Revised on March 31, 2011.
- Honors Courses and Contracts
- Requirements for Good Standing in the Honors Program
- Special Cases and Exceptions
- Dismissal, Probation, and Withdrawal
The mission of the University Honors Program is to promote a lifetime love of learning and creative activity; to encourage the spirit of community responsibility; and to enable students to undertake original research or creative work in their chosen field, so that they will be well prepared for graduate study and/or professional employment.
The University Honors Program is part of the statewide Commonwealth Honors Program. The Honors Program is open to qualified undergraduate students from every college and academic department. It is not a separate college, major, or minor. There are approximately 400 students in the UMass Dartmouth Honors Program.
The Honors Program curriculum consists of three parts: Honors courses, a junior-year thesis-preparation seminar, and an independent Honors thesis or project, usually completed in the senior year. Students who complete the Honors Program graduate as Commonwealth Scholars, a statewide recognition of exceptional academic achievement. Graduating Commonwealth Scholars are recognized at the annual Honors Convocation ceremony in May and at graduation in June. The Commonwealth Scholar honor is also inscribed on the diploma and transcript.
In order to graduate as a Commonwealth Scholar, a student must:
- maintain an overall university GPA of 3.2 or higher;
- complete at least 15 credits of Honors course work with a grade of B or higher in each course, including the Honors 301 thesis preparation seminar in the junior year;
- complete an original thesis or artistic composition under faculty supervision, for which the student typically earns at least three credits; and
- make a public presentation of his or her Honors project in an appropriate venue, such as a thesis defense, artistic performance, or conference poster presentation.
Please note that UMD also offers a merit scholarship called the "Commonwealth Scholarship." The two are not connected.
All students in the Honors Program are required to take Honors courses. Honors courses are capped at 15 to 25 students and are open only to students in the Honors Program. Most Honors courses meet general education and college distribution requirements that all students must fulfill before graduation, rather than requirements in the major department.
Honors courses carry the same number of credit hours as equivalent non-Honors courses and are graded according to the same 4-point scale. This is different from common practice at the high school level, where Honors courses often "count more" towards a student's GPA. Each Honors course carries the notation "Honors" in the student's transcript.
What makes a course an "Honors" course? Students often assume that Honors courses are structured just like non-Honors courses, but that they are "harder"—e.g., that they "cover more chapters in the textbook," "require more homework," or "are graded according to more demanding standards." In fact, such preconceptions miss the most important differences between Honors and non-Honors courses. So what are the most important differences?
- Honors courses are more interactive. By virtue of their smaller size and higher standards for enrollment, Honors courses encourage discussion, debate, and student leadership rather than the passive absorption of information. Of course, not every class can be dedicated to freewheeling discussion, and not all courses are equally amenable to a discussion-and-debate format. Nevertheless, to the fullest extent possible, Honors courses encourage students to actively participate in the learning process.
- Honors courses are more challenging. The Honors setting allows the instructor to expose the students to more advanced material, and to assess student learning in more interesting ways. The goal is not to make the students' lives more difficult by making the course "harder," but to intrigue them, to capture their attention, and to bring out the best of their abilities. Honors students often report that they spend more time on their Honors courses than their non-Honors courses, but that “it doesn’t feel like it” because the assignments are more interesting. This is exactly the response that Honors instructors strive to achieve.
- Honors courses involve special activities. Ideally, every Honors course should incorporate special opportunities for learning that would not be practical in a larger course. Honors courses routinely involve field trips, special experiments or group activities, and guest speakers. Honors instructors are encouraged to seek funding from the Honors Program for special activities that involve additional expenses.
Honors 301. In the junior year, all Honors students must take Honors 301, “Honors Research Across the Disciplines.” This is normally a 3 credit seminar that meets once per week. The credits earned in Honors 301 (if completed with a grade of B or better) count toward the minimum requirement of 15 hours of Honors coursework.
Honors Contracts. An Honors contract is a negotiated agreement between a student, a course instructor, and the Honors Director that enables the student to take a non-Honors course for Honors credit. The Honors contract is a useful alternative to regular Honors courses for students with particularly inflexible schedules and/or few elective courses. The contract also enables the student to undertake more advanced study than the constraints of the course normally allow. No more than six credits of "Honors contract" coursework may be applied to the minimum program requirements described below. For more information, see the "Honors Contracts" page on the Honors website.
In order to remain in good standing in the Honors Program, students must maintain a cumulative UMD GPA of 3.2 or higher, AND meet the following minimum requirements. These are MINIMUM requirements—in practice, most Honors students maintain much higher GPAs and take more than the minimum number of Honors courses.
Honors course credits must be completed with a grade of B or better in order to count toward the minimum requirements. No more than six credits of "Honors contract" coursework may be applied to the minimum requirements listed below.
|If you are a student in the college of...||Arts & Sciences or Business||Nursing, Engineering, or Visual & Performing Arts|
|Then by the time you have completed...||You must complete...|
|15 total credits (including transfer and AP credits), or one semester at UMD, whichever comes first.||At least three Honors credits.||At least three Honors credits.|
|30 total credits, or two semesters at UMD, whichever comes first.||At least six Honors credits.||At least six Honors credits.|
|60 total credits, or four semesters at UMD, whichever comes first.||At least twelve Honors credits.||At least nine Honors credits.|
|90 total credits, or six semesters at UMD, whichever comes first.||At least fifteen Honors credits, including Honors 301, and submission of thesis project proposal.||At least twelve Honors credits, including Honors 301, and submission of thesis project proposal.|
|120 total credits, or eight semesters at UMD, whichever comes first.||All Commonwealth Scholar graduation requirements*.||All Commonwealth Scholar graduation requirements*.|
*The minimum requirements for graduation as a Commonwealth Scholar are:
- 15 credits of Honors coursework with a grade of B or better;
- a cumulative GPA of 3.2 or higher;
- completion of Honors 301;
- completion and public presentation of an Honors thesis or project for which you earn at least three credits.
- Students admitted into the Honors Program before May 2009, but who successfully applied for the Honors Program Bookstore Award in May 2009, must meet the newer standards in order to continue to receive the award.
- Transfer students are normally expected to come into compliance with the minimum requirements BY THE END OF THEIR FIRST SEMESTER at UMass Dartmouth. Exceptions may be made in advance with the explicit permission of the Honors Director.
- Students who join the Honors Program after their first or second semester at UMD are expected to come into compliance with the minimum requirements within two semesters. At least one Honors course must be taken in the first semester after admission to the program.
- Exceptions to all requirements, EXCEPT for the minimum requirements for graduation as a Commonwealth Scholar, may be made at the discretion of the Honors Director.
Students who fail to maintain good standing will be dismissed from the Honors Program or placed on Honors probation.
Dismissal. If a student's cumulative GPA falls below 3.0 at any time, the student is dismissed from the Honors Program. Dismissal from the Honors Program is not reflected on the student's transcript.
Probation. If a student's cumulative GPA falls between 3.0 and 3.2, then the student will be placed on Honors probation for one semester. Honors probation is not reflected on the student's transcript.
Probation may also be extended to students who fail to meet the minimum Honors course credit requirements for good standing at the end of the semester, provided that the student made a sincere effort to meet the requirements. For example, probation would most likely be extended to a student who earned a B- in an Honors course, but otherwise met all of the program requirements.
During the probationary semester, the student will not receive the Honors Program Bookstore Award, but will retain all other benefits of membership in the Honors Program, including early registration.
If, at the end of the probationary semester, the student meets the minimum standards for good standing, then the student will be released from probation and will once again receive the Bookstore Award.
If, at the end of the probationary semester, the student still falls below the minimum standards for good standing, then the student will be dismissed from the Honors Program.
Withdrawal. Students may withdraw from the Honors Program at any time, simply by asking the Honors Director to be removed from the program. Withdrawal from the Honors Program is not reflected on the student's transcript.