Alternative Liberal Education Programs

Honors Program

Richard Badenhausen, Director
David Goldsmith, Assistant Director

Faculty: Richard Badenhausen , Kara Barnette, Karlyn Bond, Bill Bynum, Richard Chapman, Michael Chipman, Russell Costa, Lesa Ellis, Leonardo Figueroa-Helland, Peter Goldman, David Goldsmith, Han Kim, Matt Kruback, Chris LeCluyse, Gary Marquardt, Nick More, Lance Newman, Jeff Nichols, Kristjane Nordmeyer, Giancarlo Panagia, Michael Popich, Natasha Saje, Christy Seifert, Heidi Van Ert, Michael Vought, John Watkins, Richard Wellman

Program Description

The Honors Program provides students who are academically and intellectually prepared with the opportunity to satisfy their college-wide Liberal Education course requirements in an alternative and unique manner. By completing a 7-course sequence of interdisciplinary, team-taught Honors courses, students earn an Honors certificate while satisfying those requirements. Moreover, by understanding their historical, scientific, and intellectual heritage, Honors students are prepared to be articulate and responsible members of society and defenders of their own ideas. Students may also continue their study in the program and receive an Honors degree. The program is a member of the National Collegiate Honors Council (NCHC) and the Western Regional Honors Council (WRHC).

Program Goals

  • Students will develop confidence in their abilities to understand and discuss complex ideas and texts, as well as to engage in problem solving and research design.
  • Students will strengthen their written and oral communication skills.
  • Students will master an ability to work effectively in groups of diverse people.
  • Students will make connections between disciplines.
  • Students will learn to apply new knowledge and skills in meaningful ways that will help them succeed in their professional and personal lives following college.
  • Students will enjoy a range of supplemental experiences of an academic and social nature with similarly motivated and talented students.


Students expressing a desire to enroll in the Honors Program will be ranked according to the following criteria: ACT scores, high school GPA, and the quality of a written statement. Although a typical incoming Honors student has had a 3.80 GPA and a 30 composite ACT score, the range of scores is quite broad. Students who fall near or above these standards and who sincerely wish to be in the program are encouraged to secure an application from the Honors Program or Westminster’s Admissions Staff. Questions concerning the application process should be directed to the Director of the Honors Program.

Benefits of Participating in the Honors Program

  • Academic distinction: the Honors designation on the student’s transcript shows graduate schools and employers that he or she has achieved academic success in rigorous classes and worked with some of the college’s finest teachers and students. The challenging curriculum also allows students to grow as thinkers, writers, and speakers.
  • Small class size: restricted enrollment ensures classes have an intimate, seminar-style feel and allows for close student-professor interactions and mentoring—an important benefit when students require personal and informed letters of recommendation for jobs and graduate school.
  • Excellent faculty: professors teach Honors classes by choice and are some of the college’s most committed and energetic instructors. Two professors in every Honors seminar make for a vibrant learning environment.
  • Enhanced support, advising, and mentoring: Honors students attend an early, supplemental day of orientation activities to help ease the transition to college life. They also have the Honors director assigned to them as an advisor in addition to their major advisor. Finally, incoming Honors students are grouped with peer mentors—upper-class Honors students with extensive experience in the program—who can help guide them during their first year at college.
  • Interdisciplinary approaches: the interdisciplinary nature of Honors seminars brings students and professors from different departments together, ensuring an exciting class atmosphere and preparing students for the interdisciplinary approach of most top graduate programs and professional fields.
  • Research opportunities: the seminar-style approach to learning, the emphasis on writing and research in classes, and the program support of outside research allow students to investigate their academic interests more fully and create opportunities for the presentation or publishing of their work. The program also awards two independent summer research grants annuallyto Honors students.
  • Special study abroad opportunity: Westminster’s Honors program is a member of the Principia Consortium, which gives students access to a unique Honors educational experience at the University of Glasgow, Scotland.
  • Sense of community: Honors students take core classes together and interact with Honors faculty and students in other academic and social events, which helps establish a sense of belonging to the college community. The Honors program is housed in Nunemaker Place. Built in 1977, this architecturally striking building provides Honors students and faculty with a variety of distinctive spaces, including a resource/scholarship library, the office of the Honors director, meeting areas, reading and study spaces, a lounge in which students socialize, and computer work stations.
  • Access to supplementary resources: For example, the Honors Program listserv; the “Pizza with Profs” and “Profs Pick the Flick” lecture series; the Honors Program resource library; the Honors Program newsletter; special enriched learning experiences such as attendance at cultural events and other field study; funding to attend and give papers at academic conferences; leadership training opportunities like the Student Honors Council; special recognition opportunities like the Honors seminar book awards; financial support to investigate graduate programs out of state; and opportunities to participate in special meetings with distinguished visiting scholars and lecturers.

Participation in Honors Courses by Non-Honors Program Students

Since a number of high-achieving, upper-class Westminster College students may not have applied to the Honors Program as incoming freshmen but may still wish to participate in some of its classes, any undergraduate in good standing with a 3.5 GPA or higher is eligible to enroll in 300 and 400 level Honors seminars. The Honors Program is an active part of the larger college community and welcomes the energy, intellect, and diversity that students from different disciplines across the campus bring to Honors. Non-Honors Program students enrolling in Honors seminars should check with their program chairs, since these classes will sometimes fulfill certain requirements in a student’s own major. Participation in 200-level Honors seminars is restricted to students in the Honors Program.

Criterion for Remaining in the Honors Program

  1. 3.0 GPA overall

If an Honors student falls below this GPA, a probationary period of two semesters will be used to allow the student to return to the minimum GPA standards for continued participation.

Honors Liberal Education Certificate Requirements

Students who complete seven courses in the Honors LE sequence will be awarded a special certificate recognizing this achievement (contingent on Westminster graduation). No more than one of these courses may be taken credit/no credit.

A complete description of the equivalencies between LE Honors courses and the standard LE courses is listed below.

Liberal Education Course Category Requirements
Honors Course Equivalents
Learning Community HON 201 Humanities I
Writing and other Communication Skills
Composition and Research


HON 201–202 Humanities I and II
Information Literacy HON 201–202 Humanities I and II
Basic Speech Course HON 201, 202, 211, 212, 231
(4 of 5 required for SPCH credit)
Humanities – Courses with strong emphasis on critical, analytical, and integrative thinking in historical, literary, and philosophical contexts.
History HON 201–202 Humanities I and II
Literature HON 201–202 Humanities I and II
Philosophy/Religion HON 201–202 Humanities I and II
Arts – Courses with a strong emphasis on creative and reflective capacities.
Arts Survey HON 212 The Arts in Performance
Creative Arts HON 212 The Arts in Performance
Science/Mathematics – Courses with strong emphasis on critical, analytical, and integrative thinking in mathematical and scientific contexts.
Mathematics: No Honors Course
MATH 120 Quantitative Reasoning
MATH 141 College Algebra
MATH 142 Trigonometry
MATH 150 Elementary Statistics
MATH 201 Calculus I
Physical Sciences HON 221 Hist and Phil of Science
Life Sciences HON 222 Science, Power & Diversity
Social Sciences – Courses with strong emphasis on global consciousness, social responsibility, and ethical awareness in a social science context.
Social Sciences I HON 211 Political Economy of Conflict
Social Science II HON 231 Human Culture & Behavior
Living Arts – Courses with a strong emphasis on real-world, life-enhancing knowledge.
Living Arts HON 201 Humanities I
Diversity – Courses integrate two or more of the following as a major component throughout the course: class,
gender, race, ethnicity, geographic origin, ability, age, sexual orientation and/or religion.
Diversity HON 222 Science, Power & Diversity

Note: While the Honors seminars satisfy Liberal Education requirements, Honors seminars do not satisfy major/minor requirements or prerequisites except in the following cases. Honors students who major or minor in Political Science after completing HON 211 will have satisfied the PLSC 101 requirement. Honors students who complete HON 201 and HON 202 will have satisfied the ENGL 220 requirement for the minor and/or will have satisfied the ENGL 220 prerequisite requirement for placement purposes into English classes beyond ENGL 220. Honors students who complete HON 201 and HON 202 will have satisfied the HIST 112/113 and HIST 212/213 requirement for the History major and minor and/or the prerequisite requirement for placement purposes into History classes beyond this level. Honors students who complete HON 212 will have satisfied the ART 110 requirement for the Art major and minor and/or the prerequisite requirement for placement purposes into Art classes beyond this level. Honors students who complete HON 201 and HON 202 and wish to major or minor in Philosophy must take one of the following: PHIL 102 (Critical Thinking, LE), PHIL 100/100D (Introduction to Philosophy, LE), or PHIL 206/206D (Introduction to Ethics, LE).

Honors Degree Requirements

Students must maintain a minimum GPA of 3.00 in all Honors coursework, including those courses listed below for the Honors degree, and an overall minimum GPA of 3.25. In addition, the following requirements must be satisfied in order to be awarded the Honors Degree (in the major) at graduation:

Requirement Description
Credit Hours Prerequisites
I. Foreign Language Requirement
Honors Degree students must complete 4 semesters of college-level instruction in a single foreign language or the equivalent. The requirement can be satisfied by coursework or proof of proficiency. For example, an incoming student who begins in Spanish III and successfully completes that course and Spanish IV will have satisfied the requirement. (May term study abroad trips may not be used to satisfy this requirement.)

Honors students who have 12 hours CLEP or proficiency exam credit in a single language that Westminster does not offer may satisfy the remaining 4-hour requirement by taking 4 hours of coursework in a different foreign language.

Students taking coursework in a foreign language in which Westminster does not offer 4 semesters may complete the requirement with coursework in an additional foreign language.
All coursework that meets this requirement must be taken for a letter grade.

II. Lower Division Courses 28
HON 201 Humanities I (4)
HON 202 Humanities II (4)
HON 211 Political Economy of Conflict (4)
HON 212 The Arts in Performance (4)
HON 221 History and Philosophy of Science (4)
HON 222 Science, Power, and Diversity (4)
HON 231 Human Culture and Behavior (4)
To receive an Honors degree, no more than one of these courses may be taken credit/no credit.
III. Upper Division Courses 6
Completion of 6 hours of coursework in Honors 300 or 400 seminars. May not be taken credit/no credit.

Students are discouraged from satisfying all 6 hours of this requirement through May Term.

IV. Senior Project/Thesis 3
Completion of a senior project in the student’s major for a minimum of 3 credit hours. Students whose majors do not accommodate a senior project may enroll in HON 402 or a 400-level independent study designator in the major and complete a thesis under one of those course numbers, as long as they have a sponsoring professor. Students whose majors employ a practicum, internship, exhibition, or recital as the senior capstone experience must include a significant written component in which they reflect on that experience. The nature of such projects will be determined in conjunction with the Director of Honors and the student’s major advisor. All students completing a thesis or senior project for the Honors Degree must fill out the thesis topic approval and completion forms, which are available in the Honors office, and present their completed work in a public setting such as a regional academic conference, Westminster’s undergraduate research fair, or some equivalent venue.

Students who complete all the necessary coursework and satisfy the requirements for the Honors Degree, but fall below the minimum Honors Degree GPA requirements, will be awarded the Honors certificate.

Please contact the Director of the Honors Program for more detailed information concerning the requirements for the Honors Degree.

Directed Studies in Honors

Students may enroll in a directed study project under HON 401. This allows a student to design, in conjunction with a faculty member, an independent project that adopts an interdisciplinary approach to materials that are not covered in another Honors class. Directed study forms are available in the office of the registrar or the individual school offices. The course should be designed with the same care and thoroughness as standard Honors courses and the directed study form should, therefore, contain a comprehensive reading list of primary and secondary sources, a series of questions the student will address, a clear explanation of assignments, and the method of assessment.

Generally, students wishing to apply directed study hours toward their 6-hour Honors Degree requirement should not satisfy more than 3 hours of coursework this way during the standard semester or more than 2 hours of coursework if done in conjunction with a May term class or trip. Students should consult the Honors director for assistance in designing directed study projects.

2015-2016 Honors Program Courses

HON 201–202 Humanities I and II (4–4)
This two-semester, intensive sequence is the “gateway” seminar to Honors. It explores the Classical tradition and its legacy through the development of Western culture and civilization by focusing on a particular theme each year like “friendship,” “the expression of power,” crossing borders,” “planned communities,” etc. The course emphasizes the use and critical analysis of primary sources like Homer’s Odyssey, Plato’s Republic, Dante’s Inferno, Descartes’ Meditations, Shelley’s Frankenstein, Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, and Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil, though the reading list changes annually.
HON 211 Political Economy of Conflict (4)
This course investigates a variety of perspectives in the study of the political economy of conflict from conservative, liberal, and radical perspectives. Concentration is on methodologies that illustrate the differences and similarities among the various approaches to the study of economics and politics.
HON 212 The Arts in Performance (4)
Covers the development and appreciation of the arts, primarily through exploring the relationship between the theory and practice of artistic performance.
HON 221 History and Philosophy of Science (4)
This course traces the contributions to modern science of non-Western cultures like China, Egypt, Mesopotamia, India, and the Islamic world in areas of astronomy and cosmology, mathematics, natural history and natural philosophy. It considers the development of scientific knowledge and technology from ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia through the 19th century, and shows how the concepts and ideas developed by these cultures help establish the foundation for Western science.
HON 222 Science, Power, and Diversity (4)
This course explores the social construction of the science-power relationships that influence discovery and applications of technology, especially in terms of how scientific discovery is transmitted and received by media and society, respectively. It emphasizes seminal scientific issues of the twentieth century and the present, such as the language of science, the exclusion of women and minorities from scientific discourse, genetic predisposition to disease, gender issues in scientific research, and ethnicity bioethics in studies and treatment of HIV, among others. This course meets the LE Diversity requirement.
HON 231 Human Culture and Behavior (4)
This seminar explores a number of conceptual subject matters pertinent to the disciplines of psychology, sociology, and anthropology. Topics focus on human culture and behavior from social, behavioral, and cultural perspectives. For example, past seminars centered on human sexuality have investigated sexual practices, attitudes, behaviors, sexual orientations, and transsexuality. A range of theoretical and scientific perspectives are applied to provide a more complete picture of historical and contemporary human culture and behavior.
HON 200 Special Topics (1–4)
These seminar topics vary from year to year. They primarily focus on specific topics raised in the interdisciplinary Honors LE courses, e.g., The Concept of Scientific Change or War, Trauma, and Narrative, but which are explored in depth in these seminars. May be taken more than once for credit. Departmental special topics courses may be crosslisted with these seminars. Offered Fall, Spring and May Term.
HON 401 Directed Studies in Honors (1–4)
A tutorial-based course used only for student-initiated proposals for intensive individual study of topics not otherwise offered in the Honors Program and for student-initiated, interdisciplinary research projects. Prerequisite: consent of instructor(s), Honors director, and school dean.
HON 402 Senior Project/Thesis (3)
A self-directed project or thesis that covers a topic in the student’s major discipline or of an interdisciplinary nature and therefore not covered under a single discipline-specific thesis course. Project completed with a supervisory committee of at least two faculty members: one as a lead sponsor/mentor and one or more as second readers(s). At least one of the sponsors or readers must be an Honors Program faculty member. Honors thesis hours do not count toward the six hours required for the Honors degree. Prerequisite: senior standing and consent of instructors and Honors director.

Westminster Scholars

Tim Dolan, Director

Program Description

The Westminster Scholars program allows students to complete their liberal education courses in problem based learning environments that are challenging, hands-on, and collaborative; designed to develop critical, creative, and analytical thinking.

These Scholars-designated LE courses explore real-world problems and challenge students to apply their knowledge to develop solutions. In the courses, faculty serve as mentors and facilitators and assist students as they work toward solutions independently and in teams.

Program Goals

  • Students will develop critical thinking and problem solving skills and develop the confidence to understand and apply the problem-based learning pedagogies to a variety of real world problems and situations.
  • Students will develop their field and scholarly research skills in meaningful ways that will help them succeed in their professional lives following college.
  • Students will strengthen their written and oral communication skills.
  • Students will master an ability to work effectively in groups of diverse people.

Admissions Criteria

Incoming freshmen students who apply for the Westminster Scholars program will be ranked according to the following criteria: ACT or SAT scores, high school GPA, and the quality of a written statement or the success of their participation in a problem-based learning exercise on Admitted Student Day. The top twenty students will be invited to join the Westminster Scholars program. In addition, applications for the Scholars program will be accepted in mid October and February of each year. Continuing Westminster students and transfer students who are interested in joining the program are welcome to submit applications at those times. Questions concerning the application process should be directed to the Westminster Scholars program director.

Distinctions and Benefits

  • Applies problem-based learning to a liberal education core curriculum in a unique way
  • Limited class size and enrollment allows for students to be part of an inclusive cohort of active and engaged learners
  • Provides a foundation for synthesizing information and dealing with the types of problems encountered by professionals and in the work place
  • Offers intensive student-centered courses, with students in active roles
  • Provides real-world forums for writing and presentations, which facilitates the development of writing and communication skills
  • Offers a challenging and rigorous curriculum and a transcript designation upon completion of the program
  • Problem-based learning promotes critical thinking, quality writing, and effective collaboration and teamwork skills
  • Opportunities for independent field and scholarly research in and outside of courses
  • Access to peer mentors
  • Paid summer research opportunities working one-on-one with faculty mentors
  • Access to local, national, and international service opportunities and travel

Criterion for Earning a Westminster Scholars Designation on Transcript

Students must successfully complete five of the required LE courses in Westminster Scholars designated courses. These courses may not be taken credit/no credit.

Westminster Scholars Designated LE Courses and Suggested Course Trajectory

Fall Semester Spring Semester
Freshman Year

Learning Community
ENGL 110
MGMT 205

ANTH 160
SPCH 111


Sophomore Year REL 101
WSCH 200


ENGL 220
MATH 150
WSCH 200

Junior Year WSCH 300

WSCH 300

Senior Year WSCH 400 WSCH 400
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