Teach Honors

The Honors College seeks to not only improve and enrich the experience of our students, but also the experience of our faculty. Faculty members frequently herald the Honors teaching experience as the most enjoyable type of classroom experience. The classes are smaller, the students tend to be more engaged and faculty are given the latitude to experiment with new topics, methods and pedagogies.

There are numerous ways to engage academically in the Honors community. Many departments offer Honors sections of existing VCU courses and the Honors College is always eager to see new proposals. Suggesting an Honors version of an existing class in your department is an excellent way to not only engage with academically-talented students, but to recruit these stellar students into your department. For those units that may not have the ability to offer stand-alone Honors sections, the Honors variant is an appealing alternative. The Honors variant enables a small group of Honors students to follow an Honors version of the syllabus while still participating alongside their non-Honors peers. Other faculty members may wish to propose an Honors topics course, available as 1.5-credit modules or 3-credit courses. Honors topics courses offer faculty an opportunity to teach an advanced course in their area of expertise.

Beyond teaching an Honors course, faculty may engage with Honors students by volunteering as an honors faculty mentor through an Honors Independent Study. The Honors Independent study affords honors students to go everyone the role of a research assistant and participate more fully in the scholarly process of inquiry. In addition, faculty members may provide a valuable service by agreeing to oversee an Honors contract. The Honors contract option enables students to delve more deeply into the material presented in a non-honors class. By partnering with a faculty member, the student is able to identify areas of further study and the criteria to ensure the work is Honors caliber. 

The Honors College is eager to welcome VCU’s top faculty members into the Honors community and to support and reward them for their efforts. The Honors College strives to provide professional development funding to those who offer Honors topics courses and who serve as faculty mentors. The Honors College also recognizes faculty who teach in Honors as Honors faculty fellows and periodically names several Honors award recipients. 

Propose an Honors Class +

Please remember that all courses offered as Honors require a proposal and must be approved by the Honors College. Faculty members may submit proposals for modules, sections of existing courses and specialized courses that integrate the challenging and stimulating environment of the Honors College. To submit a proposal, complete and submit the proposal form, which requires submitting several supplemental documents. Please be prepared to provides a course description, a draft of the syllabus, and an email or signed letter from your department chair documenting their support of your teaching this Honors course.

The deadline for fall proposals is November 1 of the preceding year. The deadline for intersession and spring course proposals is May 1 of the preceding year. The deadline for summer course proposals is August 1 of the preceding year. For example, if you would like to propose a class for fall 2018, the proposal form is due by Nov. 1, 2017.

Propose an Honors Version of an Existing Class +

Teaching an Honors version of an existing VCU course is an excellent way to engage academically talented students in the major. Instructors may wish to cover more material, go into greater depth, and converse with students at a level more commonly seen in graduate courses. Teaching an Honors section allows instructors to do just that.

Please remember that all courses offered as Honors require a proposal and must be approved by the Honors College. Faculty members may submit proposals for modules, sections of existing courses and specialized courses that integrate the challenging and stimulating environment of the Honors College. To submit a proposal, complete and submit the proposal form, which requires submitting several supplemental documents. Please be prepared to provides a course description, a draft of the syllabus, and an email or signed letter from your department chair documenting their support of your teaching this Honors course.

If a department would like to offer an Honors section of an existing course on a regular basis, the department should work with the Associate Director of Academic Affairs to ensure that the Honors course “rolls over” each year. A new proposal is typically only required if a unit plans to make significant changes to how an Honors section is taught.

The deadline for new fall proposals is November 1 of the preceding year. The deadline for new intersession and spring course proposals is May 1 of the preceding year. The deadline for new summer course proposals is August 1 of the preceding year. For example, if you would like to propose a class for fall 2018, the proposal form is due by Nov. 1, 2017.

Propose an Honors Module +

Honors modules are designed to give students a brief but intense study of unique, interdisciplinary topics. These classes (typically five weeks long) reflect the particular talents and interests of the instructor, and students earn 1.5 credit hours per course.

Please remember that all courses offered as Honors require a proposal and must be approved by the Honors College. Faculty members may submit proposals for modules, sections of existing courses and specialized courses that integrate the challenging and stimulating environment of the Honors College. To submit a proposal, complete and submit the proposal form, which requires submitting several supplemental documents. Please be prepared to provides a course description, a draft of the syllabus, and an email or signed letter from your department chair documenting their support of your teaching this Honors course.

The deadline for fall proposals is November 1 of the preceding year. The deadline for intersession and spring course proposals is May 1 of the preceding year. The deadline for summer course proposals is August 1 of the preceding year. For example, if you would like to propose a class for fall 2018, the proposal form is due by Nov. 1, 2017.

The Non-Honors to Honors Contract +

The Honors College faculty and staff are dedicated to developing a unique program of courses that challenges and stimulates students while encouraging open discussion and individual responsibility. However, at times it may be appropriate for an Honors student to convert a non-honors course into Honors. This process is achieved by working closely with a faculty mentor to develop an honors plan of study. The student and faculty member collaborate to adjust the standard class syllabus into an Honors version that includes more advanced work. The honors work associated with the class may be done in lieu of regular assignments or could be completed in addition to the regular assignments. Student and the instructor should determine and specify on the course contract what percentage of the final grade this honors caliber work will comprise. No more than six of the total credit hours required for graduation with honors may be taken as contract courses.

Students are instructed to first discuss the idea with their Honors advisors. They are then instructed to approach a faculty member to request that he or she work with the student to make the class honors-caliber. The Honors College fully supports the decision of a faculty member to decline. Although we hope that faculty members can occasionally find the time to work individually with a student within the context of an existing course, we understand that time may not permit.  The Honors College also recognizes that some classes may not be appropriate for this course-conversion process.

If a student approaches you with an Honors contract request, please feel free to contact the Associate Director of Academic Affairs for more information on the process. The Associate Director of Academic Affairs can provide examples and guidance on the process.  

Please note that course contracts are not allowed for any of the core Honors curriculum courses. In addition, because summer courses are considerably compressed due to time constraints, they are not eligible for the Honors course contract option.

Honors Independent Study +

Beyond teaching an Honors course, faculty may engage with Honors students by volunteering as an Honors faculty mentor through an Honors Independent Study. The Honors Independent study affords honors students to go everyone the role of a research assistant and participate more fully in the scholarly process of inquiry. In addition, faculty members may provide a valuable service by agreeing to oversee an Honors contract.  The Honors contract option enables students to delve more deeply into the material presented in a non-honors class. By partnering with a faculty member, the student is able to identify areas of further study and the criteria to ensure the work is Honors caliber.

The Honors Independent study (HONR 492) provides an opportunity for Honors students to learn more about a specific topic of interest that is not included among existing VCU course offerings. Study is conducted under the guidance of a VCU faculty mentor who assists in planning and implementing the course of study. The independent study topic is selected in consultation with the academic advisor to ensure that the proposed course of study is relevant to the student's educational goals.

The number of independent study credit hours for a single HONR 492 course may range from one to four credits. The number of credits are determined by the student’s advisor and the dean of the Honors College. Any single independent study class may not exceed four credit hours. Honors students may not register for more than nine total credits of HONR 492. Independent study credits may count toward graduation with University Honors.

Students are instructed to speak with an Honors advisor about the process before reaching out to faculty members. Once an appropriate topic is identified, students may request that you oversee and evaluate their work. It is important to note that the Honors Independent Study is designed to provide students the opportunity to pursue their own research questions, not to assist with the research of another. Although some major departments offer independent study for serving as a lab or research assistant, earning Honors Independent Study credit requires students to take ownership of the research process.

The role of the faculty mentor is to guide the student in the study of the topic, meeting with the student to discuss progress, working with the student’s Honors advisor as needed to develop criteria for evaluating the student’s work, and communicating the grade for the course to the Honors dean. The faculty mentor must agree to be available to the student throughout the duration of the course. The Honors College fully supports the decision of a faculty member to decline. The Honors College recognizes that faculty members may not have time or may feel unable to evaluate the student's proposed course of study.

Any assignments required for the project must be submitted to a faculty mentor at least two weeks prior to the end of the semester. The structure of the assignments will depend on the type of project and must be determined in detail as part of the proposal process. The faculty mentor will determine the grade for the course based on the evaluation criteria stated in the independent study proposal. To obtain credit and a grade for the independent study, students must submit the outcome materials specified in the proposal to a faculty mentor. The faculty mentor will determine the final grade and communicate that grade via official VCU email to the Honors dean, who serves as the instructor of record for all HONR 492 courses.