Because honors students come from all majors, there’s no uniform answer. Suffice it to say that if an honors student can develop a workable projectand find an advisor to work withandget their thesis proposal approved by the Faculty Senate Honors Committee, then that project can move forward. We’ve had everything from dances to novels to scientific studies to service learning projects and traditional scholarly theses.
What are the most common forms of theses/senior projects?
Traditional genres include scholarly, scientific, pedagogical, and creative
Students may also elect to complete experiential learning, volunteerism/community action, action research projects, and leadership portfolios.
What are the advisor’s responsibilities?
Students seek advisors during fall term of junior year, when they are enrolled in H 303: Honors Thesis Orientation with the Honors Director. At this stage, the advisor serves as a consultant or mentor — the student’s primary professional contact for content-based guidance. Ultimately, the project belongs to the student, and they will need to accept responsibility for the planning and work. But many students find their advisors to be invaluable sources of advice and feedback and, occasionally, motivation and reprimanding, when necessary.
During a student’s senior year, the advisor’s role increases in importance. They become responsible for providing feedback on the student’s work within a timely manner. If professional counsel is the main responsibility during junior year, then draft-planning and -reading are the main responsibilities during senior year.
Advisors also provide guidance, when needed, about IRB approval for research involving human subjects.
Advisors are also responsible for informing the Honors Director if an honors thesis/senior project is unacceptable. The thesis/senior project is “graded” as pass/no credit, and the grade is submitted by the Honors Director.
How often should advisors and students meet?
Some advisors are closely engaged in planning, professional counsel, and deadline-setting. Others are more hands-off. The student & mentor relationship will vary.
The Honors Program does not mandate a minimum number, or weekly schedule, of meetings, but it is expected that advisors and students share the responsibilities of communicating about the thesis and monitoring its progress towards completion.
Meetings should become more frequent during the student’s senior year, as the project enters drafting stages and professional feedback becomes important.
Does an advisor receive credit or money for working on honors theses?
The advising relationship is rewarding in and of itself, for it gives you a great opportunity to serve as a mentor for a bright, imaginative undergraduate.
More formally, for every completed Honors thesis, the thesis advisor of final record will receive 1 full academic credit of course release. In other words, if an advisor mentors three Honors theses to completion, and that professor teaches in a three-credit department, then they earn a three-credit course release.
Departments that require a thesis as part of their major/minor requirements bank only half a credit hour, as do co-advisors (assuming the honors thesis is the same as used for department requirements).
Honors credits cannot be redeemed until one has earned sufficient credits for a full-course reassignment in one’s department. They cannot be portioned out.
Honors credits are also not “cashable,” and there’s also a strict no-double-dipping policy for Honors credit banking: if a faculty member does an independent study with a student, then the independent study is banked (and cashable) within that faculty’s department; however, they forfeit the honors credits for that thesis project.
For more information about credit banking, including important contingencies for departments that require their own senior projects/theses, please consult the appendix in the Contract Bargaining Agreement.
What thesis prep classes (or other formal guidance) do honors students enroll in or receive?
During fall term of their junior year, honors students enroll in H 303: Honors Thesis Orientation, taught by the Honors Director. A student’s thesis proposal emerges out of this class.
During winter term of junior year, the students’ thesis proposals come before the 12-person Faculty Senate Honors Committee for review. The key points of that review are communicated to students and advisors following the meeting.
During spring term of junior year, the students enroll in H 353: Honors Thesis Development, taught by the Honors Director. Students begin writing their thesis/senior project during this class, often beginning their literature review or another relevant section.
During senior year, the students enroll in H 403: Senior Honors Project for a minimum of 1 credit up to a maximum of 6 credits. This is where the students’ grades for the thesis are recorded.
During senior year, the students work independently with their advisors to complete their projects. .
Depending on a student’s major, they may also be enrolling in thesis prep classes within their major department (see history, math, anthropology, etc.)
Should an advisor offer Independent Study courses with their honors student(s)?
No. Honors students enroll in thesis credit within their honors curriculum. If thesis credit is required within an honors student’s major, then they should enroll in those major courses instead. The only exception is H 303, which is required for all honors juniors.
Please note the language about independent study courses on the Honors Credit Banking webpage. In brief: departmental independent studies on thesis topics are not “bankable” for course release.
Does the Honors Program provide a rubric or other evaluative criteria for the thesis/senior project?
Because Honors students are spread out among so many different majors, it’s proven undesirable to create a set of universally applicable guidelines for the thesis. This makes sense when one considers that we have creative, scholarly, pedagogical, scientific and service-learning theses in Honors. Often there’s little (or no) common ground between them. That’s also why your relationship with your student is primary. To a large extent, you and your student will determine the deadlines and criteria that will govern this project.
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