Honors Program

Honors Program

Undergraduate Education Honors Program
Department Information: 
102 MSRB
Advisement Center: 
2500 Wilkinson Student Center

Honors Program Director: Spencer Magleby; Professor; Fulton College of Engineering
Honors Program Administrator: Julie C. Radle 
Honors Program Advisement Manager: Vika Filimoe'atu

Participation in Honors

The Honors Program provides a rich and challenging experience for motivated undergraduate students. Its purpose is to develop student-scholars from across the university who will become broad thinkers, creative problem solvers, and influential leaders.  An Honors education is not merely a more intensive general education or a more strenuous program in a major. Rather, it grounds students in broader interdisciplinary inquiry, strengthens leadership, cultivates academic excellence, and develops skills of inquiry.

The central focus of the program is the study of big or "great" questions. Through coursework, research, writing, and hands-on experiences, students explore interdisciplinary approaches and consider ways in which unexpected connections can be found between different disciplines, leading to a deeper understanding of the questions we seek to answer.  Many of the required Honors Program courses will also fill general education core requirements.

"University Honors" is the highest academic distinction awarded by BYU to students at the undergraduate level. This prestigious designation is recorded on the university diploma, on the official transcript of grades, and in the University Commencement program. It is widely recognized as an indication of exceptional academic achievement. Honors graduates are recognized during University graduation exercises at the semi-annual Honors Graduation Luncheon.

Honors is an open-enrollment program, and we invite all students to consider Honors as a way to broaden and deepen their educational experience and achieve the academic excellence they seek.  However, it takes careful planning and consistent effort to complete all program requirements. Interested students begin by completing an online enrollment and face-to-face interview with an Honors advisor in 102 MSRB.  We encourage students to enroll as freshmen or sophomores, but will accept late-joining or transfer students where a reasonable plan to graduation is feasible. Declared Honors students may then register for Honors courses at any time during their undergraduate years. Honors Program advisors are available throughout a student's program to help make and review plans for Honors graduation. 

Facilities and Opportunities Available to Honors Students

The Honors Program is housed in the historic Maeser Building on the southwest part of campus. This quiet corner is surrounded by beautiful grounds and wooded areas. The building is named after Karl G. Maeser, the first principal of Brigham Young Academy (the school that later became Brigham Young University). A bronze statue of Karl G. Maeser stands at the building's east entrance. Constructed in 1911, the Maeser Building is the oldest building on the current campus. The building was restored in 1985 with modern electrical and ventilation systems but retains its historic architecture and decoration, its marble halls richly decorated with oak and brass trim.

The Honors Commons in the Maeser Building provides space to study, meet in informal groups, eat, re-charge electronics, print documents, attend classes, enjoy social events, and interact with other Honors students, faculty, advisors, and administrators.  Facilities include the Honors Reading Room, group-study spaces, vending, rotating thesis exhibits, Honors Program offices (room 102), various classrooms, and the Martha Jane Knowlton Coray Lecture Hall (room 321).

The Honors Program sponsors a variety of events including discussion groups, lectures, concerts, symposia, socials, thesis poster sessions, an Honors Study Abroad experience at Cambridge, and a Late Summer Honors program. Students can participate in inter-campus events with Honors students from other universities and colleges, and are encouraged to present their research at a variety of regional and national conferences.  Students may also be invited to join the Honors Student Leadership Council, a group of student representatives who receive leadership training and experience while assisting with Honors Program events, social activities, and peer-to-peer mentoring functions of the Honors Program.

Scholarships & Funding

The Honors Program assists students interested in applying for national, externally-funded, merit-based, competitive scholarships and fellowships. Students interested in these competitive, prestigious scholarships (i.e., Truman, Rhodes, Marshall, Fulbright, etc.) should contact the Honors Advisement office (102 MSRB or honors@byu.edu ) for more information.  Students do not need to be enrolled in the BYU Honors Program to be eligible for these national scholarship opportunities.

In addition, the Honors Program offers competitive scholarships to advanced honors students, as well as funding opportunities for thesis research, conference presentations, or publication.  

Who Should Participate in Honors?

Any student who wishes to broaden their education through interdisciplinary study and deepen it by producing original research in their home discipline should consider participating in the Honors Program. The most successful Honors students see learning as a way of being, not as an instrument to a credential or a job. They see their BYU experience as a time to avail themselves of the rich and diverse offerings on campus. Honors students benefit from pursuing various opportunities in a community of like-minded student scholars and exceptional faculty from a broad array of disciplines and fields.

Overview of Requirements for Graduation with University Honors

This section provides a brief overview of the requirements to graduate with University Honors. Detailed explanations of each requirement follow this section. The staff in the Honors Program Advisement Center, 102 MSRB, (801) 422-5497, is available on a walk-in basis to answer questions about the program. To graduate with University Honors, a student must be an admitted daytime student in good academic standing, and:

  1. Complete the Honors enrollment and advisement interview.
  2. Complete the honors curriculum.
  3. Complete the honors experiential learning requirement.
  4. Complete the honors thesis requirement.

Detailed Explanations of Requirements for Graduation with University Honors

Honors Enrollment and Advisement Interview

Students who wish to explore the Honors Program should complete a two-step enrollment process: first, enroll on-line at http://honors.byu.edu and second, meet with an Honors advisor as early as possible in their undergraduate program. Consultation with the Honors Advisement Center allows the Honors Program personnel to be aware of students' plans to better assist with registration, help develop plans toward graduation, and consult on Honors program requirements. The enrollment process is the door to a community of well-rounded, enthusiastic scholars and to all of the courses, activities and programs the Honors Program offers. Reasonable accommodations can be made for late-joining or transfer students. Newly enrolled students are recognized at the Fall Honors Opening Evening.

Honors Curriculum Requirement

The central focus of the Honors curriculum is the study of big or Great Questions (e.g., justice, human agency, relationships, ethics). Courses are designed to model different disciplinary approaches to Great Questions, to explore interdisciplinary approaches, and to consider ways in which unexpected connections can be found between disciplines, leading to a deeper understanding of the questions we seek to answer.

To fulfill the Honors curriculum requirements, students must complete 14 credit hours as follows:

  • HONRS 120 (2 credits): Introduction to Great Questions
  • UNEXPECTED CONNECTIONS (9 credits):  Students must complete at least three Unexpected Connections courses (3.0 credits each) that together comprise the Honors Interdisciplinary Core (HONRS 220, 221, 223, 225, 226, 227, 290R). Each course will simultaneously fill Honors core curriculum requirements and the GE requirements in two designated disciplines. Topics vary each semester.
  • HONRS 320 (3 credits): Great Questions Tutorial. This capstone to the Honors coursework provides group and individual instruction in researching and writing the Great Question essay, a multi-disciplinary essay on an approved question of the student's choosing. This essay is not a second honors thesis; it is fundamentally different in that it broadens where the honors thesis tends to narrow a topic.
  • Students must earn a B grade or better in these courses for Honors Program credit.

Honors Experiential Learning Requirement

Typically during their 2nd or 3rd year at the university, Honors students will participate in an approved, substantive, hands-on experience that augments their BYU education and expands learning to the world outside the classroom. To fill the Experiential Learning requirement, students may participate in an approved domestic or international internship experience, Study Abroad program, education-related service initiative, or serve as a member of the Honors Student Leadership Council.

Honors Thesis Requirement

The Honors thesis requirement gives students the opportunity to participate in original research or creative work in the discipline of their major. Honors students typically complete the thesis requirement during their junior and senior years after they have obtained sufficient training in their major to conduct research in a specialized academic field. Generally stated, each student consults witha faculty advisor to choose a thesis topic. This process can work differently in different fields, but in each case an Honors thesis represents independent research of excellent quality that merits publication, presentation, or distribution beyond the campus community.

Students should complete significant course work within the subject area of the thesis (usually at least 30 credit hours, several of which are from 300- or 400-level major courses). The thesis is intended to acquaint students firsthand and in depth with the type of scholarly work that characterizes the field they intend to pursue professionally. For these reasons, only under rare circumstances is an Honors thesis topic outside the major area approved. (In most cases students who complete a thesis outside the major do so in fields cognate to their majors.)

Before students begin work on an Honors thesis, they are encouraged to attend an Honors Program thesis orientation.  Then, students work with the Department Honors Coordinator to assemble a thesis committee consisting of the student, faculty advisor, a second faculty reader, and the Department Honors Coordinator.  In consultation with the committee, students select a thesis topic and begin background research and preparation.  Students submit to the Honors Program Office a formal written thesis proposal that has been approved by all members of the thesis committee and is ready for final approval from the Honors Program Office. Guidelines for writing the proposal are available in the Honors Advisement Center (102 MSRB) or electronically at http://honors.byu.edu. Students can request financial support as a part of the thesis proposal to facilitate their research, and additional funding is available to enable publication or conference presentations for completed thesis projects. Many Honors students also obtain competitive undergraduate research grants from BYU's Office of Research and Creative Activities (ORCA) for Honors thesis work. Personnel in the Honors Program can help students explore the various opportunities available to support their work on an Honors thesis.

After completing thesis research and writing the thesis, each student must schedule and complete a thesis defense. The defense committee consists of the thesis advisor, a faculty reader, and the Department Honors Coordinator who serves as a representative of the Honors Program. After the student has successfully defended the thesis and all final changes are complete, the thesis is published on-line through Scholars Archive, and is bound and added to the collection of Honors Theses housed in the Harold B. Lee Library collection.