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The APEX (Academic Project or Experience) is the culmination of your Honors education. The APEX is an original, independent project or experience that builds on everything that you have learned over the past several years. It represents an opportunity to demonstrate critical thinking skills, ability to work independently, and capability to communicate clearly to a broad audience. 

There are three “Tracks” that you can take to complete the APEX. You are free to choose any track, but you should have a discussion with your APEX advisor to choose the track that is most appropriate for your project and career/education plans. The three tracks are:

  • Traditional Research: For this track, “research” is broadly defined and can include scientific experiments, critical literature evaluations, human subject research, etc.
  • Performance/Expression: This track is often appropriate creative endeavors such as public art installations, musical performances, art exhibits, screenplays, and poetry and fiction writing. Marketing or business plans are also appropriate.
  • Applied/Service: The Applied/Service track is for students who are doing work in the community or in another applied setting. Projects within this track could include internships, volunteer work, or other work done in a “real-world” setting. 

APEX Requirements

Although the APEX projects might vary in terms of content and direction, all projects will require the following:

  • An APEX advisor from UMass Dartmouth with whom you will work closely in designing and completing your project.
  • Registering for a minimum of three APEX credits either through the Honors College or through independent study credits in your department (please consult with the Honors College in order to determine if your department’s independent study, capstone, or seminar qualifies).
  • A final written product that, at a minimum, provides a scholarly background, a summary and critical evaluation of the project or experience, and the potential impact of the project on your future.
  • A public presentation of your project (e.g., a poster presentation at the annual Honors College convocation, a publicly announced APEX defense, a presentation at a professional conference, etc).

Frequently Asked Questions

When should I undertake my APEX?

Students typically take the APEX preparation course, HON 301, in junior year. Apex work is most typically undertaken in the senior year, though some students begin in the second semester of junior year.

How do I choose an APEX track, topic, and advisor?

HON 301 is designed to lead you through this process. Your instructor will work with you to decide on a topic, find an advisor, and determine the best track to achieve your APEX goals.

Can I switch my APEX topic after I submit my proposal?

Yes, you can switch your topic. If it is after you submit your proposal, you will need to let the Honors College Director know and submit a revised proposal.

Does my APEX topic/advisor have to be from my department?

No. You can do your APEX on any topic as long as long as you can find an advisor. The vast majority of students complete their APEX in their home departments, but it is not necessary.

Are there internships if I want to pursue that track?

Yes! The Director of Experiential Learning & Internship Development is available to assist you in the Career Center (MacLean Campus Center, Room 001, 508-999-8658). If you would like to pursue the internship track, your HON 301 instructor and/or Honors College advisors will work with you, your chosen APEX advisor, and the Career Center to find the right placement for your APEX goals.

What forms are required for the APEX?

Four forms are required at various stages of the process:

  • APEX Proposal Form: Submitted at the end of HON 301. The form’s cover page identifies the APEX title and advisor, and the full proposal describes the methodology and expected product(s).
  • APEX Contract: This form provides a timeline for the APEX work and serves as an agreement between the student and advisor. This form is required to enroll in HON 490 (or equivalent APEX credit course).
  • APEX Midsemester Progress Form: Due in the 8th week of the semester for students in HON 490 and HON 491. Student and advisor signatures are required.
  • APEX Completion Form: This form is used to indicate that the student has completed the APEX requirements, including final paper submission and public presentation of the work. This completed form is required before a student can be certified to graduate as a Commonwealth Honors Scholar.

How often should APEX students and advisors meet?

Meeting a minimum of every two weeks is required, though we recommend weekly meetings. Weekly meetings help students with time management and metacognition, and keeps the instructor updated on progress and challenges.

How do I get credit for the APEX?

In order to graduate as a Commonwealth Scholar, you are required to complete at least three APEX credits and present your work publicly. These three credits are in addition to the 21 credits of coursework. Some students complete six credits (three credits per semester for two semesters). These APEX credits count towards your upper-level credit requirement. If your major has its own independent study course, your APEX credits may also count towards your major requirements.

What class do I sign up for in order to get APEX credits? Does it have to be HON490/491?

If possible, you should take independent study (or thesis) credits in your major. This way, your APEX credits will also count towards any upper-level requirements that your major might have. If your major does not have an independent study or thesis course, or if you are doing your APEX outside of your major, you should register for HON 490 (and HON 491, if you need another semester).

Should a student enroll in HON 491 (or equivalent) if the HON 490 (or equivalent) project isn't complete by the end of the semester?

Taking HON 491 is the right path if the student indicated on the APEX proposal form that a second semester of work was anticipated, or if the project scope was expanded during the semester to the extent that the additional activities warrant another 3 credits on the student's transcript. If neither of those apply and the student merely needs a little more time to complete the work, an In Progress (IP) grade is the appropriate option. In this case, the instructor should inform the Honors College Director that the student should receive an In Progress (IP) at the end of the semester, and the student should finish the work over the coming weeks, as is customary for an incomplete grade. Once the APEX Project has been completed, the “IP” notation is replaced upon receipt of the official grade. Until or unless replaced by an official final grade, the notation “IP” will remain on the transcript. Academic Recognition (Dean’s or Chancellor’s List) cannot be considered until all “IP” grades have been replaced with the final grades. In addition, students cannot graduate with an "IP" on their transcript. If the APEX and presentation are not completed so that a final grade can be submitted, the grade will become an F.

How should HON 490 work be graded? Is there a rubric?

HON 490 does not have a standard, required rubric because the Honors College recognizes that each project is different, and each discipline has its own set of expectations and standards. In determining a grade for the APEX project, please refer to the project proposal and award a grade on the quality of the project's execution and final paper. Your discipline's expectations and standards should be used to determine a final grade. Your department's independent study or research methods assessment practices may be useful as a reference. Sample rubrics for papers and for student performance during the semester are available to instructors upon request.

Who should I ask to be my committee member?

You should discuss who should be on your APEX committee with your advisor. The committee member(s) play a very important role in ensuring a well-designed project. The committee member does NOT need to be from the same department as your advisor! In fact, having a committee member from outside of your major can be very beneficial in terms of design and interpretation of your project. For students who are on the Service/Internship track, the committee member can be the site supervisor.

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