Center for High Achievement & Scholarly Engagement
University Honors Program

For Faculty

Course Proposal/Approval Process Show Proposal/Approval Process

The Honors Program constantly solicits new courses. Given the mechanics and miracles involved in scheduling 12-14 courses each semester, we hope to get to a point when we can actually plan well ahead of time. So, suppose that you love the experience of working with Honors Students and want to help us further in educating them. What should you do? You can contact us-provided that we have not already contacted you-and we will ask you to send us the following list of information.

  1. COURSE TITLECOURSE LEVEL (100, 200, 300)

See the Honors Course Proposal Form

You can submit as many course proposals as you want. Upon approval by the Honors Director and the University Honors Program Committee (UHPC), your course(s) will be included in our forever-rolling data bank. We will contact you and your academic supervisor to negotiate scheduling.

If you are interested, you may also ask to visit an HN course taught by one of your colleagues.

In Praise of Flexibility and Collaboration Show Information

In the ideal Honors classroom, everyone is an indispensable resource, students and faculty alike. Early in the semester take some time to get acquainted. Communicate your expectations to the students. (You can transfer some of the issues and concerns from the syllabus to the classroom.) Give the students an opportunity to suggest ideas and express expectations. Such a discussion may be particularly fruitful if it is scheduled sometime after the students are acquainted with the material, the instructor and each other. To this end, you may wish to submit a partial syllabus for the first few weeks, and shape the rest of it after listening to your students.

Throughout the semester, too, evaluate the progress of the course and invite comments from the students. If students are involved in the planning, they hold themselves more accountable. When the course seems stalled, provide yourself and the students with a brief period of reflection in order to consider modifications. Shape the course for the best possible results. Most Honors students will welcome the challenge. Teach to those engaged students.

In addition, you will be given course development funds in the amount of $300. These funds are meant to help you with your course planning: books, guest speakers, field trips, tickets to events, food, etc.

Making it Clear from the Start Show Information

Honors students come to HN courses with many assumptions about what will happen in your class, assumptions that may or may not match yours. In addition, some students also may have signed up for a course that interested them but was not their first choice. For these reasons it is important that you take time in the beginning of the semester to describe the goals and tasks for the semester. From the very start, explain your vision of the course and your policies and expectations. Ask the students what they expect from the course and try to include at least some of what they mention.

Remember, honors students want to be engaged - no strict lecture courses allowed!

Please note that Honors students are used to being held accountable not just for getting assignments in on time or coming to class, but also for their own creativity and intelligence. Students are often willing to help design parts of the courses, grading requirements, criteria for excellence, etc.

Grading Show Grading

Seasoned overachievers, Honors students can be very grade conscious, yet they want the emphasis in their Honors courses to be on learning rather than grades. They want encouragement to try new ideas and take risks that they wouldn't otherwise. They want grading to include class discussion, participation, and demonstration of critical thinking (rather than just proof that they read the books). Honors students must earn at least a B in an HN course in order for it to count toward completion of the Honors Program requirements. This requirement is seldom a problem, however, given the high profile of our students. Do not feel pressured to adjust your grading.

Honors Learning Goals Show Goals

Our students have diverse skills, interests and aspirations, and as a program we attempt to accommodate as much of this diversity as possible. We understand learning goals as descriptive rather than prescriptive markers that guide our effort to realize the highest and broadest possible level of education, personal growth and achievement for our outstanding students. As a whole, the Honors Program at Butler advocates:

  • interdisciplinary education
  • interactive, discussion-oriented inquiry
  • personal as well as collaborative learning through individual and group work
  • research and creativity
  • excellent oral and writing skills
  • willingness to explore new areas of knowledge
  • innovative methods of learning (different, not more, work)
  • close faculty-student collaboration

All HN courses foster interdisciplinary and interactive learning. By interdisciplinary, however, we don't mean merely liberal arts or fine arts courses, or those that are structured like Change and Tradition. A course that employs closely related methodologies, e.g., those of the natural sciences, is as interdisciplinary as a course that blends literature, film, history, music and philosophy. Equally important is the interactive nature of the pedagogy. In each HN course, the students and the faculty members are partners in the learning process, class discussions are frequent, and openness and risk-taking are encouraged. Students expect to be fully engaged in their honors courses, not only with each other, but also with their professors.

Who Gets to Participate? Show Information

Students who have been admitted to Butler and have a combined SAT score of at least 1320 or a composite ACT score of 30 and are in the top 7% of their high school graduating class are eligible to apply to the honors program. Invitations are then issued on the basis of the quality of the students' academic curriculum, extra-curricular/leadership activities, and their application essay.

Students may also join the program after coming to Butler. To be invited while at Butler, a student must earn a GPA of 3.6 or higher with 16 or more graded credit hours first semester freshman year, and submit a positive faculty recommendation. (Same for students with 32 graded hours completed by end of freshman year.) Students have also been admitted on the basis of positive faculty recommendation.

Honors students are articulate, conscientious, hard-working, and curious. They read, think, write and analyze very well. They enjoy being included as active participants in the learning process and thrive in class discussions. They take honors courses to "get outside of the box" of their majors and other classroom environments. In short, honors students are a pleasure to work with.

Non-honors students are allowed to enroll in honors courses if there are open spots in the courses after all honors students have registered.

You will most likely have students from various majors in your honors course, and most of the students will be freshmen or sophomores.

Which faculty get to teach in honors? We encourage faculty from across the university to teach honors courses on any topic that interests them. Your honors class topic does not have to be in your area; for example, we've had a biology professor teach on the Western Gunfighter and a music professor teach on the history of powered flight. Use your honors course to get outside of your own box!

The Honors Curriculum Show Curriculum

Honors students must complete four HN courses, a Departmental Honors Course, an Independent Study, and a Thesis in order to graduate with University honors (aka Latin honors). HN courses vary in kind as well as level. Around 80% of the students in Honors courses are freshmen and sophomores.

HN 100 Honors Freshman Seminars are designed to introduce freshmen students to the Honors experience: the kind of course work, the seriousness as well as the joys of the enterprise, the community of students and faculty, cultural events, etc. Offered in the Fall semester only, HN 100s give Honors students a chance to get to know one another and start working together in the spirit of shared purpose.

HN 200-201 Seminars examine a great work, thinker or artist from various angles: artistic, scientific, historical, philosophical, religious, and so on. These courses give practice in honing in on one topic in extreme detail.

HN 300 Colloquia focus on a central theme or question and examine it from a variety of disciplines and approaches. These courses ask students to approach a broad topic from a variety of different angles in order to gain their own perspective on the topic. Since this is usually the last level of the HN curriculum before the student moves on to the thesis-centered half of the Honors program, we urge the inclusion of some research-related assignments/projects in these courses.

Readings and Projects Show Projects

HN courses carry two credits and meet once or twice a week, and how much to assign (readings and projects) tends to be a common question among the faculty. Just as important as quantity should be the nature and quality of the work-load. Please consider projects and activities besides the conventional reading and writing assignments that will engage your students' intellect and creativity throughout the semester. True, most Honors students can read and process more information than do regular students. Yet, Honors students are also likely to ask more questions, want to examine the texts in more depth, have plenty more to say about what they read, and disagree with each other. All of this recommends that we favor depth over quantity when teaching Honors students.

Term projects and writing assignments naturally vary from course to course, and from instructor to instructor. We suggest periodic assignments that will facilitate interactive learning. Brief response papers, overnight-writes, weekly take-home questions and the like all help increase the amount and quality of classroom discussion. In addition, term projects (conventional term papers or innovative projects) add scope and focus to the students' learning. While your assignments should foster independent thinking and inquiry, also consider the benefits of group learning outside the classroom. Honors students appreciate and function productively in projects that involve groups or even the entire class. When assigning individual or group term projects, consider scheduling time for student presentations.

The Honors Course Syllabus Show Syllabus

Planning a good syllabus is like practicing preventive medicine. Previous honors faculty recommend that Honors syllabi be succinct and thorough, and include the following information:

  • Statement of Purpose: for the course, articulating the big picture: what you hope to achieve through the course; the underlying themes and concerns; why you are teaching the course. The syllabus is both a contract and an invitation. The statement of purpose can stimulate a conversation with the students about the nature of the class.
  • Objectives: what you hope the students will learn, through what methods.
  • Reading List and Assignments (preferably annotated): consider briefly explaining how each text and assignment corresponds to the course objectives and contributes to the overall learning. Students enjoy being able to make connections and to follow the progression of their coursework. Also consider extending to your students the opportunity to choose a portion of their assignments.
  • Grading: list the assignments and activities and how they will figure into the grade.
  • The official statement regarding student disabilities: Honors students may have disabilities, and/or may know friends on campus who would be helped by that information. If you need the specific wording, contact Michele Atterson at 940-9308 or

Questions? Contact us

Honors Program Director, Dr. Judi Morrel at or 940-9723
Honors Program Coordinator, Jason Lantzer at or 940-9302
The Honors Office is located in Jordan Hall 153 C.
Also try checking the FAQs if you haven't already!