Brigham Young University Homepage

Undergraduate Catalog

2013 - 2014

Honors Program

350 MSRB
(801) 422-5497

Honors Program Director: Joseph D. Parry; Professor; Humanities, Classics, and Comparative Literature
Honors Program Assistant Director: Shauna Barrick
General Education/Honors Administrative Assistant: Karen Pierotti

Participation in Honors

The Honors Program provides an unusually rich and challenging experience for capable and motivated undergraduate students. Its purpose is to assist students as they establish lifelong patterns of learning and appreciation of the world's great treasures of knowledge. An Honors education is not merely a more intensive general education or a more strenuous program in a major. Rather, it provides students with the advantages of an enriched education in a small-class setting with excellent professors, while utilizing all of the advantages of a large university. Students who pursue an honors education at Brigham Young University take honors courses that meet university core requirements; experience Great Works in literature, art, music, film, theater, and science; and participate in an intensive honors thesis experience in their major.

To graduate from BYU, students must meet not only the requirements of a major department but also the university core requirements in general education and religion. Most students complete the nonmajor requirements through courses in the general university curriculum. Because all students must complete core requirements, some required classes have high enrollments, and there is little opportunity for students to interact closely with the professors. The Honors Program invites capable and motivated students to satisfy university core requirements through honors as alternatives to the standard general and religious education programs. Honors courses have smaller enrollments (usually fewer than 30 students per class) and are focused on class discussion and writing.

"University Honors" is a distinction awarded to all graduates of BYU who have met the honors requirements as described below. This prestigious designation is recorded on the university diploma, on the official transcript of grades, and in the graduation program. It is widely recognized as an indication of exceptional academic achievement. Although it is hoped that students will choose to complete all of the requirements for the University Honors designation, those who do not intend to do so are welcome to participate in the Honors Program to whatever extent they choose. All students are invited to consider honors as a way to achieve the quality academic experiences they seek. Students may register for honors courses at any time during their undergraduate years without necessarily intending to complete all the honors graduation requirements.

There are no special admissions criteria for participation in the Honors Program, and all students are invited to consider honors as a way to broaden and deepen their educational experience at BYU. However, it takes careful planning to complete all program requirements. Typically, interested first-year students begin by completing an enrollment form that may be obtained from the Honors Advisement Center in 350D MSRB after a brief orientation. Then during their second year, students formally commit to the program and, with the help of the Advisement Center, begin to construct a more concrete plan for graduation with University Honors. Reasonable accommodations can be made for transfer students who wish to join the program. Any student at the university is welcome to take honors courses that suit their interests and educational objectives.

Facilities and Opportunities Available to Honors Students

The Honors Program is housed in the historic Maeser Building on the southwest part of campus. This quiet corner is surrounded by beautiful grounds and wooded areas. The building is named after Karl G. Maeser, the first principal of Brigham Young Academy (the school that later became Brigham Young University). A bronze statue of Karl G. Maeser stands at the building's east entrance. Constructed in 1911, the Maeser Building is the oldest building on the current campus. The building was restored in 1985 with modern electrical and ventilation systems but retains its historic architecture and decoration, its marble halls richly decorated with oak and brass trim.

Facilities for honors students in the Maeser Building include the Honors Reading Room in 150 MSRB, with study tables and a small library of reference works and classics; the Honors Student Lounge in 102 MSRB, where students can meet for informal discussions; an art gallery in the lower-floor hall; the Honors Advisement Center in 350D MSRB, where students receive counseling about their honors education; and the Martha Jane Knowlton Coray Lecture Hall in 321 MSRB, where classes, lectures, and musical concerts are held. Another Honors Reading Room is located in 3770 Harold B. Lee Library.

Students who have completed an enrollment form and who are active participants in the Honors Program are eligible for reduced-rate admission to selected musical and theatrical performances, some of which include visiting performers of international renown. They also have priority registration privileges for honors courses. The Honors Program sponsors lectures, concerts, symposia, and socials. Students can also participate in intercampus events with honors students from other universities and colleges. Each week, on Thursdays at 11:00 a.m., during fall and winter semesters, the Honors Program sponsors honors lectures featuring a religious or academic presentation by a professor or member of the community. Students are also invited to participate with the Honors Student Advisory Council, a group of student representatives who assist in policy development, social activities, and academic functions of the Honors Program.

Who Should Participate in Honors?

The characteristics that best define honors students are motivation and a strong desire to obtain the most from the educational experience that BYU has to offer. Honors students seek breadth in their education by taking honors courses outside their majors. They excel in their majors by learning how to conduct research and scholarly work within their chosen fields. They usually tend to work harder and spend more time on their course work than other students, not because their courses are more difficult but because they take courses that interest them. They attend concerts, plays, films, lectures, and art and science exhibitions, and they participate in informal discussions with their professors and fellow students. Because many of their classes are small and discussion-oriented, they are personally acquainted with their professors. They become well-rounded, literate, and humane scholars whose faith in the restored gospel is strong. Their thirst for knowledge lasts a lifetime. They are not necessarily those with the highest grade-point averages or the highest standardized test scores, nor do all honors students have scholarships.

Approximately 30 percent of the BYU student body participates in honors, and students benefit thereby from an enriched education. The Honors Program invites all BYU students who seek an enhanced educational experience to take advantage of the many opportunities offered by the Honors Program.

Overview of Requirements for Graduation with University Honors

This section provides a brief overview of the requirements to graduate with University Honors. Detailed explanations of each requirement follow this section. The staff in the Honors Advisement Center, 350D MSRB, (801) 422-5497, is available on a walk-in basis to answer questions about the program. To graduate with University Honors, a student must:

  1. Complete an honors enrollment form.
  2. Complete the honors commitment interview.
  3. Complete the honors curriculum requirement.
  4. Complete the honors great works requirement.
  5. Complete the honors advanced languages requirement.
  6. Complete the honors service requirement.
  7. Complete the senior graduation review.
  8. Complete the honors thesis requirement.
  9. Submit a graduation portfolio that summarizes the student's academic experiences.
  10. Graduate with a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.5.

The requirements for graduation with University Honors complement both major and university core education. The honors curriculum, great works, and advanced languages requirements enhance the university core components; the honors thesis requirement enhances the major education component.

Detailed Explanations of Requirements for Graduation with University Honors

  1. Honors Enrollment Form
  2. Students who wish to explore the Honors Program should attend a brief orientation and complete as early as possible in their undergraduate program an enrollment form available at the Honors Advisement Center. Students who have completed the enrollment form will have the opportunity to reserve seats in honors courses prior to regular registration. Consultation with the advisement center allows the Honors Program to know students' plans so advisement personnel can help them register for the correct classes and keep them informed of honors activities.

  3. Honors Commitment Interview
  4. Students who intend to graduate with University Honors will submit a letter of intent in preparation for an interview usually held during the student's fourth semester at BYU. Accommodations can be made for transfer students and students joining late. Newly committed students will be recognized at the Falls Honors Opening Evening.

  5. Honors Curriculum Requirement
  6. The honors curriculum requirement enhances the core component of students' undergraduate education. Nearly all honors courses (Honrs) and honors sections of department courses meet the university core requirements that all BYU students must complete. Students should consult the University Core table to be sure which core requirements are met by the courses for which they choose to register.

    To fulfill the honors curriculum requirements, students must complete 22 credit hours selected from honors courses and honors sections of department courses, subject to the following limitations:

    1. Three of the 22 credit hours must be from one of the following writing courses: Wrtg 150 (an honors section) or Phil 150 (an honors section).
    2. No more than 12 credit hours from honors sections of department courses can be used to meet this requirement. Of these, no more than 4 credit hours can be from honors sections of religion courses.
    3. No more than 4 credit hours of non-GE honors classes (Honrs 100R, 290R, or 292R) can be used to meet this requirement.

    Honors options are available for nearly all university core requirements. Honrs 499R (honors thesis) does not count as credit for the honors curriculum requirement.

  7. Honors Great Works Requirement
  8. The honors great works and arts engagement requirement introduces students to the world's treasures of literature, music, theatre, film, art, and science and technology. It is intended to enhance not just their undergraduate education but their entire life as it encourages them to develop a lifelong pattern of experiencing the great works of humankind. Students can fulfill this requirement entirely on their own, or they may include works of literature, music, theatre, film, art, and science that they study as part of their course work. BYU provides many opportunities to fulfill this requirement within its course offerings and its rich schedule of musical, theatrical, and artistic productions. Some of the great works are part of many honors courses. The Honors Program provides reduced-rate admission for honors students to attend selected performance events. Most faculty and student recitals and most art exhibitions are open to students and the public with no admission charge.

    This requirement must be met during the time students are undergraduates. They cannot reduce the requirement by counting works studied only during high school. Students will benefit most from this requirement if they spread it out over their undergraduate years. Each area requires students to study or attend twelve works, performances, or exhibitions—which is three per year in each area if spread out over a period of four years. A great works requirement packet is available in the Honors Advisement Center (350D MSRB) or electronically at This packet includes the detailed information students will need and a checklist that they can use to ensure that they properly complete this requirement.

  9. Honors Advanced Languages Requirement
  10. Honors students must gain proficiency in a foreign language that would allow placement in a 200-level course and proficiency in advanced mathematics, statistics, or logic (at least one course from Geog 222, Honrs 250, Math 112/H, 113/H, 118/H, 119, Phil 305, Psych 301, Stat 121/H, or an acceptable substitute). Fulfillment of this requirement meets and exceeds the core advanced Languages of Learning requirement in requiring both languages and math.

    Honors or non-honors sections of these courses will satisfy the requirement.

  11. Honors Service Requirement
  12. Students who participate in honors are multi-talented and highly motivated. The Honors Program encourages students to share their gifts with others through meaningful service. To complete this requirement, students must participate in some form of service that draws upon their unique talents and abilities during their undergraduate years. The requirement is flexible in that it allows students to define the form of service they plan to use to meet it. However, one hour a week or 10-12 hours each semester is a recommended amount. Their contribution may be in a single project or spread out over several projects. Examples of service projects that students have used to complete this requirement include volunteer tutoring of high school or college students; assistance in programs that benefit people who are handicapped, elderly, ill, or impoverished; service as a volunteer in museums, hospitals, parks, or other public facilities; and participation on restoration or conservation projects. This service can be part of activities sponsored by educational, religious, government, business, or charitable organizations, including BYU and the LDS Church, or students can plan and carry out service on their own. For those students who serve full-time LDS missions, the service that meets this requirement should be carried out while a student and should be in addition to any service performed as a full-time missionary. Missions often provide students with skills and opportunities that they can use to provide significant service after their full-time missions are completed.

  13. Senior Graduation Review
  14. Students will submit required great works responses for evaluation in fall of the year prior to their planned graduation. Progress on the thesis and other graduation requirements will also be reviewed during the senior interview.

  15. Honors Thesis Requirement
  16. The honors thesis requirement gives students the opportunity to participate in original research or creative work in the discipline of their major. Honors students typically complete the thesis requirement during their junior and senior years after they have obtained sufficient training in their major to conduct independent work in a specialized academic field. Each student consults with a departmental honors coordinator to choose a faculty advisor in the department of his or her major and, in consultation with the advisor, chooses a thesis topic.

    Students should complete significant course work within the subject area of the thesis (usually at least 30 credit hours, several of which are from 300- or 400-level major courses). The thesis is intended to acquaint students firsthand and in depth with the type of scholarly work that characterizes the field they intend to pursue professionally. For these reasons, only under rare circumstances is an honors thesis topic outside the major area approved. (In most cases students who complete a thesis outside the major do so in fields cognate to their majors.)

    Before students begin work on an honors thesis, they must submit a written thesis proposal and have it approved by the Honors Program Office. Guidelines for writing the proposal are available in the Honors Advisement Center (350D MSRB) or electronically at Students can request financial support as a part of the thesis proposal. Many honors students obtain competitive undergraduate research grants from BYU's Office of Research and Creative Activities for honors thesis work. Also, many professors and departments have research funding that can be devoted to research on an honors thesis. Personnel in the Honors Program can help students explore the various opportunities available to support their work on an honors thesis.

    After completing thesis research and writing the thesis, each student must conduct a thesis defense. The defense committee consists of the thesis advisor, a faculty referee, and a representative of the Honors Program administration, who chairs the defense. After the thesis defense is completed and all final changes are incorporated into the thesis, the Honors Program will have the thesis bound and add it to the collection of honors theses housed in the Harold B. Lee Library Honors Reading Room (3770 HBLL).

  17. Graduation Portfolio Summarizing the Honors Experiences
  18. The honors portfolio is a record of a student's undergraduate experience. It is a file kept by all candidates for University Honors graduation and is submitted for review when the final thesis draft is due. The portfolio contains samples of a student's best academic work from the undergraduate program. Although students should place their best work in the portfolio, the file is intended as a record of growth; thus early struggling attempts also have their place. It is always illuminating to students to see where they have been and how far they have come. The honors portfolio is evaluated at the thesis defense.

    When submitted for examination, the portfolio should contain (but is not limited to):

    1. A one- or two-page summary, semester by semester, of the major highlights and achievements of the student's undergraduate experience.
    2. A one-page evaluation of the most memorable service the student contributed as an undergraduate.
    3. A current transcript indicating a GPA of at least 3.5.
    4. A list of three faculty members who know the student and can recommend his or her academic record.
    5. A representative collection of the student's best academic work, reflecting educational progression throughout the undergraduate years.
    6. A great works and arts engagement experience log.
    7. Twelve great works and arts engagement response papers.

  19. Graduate with a Cumulative Grade Point Average (GPA) of at Least 3.5
  20. Honors students are not necessarily those with the highest GPAs, although most perform very well in their classes. Rather than select easy courses to receive high grades, honors students tend to seek challenging courses taught by excellent professors, and they participate in a variety of activities. Nevertheless, honors students are expected to perform well academically, defined as a minimum GPA of 3.5 at the time of graduation.

Note: The general Web site for the BYU Honors Program is