPA is 3.25.
  • For students entering the Honors Program in Fall 2018 or later, the minimum Honors Program GPA is 3.4.

 Students on Honors probation have one semester to raise their cumulative GPA above the Honors Program minimum to regain good standing. If they are unable to raise their GPA, they will be dismissed from the Honors Program at the end of their probation semester.

Points Honors Probation: Students who do not earn three activity points in a semester will be placed on Honors probation. During the next semester, they must complete all required points plus one additional point in order to regain good standing. If they do not complete those points, they will be dismissed from the Honors program at the end of their probation semester.

Summer sessions: Summer sessions do not count as a semester for the purposes of Honors probation, unless the student takes the equivalent of a full semester of credits during the summer. For example, if a student is placed on Honors probation after spring semester, they will have until the end of fall semester to raise their GPA, even if they take summer classes

Academic integrity: Students in the Honors Program should commit themselves to responsibility, honesty, and integrity in their academic work. If a student violates USI’s Academic Integrity policy as found in section 5.0 of the Student Rights and Responsibilities: A Code of Student Behavior, they may be removed from the Honors Program. The Honors Program Director will be notified after a student is found in violation of the policy. After the first offense, the Director will meet one on one with the student to discuss the situation. Depending on the severity of the incident, the circumstances, and the student’s behavior, the Director may decide to remove the student from the Honors Program at that point. The Director may also decide to work with the student and offer them another chance to perform their academic work with integrity. If a student violates the policy again, they will be removed from the Honors Program. The USI Academic Integrity policy includes issues of cheating, fabrication, plagiarism, and interference. USI students should make particularly sure to obey the policies of USI and their professors regarding use of AI generative tools.


  1. Honors Faculty Council 

The Honors Faculty Council (HFC) includes the Honors Program Director, two faculty representatives from each of the four colleges (College of Liberal Arts, College of Nursing & Health Professions, the Pott College of Science, Engineering, and Education, and the Romain College of Business), one representative from University Division, and three student representatives from the Honors Student Council, typically the President, Vice-President, and Secretary. The Honors Program Director is the chair of the HFC. Other members of the campus community may be invited as ex-officio representatives as needed. 

Faculty and staff representatives to the HFC will typically serve two year terms and will be selected by the Deans of the Colleges and the Assistant Vice President for Student Success. Student representatives will serve during their elected period of service to the Honors Student Council. The HFC will meet at least twice a semester and may meet as often as monthly. 

All major changes to the Honors Program must be discussed and approved by the HFC. 


  1. Exceptions 

The Honors Program Director has the ability to make exceptions to all policies on the basis of exceptional circumstances. Students wishing to discuss an exception with the Director should email to make an appointment. If students wish to appeal the decision of the Director, they should contact the Office of the Provost.