The Cursus Honorum

Those with ambitions to lead in the Roman Republic were expected to rise through a series of increasingly important offices in the government and the military. This "path of honors" (cursus honorum) produced Cato and Cicero and Caesar. 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.

First-year students may elect to take our "Quest" courses. These are small seminars (about 15 students in each section) focusing on core texts from the Western tradition as well as important works from Asia, Africa, and Latin America. These "texts"—which include art, music, and film as well as literature—promote discussion of the Big Questions, such as Why are we here? Is there a God? What is love? Should one exercise power over others? What is the purpose of art? and How do we know what we know? Such questions are at the heart of a liberal education.

Beginning their second year Honors students may take interdisciplinary and problem-based courses in Fine Arts, Humanities, Mathematics, Natural Science, and Social Science. Examples of these ever-changing special topics courses include "The World of J.R.R. Tolkien," "Culture, Society and Power," and "Ethics and Western Films."

Honors students can also take special sections of departmental courses and graduate courses for Honors credit. The Honors Oxbridge Tutorial allows a student to define an individual topic of study with a professor in the tradition of Oxford and Cambridge. All Honors students must have a senior capstone experience, and for some this means writing, presenting, and defending a formal Honors Thesis. Students who have completed at least 27 Honors credit hours and successfully defended their thesis will be recognized at graduation and receive the designation Collegium Honorum on their transcripts.

There are several reasons why a student might choose to be a part of the Cursus Honorum.

  • General Education Credits. Students who successfully complete the two "Quest" courses with a grade of C or above will receive General Education credit for three courses (1 Humanities, 1 Social Science, 1 Fine Arts).
  • Honors Thesis. Students who will be pursuing graduate studies will want the experience of having researched, written, and defended a senior Honors thesis. Such experience will be an advantage in getting into selective graduate programs.
  • Graduation. At graduation ceremonies, and on their transcripts, students who have completed the new curriculum will be recognized with the distinctive Honors Latin designation, Collegium Honorum.

The new Honors curriculum consists of three parts: transdisciplinary courses, interdisciplinary courses, and discipline-specific courses and research.

Transdisciplinary Courses

These are "core texts" seminars (approx. 15 students per section) with intensive writing required. Students who complete the two seminars earning a grade of C or higher will receive the following General Educations credits: 3 Humanities, 3 Social Sciences, and “S” credit for Fine Arts.

HON 1163 The Quest Begins (3 credits)

This course will examine core texts from the Western tradition, from Classical Antiquity, the Middle Ages, through the Enlightenment. In addition to short reaction papers, students will be expected to produce a substantial interpretive or comparative essay.

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

This course will examine core texts from the Western tradition, from the eighteenth century to the present. Key non-Western texts will also be taught in order to establish the foundation of thought in the modern world. In addition to short reaction papers, students will be expected to produce a research paper and present their research to the class.

Interdisciplinary Courses

After their first year, Honors students will be encouraged to take innovative courses designed by faculty who are recruited by the Honors College. 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 will by their nature seek challenging courses in their major/discipline. Departments offer discipline-specific courses at the upper level to advanced Honors students. These courses can be Honors sections of existing courses, newly designed Honors courses, Oxbridge Tutorials, or graduate courses taken for Honors credit. Honors students will often use these courses as preparation for senior-year research. Students may receive either General Education or Major credit for these courses.

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

Honors students will be required to complete a senior capstone experience. This can be a Senior Seminar in their major field of study, with a substantial presentation to the class; an internship with a presentation to a group of professionals; or a research project culminating in an Honors Thesis, with formal defense.

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.