The Honors Program is designed for students of exceptional initiative and ability who enter the program as first-year students by invitation, or by application within the first two years of their college career. Students who transfer to Sweet Briar from another institution also may apply for admission to the program. The Honors Program is designed to foster the kinds of critical thinking, cross-disciplinary curiosity, analytical and creative rigor expected in honors courses in all disciplines, to enrich the experiences for entering and lower-division honors students through intellectually challenging course work, and to provide significant opportunities to interact with an academically energetic cohort during four years of honors study.
There are four types of honors courses. With the exception of the First-year Honors Inquiry and First-year Seminar, honors courses are open to all interested students, with permission of the instructor.
- First-year Honors Inquiry: Incoming honors students begin an honors course of study by enrolling in a one-credit Honors Inquiry class in the fall. The Honors Inquiry class provides a foundation in critical and creative thinking across and among disciplines. By engaging with issues related to a theme, current news events or the research interests of Sweet Briar faculty, students will be introduced to practices of scholarship expected in a sustained honors course of study at Sweet Briar.
- Honors seminars: Seminars are developed especially for the Honors Program and designed to foster critical and creative thinking. Honors seminars are offered at the 100-, 200- and 300-level. Honors seminars are often interdisciplinary and some are team-taught. All honors seminars require the permission of the instructor to enroll.
- First-year Honors Seminar: All first-year honors students enroll in the 100-level first-year seminar in the spring semester. This three-credit course provides first-year honors students with a shared academic experience designed to foster intellectual curiosity and to develop analytical skills. The course will take a topical approach that looks beyond the approaches of a single discipline, and will further develop critical and creative thinking, and the research and writing skills necessary for upper-level honors course work.
- Honors sections: Programs with multiple sections of regularly offered introductory courses may offer one of the sections as an honors section.
- Honors variants: Honors variants are individual or small group tutorials attached to regularly offered courses. Students may request that a course be offered as an honors variant.
At the conclusion of an honors course of study, honors students at Sweet Briar College have two options for programmatic recognition: I.) The Honors Degree and II.) Program Honors
The Honors Degree is the culmination of an honors course of study at Sweet Briar College. A student wishing to pursue the Honors Degree should consult with her advisor and the director of the Honors Program as early in her college career as possible. The Honors Degree may be sought in conjunction with or without Program Honors (the honors thesis component). The requirements are as follows:
- Successful completion of seven honors courses which will include:
- the First-year Honors Inquiry
- the First-year Honors Seminar
- one 200-level honors seminar
- one 300-level honors seminar
- two additional honors courses (seminar, variant or section) and
- the HNRS 470 - Advanced Honors course in the student’s major program
- A cumulative grade point average of 3.4 or higher at graduation
Students who are not admitted to the Honors Program at the start of their first year may petition the Honors Committee to accept alternate work as the equivalent of the first-year honors course(s) in fulfillment of the Honors Degree requirements, if they are accepted into the program after their first semester. Transfer students may also petition the Honors Committee for honors equivalency credit for appropriate work completed at their previous institution to count toward the course requirements for the Honors Degree. Students who complete a Sweet Briar-approved course abroad may petition the Honors Committee to accept it as the equivalent of an honors course.
Students must earn a grade of B or higher in the first-year sequence (the inquiry and seminar, overall) and in all subsequent honors courses in order to receive honors credit.
The award of the Honors Degree is noted on both the student’s transcript and diploma. A student who also successfully completes the senior honors thesis project in her major program will be awarded the Honors Degree with Honors in the major (Program Honors).
In order to receive Program Honors at graduation, a student must successfully complete the senior honors thesis project. A student may earn Program Honors independent of the Honors Degree. The student will work closely with her faculty thesis advisor in developing her topic and executing her senior honors thesis project. Program Honors at one of three levels (Honors, High Honors, Highest Honors) will be indicated on the transcript of those students who have successfully completed the senior honors thesis project and these honors will be announced at commencement. A student who is interested in completing Program Honors should consult with the program chair in her major, her faculty thesis advisor and the director of the Honors Program early in her college career, particularly if she plans to spend a semester or more abroad. Students should confirm whether their major program requires the HNRS 470 - Advanced Honors course as a prerequisite to initiating a senior honors thesis project. If required by the program, the course must be completed before the start of the student’s senior year. In no case shall a student be enrolled simultaneously in both HNRS 470 and HNRS 472 .
To be eligible to initiate a senior honors thesis project, a student must meet the following requirements by the start of the fall term of her senior year:
- Completion of at least three courses that count toward the major
- If required by the program, completion of the HNRS 470 - Advanced Honors course in the major, or an approved substitution. If the Advanced Honors course is not required by the program, then the student may propose a senior honors thesis project without having completed that experience.
- A minimum cumulative grade point average of 3.0
Senior Honors Thesis Project
The senior honors thesis project provides the honors student with the opportunity to design and complete a long-term project in her major program. At the beginning of the fall semester of her senior year, the student submits a thesis proposal based on preliminary work done during her junior year. If the thesis proposal is approved, the yearlong research project or creative endeavor moves forward under the direction of a faculty member from, or approved by, her major program.
Periodically, she may meet with other students doing thesis work and with the director of the Honors Program. The senior honors thesis project must be completed in a form specified by the major program no later than two weeks before the end of classes in a student’s final semester. The thesis project is evaluated by a committee made up of the candidate’s thesis advisor, a second reader from the College, and a third reader from outside the College, most often faculty from another college. The committee also conducts an oral examination on the thesis and determines the level of honors (Honors, High Honors, Highest Honors) to be awarded. To be recognized for Honors work, the student must earn a grade of B+ or higher on her senior honors thesis project. A candidate who does not meet the requirements for successful completion of the senior honors thesis project is transferred to candidacy for the regular degree and will receive credit for independent study for her work.