Honors Program

A Unique College Experience

The Honors Program at the University of South Carolina Upstate provides an exceptional experience for motivated students committed to academic excellence. Our program provides a unique learning environment that enriches and enhances students' academic careers by offering a curriculum of study designed to prepare them for life-long learning and achievements.

Serving the needs of the best and brightest, the Honors Program is designed to offer students a challenging and creative curriculum of honors courses, top professors, exciting seminars, student-faculty conversations, extracurricular activities and other honors opportunities. The Honors Program encourages students to grow intellectually, think independently and critically, and engage in a challenging honors learning experience.                                 

A USC Upstate Honors Student has:

  • The advantages of a large, traditional university
  • The interaction of a small cohort of high achieving and intellectually curious students
  • The support of an involved and talented faculty
  • The ability to take unique, stimulating, creative and multidisciplinary classes unavailable to other students
  • The access to specially designed opportunities for travel, community service and social functions
  • The consequence of being a part of a program that explores all areas of human interest and concern
  • The prestige of an honors program
Vision, Mission

Vision

The USC Upstate Honors Program underscores the commitment of USC Upstate to academic excellence and the life of the mind. The Honors Program offers enhanced educational opportunities tailored to the special needs, aspirations and motivations of students with outstanding intellectual and creative abilities. By bringing together talented students and dedicated and accomplished professors in small classes and individual research settings, the Honors Program creates a community united by a passion for learning and driven by a hunger for knowledge.

The Honors Program enriches the learning experience with study abroad opportunities, research assistantships, faculty and community mentoring and a range of co-curricular activities and experiences that build a shared sense of intellectual curiosity and achievement of the highest standards of academic excellence.

Mission

The goals of the USC Upstate Honors Program are as follows:

  • To encourage an intellectual orientation by providing a challenging curriculum that emphasizes critical thinking, creative and active learning, integration of academic disciplines, in-depth exploration of new fields of study and application of learning to other environments;
  • To develop the skills and qualities necessary for leadership both at USC Upstate and in the larger community through an emphasis on service learning and public presentations;
  • To provide a center of intellectual identity and community; and 
  • To meet the needs of outstanding students for engagement and intellectual pursuits beyond the classroom walls.
Admission and Graduation Requirements

Admission to the Honors Program is selective and competitive. Great care is taken to admit the best-qualified applicants.

Eligibility for Admission to the Honors Program

First-year students, sophomore-level and above students, and transfer students are eligible for admittance in the Honors Program upon review and approval by the Director of the Honors Program and the Honors Faculty Council.

A first-year student is eligible to apply to the Honors Program if the student meets at least two of the following criteria:

  • A minimum SAT score of 1100 or ACT of 24.
  • A ranking in the top 10 percent of high school graduating class
  • A cumulative high school grade point average of at least 3.5 on a 4.0 scale.
  • A Merit Award Program finalist.
  • A Chancellor or Valedictorian Scholar.
  • Evidence of motivation and commitment to academic excellence.

A current USC Upstate sophomore or junior is eligible to apply to the Honors Program if the student meets the following criteria:

  • A cumulative GPA of 3.25 or higher on a minimum of 30 hours from USC Upstate.
  • Evidence of motivation and commitment to academic excellence.

A transfer student is eligible to apply to the Honors Program if the student meets the following criteria:

  • A cumulative GPA of 3.25 or higher from other academic institutions.
  • Evidence of motivation and commitment to academic excellence.

Application Process

Students apply for the Honors Program by submitting the following:

  • An application that includes students' academic records, significant extracurricular, community, and service activities (including employment); accomplishments, awards, and talents; and any involvement in academic research.
  • A 500-word essay discussing the goals and aspirations for an honors college experience.
  • Two letters of recommendation attesting to academic eligibility.
  • An interview with the Director of the Honors Program may be required. Exceptions to these requirements may be considered by the Director of the Honors Program.

Students who have not been admitted to the Honors Program but have a cumulative GPA of 3.25 may participate in honors courses with the permission of the Director of the Honors Program in consultation with the faculty member teaching the honors course.

Honors Credits from Other Institutions

Up to 9 credit hours or three courses from other National Collegiate Honors Council institutions may be accepted for honors credit into the USC Upstate Honors Program. These courses must be compatible with the USC Upstate Honors Program. A syllabus or complete description of courses offered for acceptance into the program may be required for review by the Director of the Honors Program. All credits must be approved by the Director of the Honors Program.

Requirements for Graduating with Honors

To graduate from the Honors Program, students must:

 

  • Complete at least 18 credit hours of honors seminars, courses, internships and tutorials of 200-level or above. This course of study will serve as an interdisciplinary minor, with the title of the student’s honors project designating the interdisciplinary focus of study on the transcript. All honors students, including those who transfer to USC Upstate with junior standing are required to complete the upper-level honors seminars: The Self and Society (HON 201), The Ethical Factor (HON 301), and The Process of Progress (HON 401). Honors students who enter USC Upstate as first-year students will typically complete over 24 credit hours of honors courses, including 100-level courses and the Life of the Mind seminar (HON 101).
  • Maintain an average cumulative GPA of 3.25 or higher.
  • Compile an electronic honors portfolio of projects and reflections from the honors seminar courses (HON 101, 201, 301, and 401), internships, research experience, service learning activities and extracurricular activities. The final portfolio will also include a statement of purpose describing the student’s accomplishments in the capstone honors project and the interdisciplinary theme or focus of study that underlies the student’s honors experience.
  • Present to a public audience a capstone project designed and proposed in fall in HON 401 (The Process of Progress) and completed in spring in a three-credit tutorial or internship under the guidance of an honors faculty member. Students are encouraged to pursue creative project formats, including multimedia, performance, experiential or application-based projects, although conventional thesis projects may also be accepted. Projects must be approved by the director of the Honors Program.
  • Complete a minimum of 20 hours of service learning activities, typically as a course requirement in Honors 201. Other service learning or community service must be approved by the director of the Honors Program. Short reflection essays about this community engagement will be included in the electronic honors portfolio.
  • Demonstrate significant contributions to honors activities by serving on the Honors Student Council and/or participating in the programming of the Honors Program, such as research assistantships, study abroad and cultural activities. Each semester, honors students must attend four events that are approved by the director of the Honors Program. Short reflection essays about these events will be included in the electronic honors portfolio.
  • Students who fall below the required minimum cumulative GPA of 3.25 in any semester are placed on honors probation. At the end of the probationary semester, students with a cumulative GPA of 3.25 or higher are returned to regular honors status. Students with a cumulative GPA lower than 3.25 but with a semester cumulative GPA or 3.25 or higher remain on honors probationary status. Students whose probationary semester cumulative GPA is lower than 3.25 are dismissed from the Honors Program. Students may apply for readmission to the Honors Program if their cumulative GPA is 3.25 or higher.
Honors Courses

HONS 101 - The Life of The Mind

In this course, professors from a wide variety of academic disciplines and traditions will lead students in seminars that explore how the “great thinkers” in their particular field of study have attempted to define humanity’s purpose and destiny. In addition we will read some of the greatest works in the literary, religious, and philosophical traditions that, in one way or another, have influenced how humans think about themselves and each other. Please note: This class does not intend to answer the great questions, but to raise even more questions.

  • Professor: Dr. Catherine Canino
  • Time: Monday/Wednesday/Friday 11 a.m. - noon.

HONS 398 (Special Topics) - American Religious Life Today

This course will explore the religious and spiritual landscape of the contemporary U.S. with a focus on religious diversity and the styles of American religious lives. We’ll examine religion as a lived phenomenon and review the practices, beliefs, values, and institutions of different faith communities (including diverse Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, Native American, Sikh groups and others) and also address new trends in US religious life. The course will pay special attention to how religious ideas impact individual attitudes toward society, politics, gender relations and additional aspects of American society. We will also explore rising questions of fear and prejudice that affect the way Americans engage religions that may seem new and strange to them.

  • Professor: Dr. David Damrel
  • Time: Monday/Wednesday/Friday 9 - 10 a.m.

HONS 401 - The Process of Progress

In this seminar course, students will study examples of research and research-based problem solving in order to provide a foundation for their own final research project in the honors program. By exploring the history of the TED Talks movement and its predecessor in 19th and 20th century literary salons, we will analyze the ways that great ideas emerge out of creative collaboration and serendipitous connections combined with intentional planning and good project design.

  • Professor: Dr. Celena Kusch
  • Time: Tuesday/Thursday 10:50 a.m. - 12:05 p.m.
Program of Study

Honors Students and General Education

All graduates of USC Upstate should demonstrate five core competencies as described in the Academic Programs section of the Academic Catalog. These competencies include the following: (1) the ability to communicate effectively in English in writing and orally, (2) comprehension and application of scientific and quantitative reasoning, (3) critical thinking and integration of information, (4) understanding and awareness of linguistic and cultural diversity, and (5) facility with information technology. A USC Upstate honors student must develop and refine these competencies by completing a coherent set of introductory-level courses which may be drawn from both honors and regular course offerings.

Honors students are encouraged to take an interdisciplinary approach to the general education competencies by enrolling in Honors Arts and Humanities, Honors Natural Science and Mathematics, Honors Social and Behavioral Sciences, the Honors General Education Tutorials, and special honors courses. Students will coordinate with the Director of the Honors Program and their major advisors to satisfy the general education competency requirements through no fewer than 30 credit hours in general education courses, including at least one course in each of the three main divisions: the humanities and fine arts, social and behavioral sciences, and natural sciences and mathematics.

In addition, students must fulfill any particular general education requirements that serve as foundational courses for their designated major. For example, an honors student majoring in biology must complete Precalculus I and II as well as General Chemistry and General Chemistry and Qualitative Analysis. Working with their major advisors, honors students will identify these courses by the end of their first year at USC Upstate. 

Honors Students and Major Requirements

In addition to completing the honors focus of study, honors students select an academic major and fulfill the requirements of that major. Courses designated as honors courses, such as BIO 110H or ENG 102H, can substitute for non-honors courses. Special honors courses, tutorials, or internships may substitute for comparable general education courses or courses in the major program of study, or they may apply toward the honors minor or serve as electives. Honors students will work in coordination with the Director of the Honors Program and their major advisor to fulfill the requirements of both their major and their honors minor.

Course Descriptions

HONORS COURSES (HONS)

To enroll in honors courses, students must be members of the Honors Program or granted approval by the Director of the Honors Program in consultation with the faculty teaching the course.

Honors courses require coursework that is more challenging and enriching for honors students; projects and assessments that offer more opportunities for creativity and problem-solving; assignments that include more intensive reading, writing, and research ; and increased opportunities for co-curricular activities that complement course content. Honors sections may involve team-teaching or an interdisciplinary approach to the topics.

HONS 101: The Life of the Mind (3)

A facilitated seminar course taught by multiple faculty members with an interdisciplinary theme centered around the life of the mind, including questions about the nature of education, the self, and society. The course provides an introduction to multiple disciplinary perspectives, engages students in interdisciplinary projects and problem-solving, and fosters leadership through significant interactions between honors students and honors faculty and other USC Upstate departments and resources. 

HONS 120: Honors Fine Arts and Humanities (3-4)

An interdisciplinary approach to introductory fine arts and humanities courses that fulfill general education requirements. The course engages students in a critical introduction through the exploration of an interdisciplinary theme. Themes may include art therapy, ekphrasis, or God and beauty, the history of religious art. Students may enroll in this course more than once if the topic changes. 

HONS 121: Honors Natural Science and Mathematics (3-4)

An interdisciplinary approach to introductory natural science and mathematics courses that fulfill general education requirements. The course engages students in a critical introduction through the exploration of an interdisciplinary theme. Themes may include the history of physics, introductory bioinformatics, or the statistics of gender. Students may enroll in this course more than once if the topic changes. 

HONS 122: Honors Social and Behavioral Sciences (3-4)

An interdisciplinary approach to introductory social and behavioral sciences courses that fulfill general education requirements. The course engages students in a critical introduction through the exploration of an interdisciplinary theme. Themes may include the psychology of elections, sociology of relationships, or work and economics. Students may enroll in this course more than once if the topic changes.

HONS 199: Honors General Education Tutorial (3-4)

An independent, introductory study of a general education discipline designed to address applications of the field of study and/or interdisciplinary approaches to the field. Examples include introductory legal philosophy, biomedical ethics, or behavioral economics. Honors students may enroll in this course more than once if the topic changes. 

HONS 201: Self and Society (3)

A seminar course with an interdisciplinary theme centered around community and societal problem-solving. The course engages students in interdisciplinary projects and community-based problem-solving, promotes scholarly reflection on service projects, and fosters leadership through significant interactions between honors students and community leaders. Course includes intensive reading, writing, public speaking, presenting, and community engagement. 

HONS 250: Honors Travel (3)

Visits to and study of international or US sites of historic, cultural, and/or literary significance. Content and itinerary will vary depending on the instructor’s area of interest. Prerequisite: Admission to Honors Program or permission of the Director of the Honors Program.

HONS 301: The Ethical Factor (3)

A seminar course with an interdisciplinary theme centered around ethics and ethical problem-solving. Examples include America’s Evolving Moral Landscape and Civil Rights or Science, Ethics and Religion. The course engages students in interdisciplinary projects and problem-solving, promotes scholarly reflection through written and oral communication, and fosters leadership through significant interactions with guest speakers from the University and the broader community. Course must include intensive reading, writing, and research. 

HONS 350: Honors Travel (3)

Visits to and study of international or US sites of historic, cultural, scientific, and/or literary significance. The focus and work product for the course vary depending on the instructor’s area of interest. Prerequisite: Admission to Honors Program or overall GPA of 3.25 at USC Upstate or accredited institution with permission of the Director of the Honors Program. 

HONS 398: Honors Special Topics (3)

Interdisciplinary approaches to enduring issues or current topics. Course may be team taught and must include intensive reading, writing, and research. Technology-based and/or presentation-based projects may be required. This course may be repeated if the topic changes. 

HONS 399: Honors Tutorial (1-4)

Directed research and reading of a complex and comprehensive nature in keeping with the student's interests and goals. Course will culminate in a final project and/or written report. Research may involve both primary and secondary sources. May be repeated with the consent of the Director of the Honors Program for a total of no more than eight hours of undergraduate Honors credit.

HONS 499: Honors Internship (1-4)

Directed hands-on, practicum experience in keeping with the student’s interests and goals. Honors interns complete additional research and reading and prepare a written report at the end of the term. May be repeated with the consent of the Director of the Honors Program for a total of no more than eight hours of undergraduate Honors credit. A university contract must be completed with all required signatures.

HONS 401: The Process of Progress (3)

A seminar course with an interdisciplinary theme centered around the nature of research and research-based problem-solving. Students trace the process of design and discovery of a documented, well-known research project then apply that model to a project of their own. Project models might include the human genome project and its implications for the limits of humanity or the TED movement. The course engages students in intensive, interdisciplinary research projects, promotes scholarly reflection through written and oral communication, and fosters leadership through significant interactions with faculty research mentors.

Events

Ted Talks:

All Ted Talks will be held from 6-7 p.m. in the Health Education Complex J.M, Smith Boardroom (2039).

Sept. 19, 2017: Danielle Cassells: "Buildings that Blend Nature and City" 
Oct. 3, 2017: Catherine Wilson: "The Danger of a Single Story" 
Oct. 17, 2017:  Amanda Cluney: "Trust Your Struggle" 
Nov. 14, 2017: Zanzi Robinson: "My Year Reading a Book from Every Country in the World" 

Opportunities

South Carolina Washington Semester Internship Program

Each year the University of South Carolina offers the opportunity for honors students throughout the USC system to participate in an internship in Washington, D.C., for a semester. Students may serve internships in a variety of agencies that fit their interests: The Supreme Court, Congress, the Smithsonian Museums, the Justice Department, Department of Health, etc.  Obviously, this is a great opportunity. You would be working with national leaders at the forefront of national events. It is invaluable for resumes for future jobs and graduate schools, and it is a chance for you to network in ways that you cannot in South Carolina. Students from USC Upstate who have participated in this program have loved it!

More information: http://schc.sc.edu/academics/internships/washington-semester

Honors Portfolio

Portfolio Requirements

Honors students must compile an electronic Honors Portfolio of projects and reflections from the honors seminar courses (HON 101, 201, 301 and 401), internships, research experience, service learning activities and extracurricular activities. Reflections may include images or other multimedia responses beyond a basic summary and comment. Students could write a letter to a speaker they enjoyed. Create an image collage from a trip. The final portfolio also includes a statement of purpose describing the student’s accomplishments in the capstone honors project and the interdisciplinary theme or focus of study that underlies the student’s honors experience. It is good to start building that focus by the end of the student’s sophomore year, even if it changes later.

Students may create their portfolios online through the Upstate Honors Program Blackboard site, Weebly, Wordpress or some other format. Students using an external program, should email the portfolio link to the Director of the Honors Program, Dr. Cathy Canino. NOTE: external sites are often publicly available. Students seeking privacy protections should use the Blackboard system. Students using Blackboard should share the portfolio with the Honors Program organization.

Student Instructions for Creating a Portfolio in Blackboard

It is easy to use Blackboard to create an Honors Portfolio and add to it each semester. Students should use the portfolios to reflect briefly on courses and other Honors experiences both in and out of the classroom. Reflections should record the student’s ongoing development as a future leader, innovator and lifelong scholar and should help the student identify the specific intellectual area of interest he or she would like to pursue in undergraduate research, internships, tutorials and the capstone Honors project and presentation.

In the Honors Program Blackboard site, students should click the “Creating Portfolios” button. Quick instructions are as follows:

  • Click the Portfolios Homepage button on the left.
  • Click Create Portfolio.
  • Name the portfolio. Then Select Portfolio Template to locate the Upstate Honors Portfolio template. Then, submit.
  • Follow the steps to customize and design the portfolio.
  • Click Done Editing to save.
  • On the My Portfolios page, select the MORE option beneath the portfolio name.
  • Under Share, click Share a Snapshot with... Then select Organizations. Search for Honors, Browse to Search For Honors, then select Upstate-Honors-Program.
  • Return to the portfolio through the Portfolios Homepage button to edit and expand after each activity and/or course.
  • A sample portfolio and other student portfolios in progress are available under "Our Portfolios" for examples of content for your portfolio.

Integrating the Honors Portfolio into Your Honors Course

As an Honors Program faculty member, you have the pleasure of teaching high-achieving students in creative and challenging classes. Your students, however, are responsible for drawing connections across their classes and constructing a coherent concentration and final project. You can help support them in that effort by reminding them to complete sections of their honors portfolio as they progress through the program. How you can help:

  • Simply remind students to log on to the Honors Program in Blackboard for details.
  • Assign a reflection exercise connected to your course to be posted to their portfolio.
  • Encourage them to attend Honors extracurricular events to which you are invited and remind them to add their reflections to their Honors portfolio.