Honors Program

Honors Program Director: Spencer Magleby; Professor; Fulton College of Engineering
Honors Program Associate Director: Dennis R. Cutchins, Professor of English
Honors Program Assistant Director: Julie C. Radle
Honors Program Advisement Supervisor: 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 interdisciplinary study of big or "great" questions. Through coursework, research, writing, and hands-on experiences, students explore various approaches to learning 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 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 and on the official transcript of grades. It is widely recognized as an indication of exceptional academic achievement. University Honors graduates are recognized during University graduation exercises with regalia and an honorary banquet.

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 and maintain eligibility. Interested students begin by completing an online enrollment as a Pre-Honors student and completing introductory courses. 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. Honors Program advisors are available throughout a student's program to facilitate enrollment and help students plan toward 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, the Honors Program Office (102 MSRB), various classrooms, and the Martha Jane Knowlton Coray Lecture Hall (321 MSRB).

The Honors Program sponsors a variety of events including discussion groups, lectures, concerts, symposia, socials, thesis poster sessions, and an Honors Study Abroad experience at Cambridge. 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 whose members receive hands-on leadership training and experience as they advance the Honors Program’s mission through activities, events, marketing, and other initiatives designed to cultivate an Honors community of scholars. 

Scholarships & Funding

The Prestigious Scholarships Committee, chaired by the Associate Director of the Honors Program, assists undergraduate students interested in applying for prestigious, externally-funded, merit-based, competitive scholarships and fellowships for graduate study. Students interested in these scholarships (e.g., Truman, Rhodes, Marshall, Fulbright, Gates-Cambridge, etc.) should contact the Scholarship Coordinator in the Honors Program Office (102 MSRB or national.scholarships@byu.edu) for more information. Students do not need to be enrolled in the BYU Honors Program to be eligible for these graduate-level scholarship opportunities, though Honors students are encouraged to apply.

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 undergraduate 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 Office is available on a walk-in basis to answer questions about the program (102 MSRB). To maintain Honors eligibility and graduate with University Honors, a student must be an admitted, daytime, undergraduate student in good academic standing, and:

  1. Enroll as a Pre-Honors student and complete HONRS 110 and 120.

  2. Complete enrollment interview.

  3. Complete the Honors curriculum requirements.

  4. Complete the Honors leadership development experience.

  5. Complete the Honors thesis requirement.

  6. Maintain an overall GPA of 3.0 or higher.  

Detailed Explanations of Requirements for Graduation with University Honors

Honors Enrollment Process and Interview

Students who wish to participate in the Honors Program should enroll as a Pre-Honors student on-line at http://honors.byu.edu and complete HONRS 110 and 120.  Students then interview with an Honors advisor to complete their enrollment as a committed Honors student.  Honors advisors help students develop plans toward Honors graduation, and consult on Honors Program requirements throughout their program. The enrollment process is the door to a community of broad-thinking, engaged scholars and to all of the courses, activities and opportunities the Honors Program offers. 

Honors Curriculum Requirement

The central focus of the Honors curriculum is the interdisciplinary study of big or Great Questions (e.g., justice, human agency, relationships, ethics, etc.).  Courses are designed to model different disciplinary approaches to these questions, to explore interdisciplinary ideas, 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 21.5-24.5 credit hours as follows:

  • HONRS 110 (.5 credit): Introduction to the Honors Experience

  • HONRS 120 (2 credits): Introduction to Interdisciplinary Thinking

  • HONRS 22x series (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 requirements and two GE requirements in designated categories. Topics and GE designations vary each semester.

  • HONRS 320 (3 credits): Great Questions Tutorial. This capstone to the Honors interdisciplinary core provides group and individual instruction in researching and writing the Great Question essay, an interdisciplinary essay on an approved question of the student's choosing. This essay is not a second honors thesis; it broadens where the honors thesis tends to narrow a topic.

  • HONRS 310/390R/391R (4.0 credits): Foundations of Interdisciplinary Leadership & Leadership Practicum (see Leadership Development Experience below).  

  • HONRS 499R (3.0-6.0 credits): Honors Thesis (see Thesis Requirement below).

  • Students must earn a B grade or better in these courses to receive Honors Program credit, and maintain an overall GPA of 3.0 or higher to maintain Honors Program eligibility.

Leadership Development Experience

Typically during their second or third year at the University, Honors students will participate in a substantive, hands-on leadership experience comprised of a foundational instructional course, followed by a practicum.  HONRS 310 provides instruction in the foundational theories, principles and concepts of leadership, specifically in the context of interdisciplinary teams. It lays the groundwork for the students' practical leadership experience, which follows in HONRS 390R.  Here students gain hands-on leadership experience through approved interdisciplinary projects, programs, internships, or partnerships with the Honors Program. Students selected to serve on the Honors Student Leadership Council complete this requirement through HONRS 391R.

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 with a 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 attend a series of thesis workshops. Then, students work with their Department Honors Coordinator to assemble a thesis committee consisting of a faculty advisor, a second faculty reader, and the Department Honors Coordinator.  In consultation with their committee, students select a thesis topic and begin background research and preparation.  Students submit a formal written thesis proposal, approved by all members of the thesis committee, for final approval from the Honors Program Executive Committee. Guidelines for writing the proposal are available in the Honors Program Office (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 learning grants from their individual college 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 research and writing the thesis, each student must successfully defend their thesis. 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. Complete Honors thesis guidelines and policy documents are available at: https://honors.byu.edu/thesis.