Cursus Honorum

In the Shackouls Honors College, we see our distinctive curriculum as an ascending path of academic honors, beginning in the liberal arts and leading to advanced learning in the disciplines and scientific specialization. We call this curriculum the Cursus Honorum, which recalls the “path of honors” that ambitious citizens of the Roman Republic—such as Cato and Cicero and Caesar—were expected to rise through. The Cursus Honorum requires students to complete two Trans-disciplinary courses (“Quest”), two Inter-disciplinary courses, three Discipline-specific courses, Study Abroad, and a Senior Thesis. Students who successfully complete the Cursus Honorum will receive a rigorous liberal arts education in addition to their major field of study, will be prepared for graduate-level research in their field, and will be recognized with the distinctive designation Collegium Honorum on their diplomas and transcripts.


Transdisciplinary Courses (Quest 1 & Quest 2)

Our “Quest” courses are small discussion-based seminars (about 15 students) focused on Great Books, Big Questions, and Big Ideas. Students will read some of the most important texts from the history of literature, philosophy, political science, art, architecture, and music from around the world. Discussions will address questions such as: What is human nature? What is the nature of the divine? What is justice? What is truth? What is love? What is the purpose of art? and How do we know what we know?

Students who complete Quest 1 and Quest 2 and earn a grade of C or higher will receive the following General Educations credits:

  • 3 Humanities credits
  • 3 Social Sciences credits
  • “S” credit for Fine Arts.

HON 1163:  The Quest Begins (3 credits)

This course examines core texts from Classical Antiquity through the Renaissance. In addition to several short interpretive papers, students will be expected to produce a substantial comparative essay.

HON 1173: The West and the Wider World (3 credits)

This course will examines core texts from the Renaissance to the present. In addition to short interpretive papers, students will be expected to produce a research paper and present their research to the class.


Interdisciplinary Courses

After students complete the “Quest” sequence, they move on to 3000-level Interdisciplinary Courses. These are unique “problem-based” special topics courses in the Social Sciences, Mathematics, Natural Sciences, Fine Arts, and Humanities. Offerings change from semester to semester, but examples of previous classes include “The World of J.R.R. Tolkien,” “Acting the Classics in Modern Times,” “Philosophy and Film,” and “Satire and Its Discontents.”

Students will receive the appropriate General Education credit for these courses:

  • Honors Seminar in Social Sciences (3 credits)
  • Honors Seminar in Mathematics and Statistics (3 credits)
  • Honors Seminar in Natural Sciences (3 credits)
  • Honors Seminar in Fine Arts (3 credits)
  • Honors Seminar in Humanities (3 credits)

Discipline-Specific Courses

Honors students are expected to seek challenging courses in their own major/discipline and as part of their general education. Departments across campus (e.g., Mathematics, English, Biology, etc.) offer special sections of departmental courses for Honors credit. Students may also take graduate courses in their major departments for Honors credit.

HON 2003/4003 Oxbridge Tutorial (3 credits)

Honors students may petition to take (within a discipline represented at MSU) a tutorial with a faculty member in the tradition of undergraduate education at the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge. 1-3 students meet on a regular basis with the faculty member and complete readings, papers, and/or problem-sets according to a plan devised by the student and their tutor. The student work is then used as the basis for tutorial discussions. The tutorial can be either lower-level (2003) or upper-level (4003), according to the advice of the tutor.


Senior Capstone Experience

All Honors students who pursue the Cursus Honorum are expected to write and defend an Honors Thesis as their Senior Capstone Experience.

HON 4093 Honors Thesis (3 credits, may be repeated once)

Those students intending to graduate as an Honors College Scholar should, at the beginning of their junior year, identify a faculty mentor and a thesis topic. The student may register for Honors Thesis credit during their junior and/or senior years, depending on the length and complexity of the research project.


Graduation with Honors

To be recognized as an Honors College Scholar at graduation, and to receive the Honors designation (Collegium Honorum) on transcripts, a student must complete at least 27 Honors credits with a 3.4 average in Honors courses and

  1. complete the English composition requirement during the first year of full-time Honors coursework1;
  2. complete the transdisciplinary Honors sequence (6 credits);
  3. complete two interdisciplinary Honors courses (6 credits);
  4. complete three discipline-specific Honors courses or tutorials (9 credits);
  5. complete a for-credit Study Abroad2; and
  6. successfully write and defend an Honors thesis (3-6 credits).

1 Students who score 32/600 on the English section of the ACT/SAT are encouraged to take EN 1113H Honors Composition II, which fulfills the entire Composition requirement.

2 A student may petition for a rigorous extra-mural research experience or foreign language study to count for this requirement.