Description of Honors Coursework


Honors Curriculum Beginning in Fall 2013

The Foundation Year Seminars

The goal of the Foundation Year of the Honors Program is to provide a firm grounding in collegiate academic skills, necessary for success in the upper-level Honors requirements, and to help form a strong social community. 

In these two courses, students will read and discuss challenging and thought-provoking texts, learn how to write for college, and get to know members of the Marist faculty. Specific goals for the courses include:

  • Help students better integrate their learning experiences.
  • Provide students with the skills necessary for life-long learning.
  • Familiarize students with various modes of inquiry and styles of learning.
  • Familiarize students with faculty from across the college.
  • Promote interdisciplinary learning and collaboration among faculty and students.
  • Strengthen social bonds among students by inserting each into a Honors learning community that stretches across an entire year.

The following two courses are required during the Foundation Year:

  • Honors First-Year Seminar

Students will enroll in specially designated sections of the First-Year Seminar, which will include activities that help to introduce students to the idea of interdisciplinary learning and interdisciplinary knowledge generation. 

  • Honors Writing for College

Students will enroll in specially designated sections of Writing for College, which will include activities that will challenge the Honors student. 


The Thematic Seminars

Following the first year experience, Honors students will narrow their fields of study and select Honors seminars on topics of interest and have a chance to explore and develop their academic, service, and leadership skills. To echo the themes that were explored in the first year as part of the students' experience in professional studies/core education, specially developed seminars will be offered in the four Core breadth categories:

  •  Philosophical & Moral Foundations
    • Courses that fulfil the breadth areas of Ethics, Applied Ethics or Religiuos Studies
  • Scientific & Quantitative Analysis
    • Courses that fulfill the breadth areas of Natural Science or Mathematics
  • Expression & Creativity
    • Courses that fulfill the breadth areas of Fine Art or Literature
  • Individual & Society
    • Courses that fulfill the breadth areas of History or Social Science  (*Communication courses will also be offered in this category that will fulfill certain pathway options as special topic courses). 

These seminars are specially designed offerings on a variety of topics, are open only to Honors students, and focus on discussion. Honors faculty from across the college will teach the courses, and the topics vary from semester to semester. Honors seminars encourage out-of-the-box thinking, creativity, critical thinking, and intellectual growth.

The Honors seminars will be discussion based, allow for co-curricular activities including field trips and guest speakers, and focus on a range of Core topics. While the content of each seminar may vary from semester to semester, the breadth focus area of the seminar will remain the same. For complete course descriptions for each semester, please see the course description listing.

The Civic and Service Learning seminars also will be offered in each of the four breadth areas (Philosophical & Moral Foundations, Scientific & Quantitative Analysis, Expression & Creativity, Individual & Society), and taught by professors from around the college. However, these seminars will differ from general, discussion-based classroom centered seminars in that a major component of the course will be a service learning activity. Each course will vary by topic, but all will share at least two basic goals:

  1. the analysis and discussion of primary and secondary source material to explore a particular topic, and
  2. service activity and reflection that will focus discussion by adding context and understanding.

The service activity should make connections between ideas and experience to integrate others' observations and interpretations with ones' own and to bring a certain immediacy to the readings.


The Honors-by-Contract

The Honors-by-Contract course allows the Honors student a specialized experience with a major course. An honors contract enriches a non-honors class by establishing a more intensive course of study for a deeper understanding of the class. This is done, in general, by encouraging student creativity through the creation of alternative projects and close consultation with the instructor. In order to create an honors contract, the instructor and the Honors student discuss and agree upon assignments, projects, and criteria by which he or she will be assessed. For instance, if a student enrolled in an upper-division biology course, with the agreement of his or her professor, the student would enroll in one additional credit hour of Honors to make the biology course an Honors course for that student. It would not be a separate section or course of biology.

The benefits to an Honors-by-Contract course include:

  • Allowing Honors students to explore a major subject of interest to them in greater depth through creative projects, laboratory work, library research, service-learning, and/or classroom leadership.
  • Students will have an enriched curriculum which will give a more global perspective, increase awareness of the importance of research, and develop leadership skills.
  • Students can have the opportunity to work on long-term scholarship projects, which can lead into capping coursework or the Honors Thesis Project.
  • The Honors-by-Contract course can attach to a 300- or 400-level course.

Honors-by-Contract forms can be found here

The Culminating Experience: Research Requirements

The Honors Senior Seminar will serve as the final course in the Honors curriculum. An important element to any program is the conclusive experience. An Honors Program is no different. Honors students will enroll in an advanced seminar as their final requirement for completing the Honors Program, and it will bring their experience in liberal/core studies full circle. This culminating Honors course aims to make sense of the Honors students' years at Marist College through reading and discussion. 

During the semester, students will meet to discuss analytically a variety of essays that reflect on the purpose of higher education and what our place is in it, and how we define "a meaningful life." The academic culture is ambiguous and complex, and students can be left wondering why they went through this process and what they have gained from it. Students will look critically at the values we assign to a complete and fulfilled life and how various thinkers, past and present, have reflected on this topic.

The final project in this course will be to write and offer a "Last Lecture" that expresses how a student makes sense of his or her educational experience. 

Goals of the course include:

  • To explore and analytically investigate the transition from the undergraduate to the post-baccalaureate experience through the critical appraisal of texts and discussion.
  • To develop a sense of what the university system has prepared Honors students for and how Honors students will use this experience in the future.
  • To develop professional communication skills and contacts.
  • To meaningfully engage with other Honors students at the same point in this process.
  • To use critical thinking skills to assess Honors students' college careers and futures.


The Honors Thesis Project is an intensive research project to be completed by students who are designated as an Honors Program student, with the goal of tying back to the student's major. Students will work under the supervision of a faculty adviser, who will be compensated for their time and participation. Projects encourage students to explore and develop their own various talents and interests.

This program requirement is designed to provide the student an opportunity to apply the knowledge base and tools of his or her discipline in a mentored scholarly exploration suitable to the student's academic interest and background. The project should demonstrate substantial scholarship, outstanding research, and outstanding writing skills. For some Honors students with majors in creative disciplines, the Senior Thesis Project may be a creative work that demonstrates imagination and originality in addition to craftsmanship and professionalism in production. The Senior Thesis Project can be interdisciplinary.



Honors Curriculum Prior to Fall 2013

Honors Ethics considers a variety of moral and social problems from the perspectives of prominent philosophers and modern ethicists.  The remaining Honors Seminars will focus on five different, but contiguous, points: on the self in relation to others (Versions of the Self); on culture, including popular culture, fashion, and art in its various forms (The Art of Culture); on our own unique literary, historical, artistic, social, environmental, and political position in the Hudson River Valley (Hudson River Valley Studies); on the examined life (Global Engagement), considering issues of freedom, spirituality, human dignity, and personal responsibility within a global context; and on the world of science (mathematics and computer science included) and technology (Science, Technology, and Society). While the content of each seminar may vary from semester to semester, the focus of the seminar will remain the same. For complete course descriptions, please see the course description listing.

HONR 310 Honors Seminar in Versions of the Self

Description: This course focuses on exploring the various voices, past and present, of different people and their values as it examines the developmental origins and the evolving processes in the construction of the self, whether as an individual or as a member of a group. This seminar may be tailored to focus upon a single discipline in the arts, natural sciences, or social sciences or may bridge several disciplines. Possible titles might include: Creation and Creativity; Don Quixote and his Legacy; Identity Politics in America; The Psychology of the Gifted Child; The Physical Self: Biology, Technology, and Identity.

HONR 320 Honors Seminar in the Art of Culture

Description: This course examines the ways in which art (fiction, film, fashion, visual and performance art, etc.) deals with historical and current events and how art has shaped and continues to shape society. This seminar may be tailored to focus upon a single discipline or may bridge several disciplines. Examples of possible course titles include: Politics as Performance: Culture, Scandal, and Spectacle; Art, Community, and the Environment; Fashion for the Ages; Film, Fiction, and Society.

HONR 330 Honors Seminar in Hudson River Valley Studies

Description: This course deals with the region of the Hudson River Valley. It may examine the history, culture, architecture, literature, art, politics, or economy of this region from pre-Columbian times to the present. This seminar may focus upon a single discipline or may bridge several disciplines. Possible titles might include: Art in the Hudson River Valley, Hudson River Valley Economy, Crime and Punishment in the Hudson River Valley, or Politics of the Hudson River Valley.

HONR 340 Honors Seminar in Global Engagement

Course Description: This course focuses on the legal, cultural, ethical, religious, and social, economic, and political frameworks that exist in countries outside of the United States. The purpose of this course is to discuss how these cultural norms impact social and economic conditions in the rest of the world, as well as relationships between the United States and U.S. based institutions and their counterparts. This will be accomplished by developing an understanding of social, political, and cultural forces influencing global decisions; ethical challenges in the global marketplace; and other current issues such as diversity, technology, and concern for the physical environment. We will also discuss changing expectations and responsibilities of organizations with regard to current and potential social and political problems and opportunities.

HONR 350 Honors Seminar in Science, Technology, & Society

Description: This course examines the ways in which science (including mathematics) and/or technology have shaped and will continue to shape human societies, and how, in turn, society affects the practice of science and the development of technology. This seminar may be tailored to focus upon a single discipline within the natural sciences, mathematics, or social sciences, or may bridge several disciplines. In the second case, ideally the course would be team-taught, and students would have completed previous college level coursework (or its equivalent) in natural science, math, and social science. Possible titles might include: The Information Revolution and Biology; Conservation, Preservation, and the Land Ethic; Probability and Gambling in 20th Century Society; Energy; and Biomedicine and the Population Explosion.

HONR 200 Honors Seminar in Ethics

Course Description: What is the nature of our ethical responsibilities as citizens of particular sovereign societies and as members of the world generally? What would serve as an adequate ethical framework for addressing ethical issues and moral dilemmas? Does a culturally, politically, economically pluralistic world entail that there are no valid universal ethical principles? Does the battle against racist or other bias-based structures and policies suggest that discrimination and/or persecution of any sort may be a permanent feature of the psychology, economy, culture, and society of the so-called modern world? What does the battle against discriminating ideologies and practices indicate about the requirements for an adequate ethical framework? What challenges might global issues such as climate change, the effects of international trade policies on poorer nations, the struggle for the recognition of human rights, and foreign aid present for moral reasoning?

The questions listed above will form the primary concerns of the course. The course will also serve as a seminar on some problems of normative and critical ethics. Specifically, the course will aim to investigate what the battle against exclusionary ideologies and practices suggests as requisites for a sound moral consciousness. Furthermore, we will consider how the increasing movement away from nation-states as the primary basis of concern for enacting policies might influence moral theory and reasoning.