Above all, Honors is about challenging yourself. You are what you speak, think, do, and believe. And that demands reflection on your life, your community, and the challenges of wider society. Honors exists to encourage you to reflect on your place in the world – where you are now and where you would wish to be. It also exists to give you the tools, techniques, and strategies to plan your adventure, reach your greatest potential, and inspire and empower others.

The best Honors courses stimulate students and faculty to explore and reimagine the creative connections between the world’s problems and their possible solutions. They heighten your native curiosity and help you imagine new futures. They give you entrée into a remarkable community of stimulating thinkers and committed leaders. Honors courses emphasize deep thinking, discussion and persuasion, and challenge students to apply developing skills, tools, and resources in conscientious and imaginative ways.

Honors Sections of Regular University Courses

The Honors College offers Honors sections of regularly offered university courses. These courses appear in the Schedule of Classes with a normal departmental designator and number followed by an H (e.g., POSC 225H). These courses may count toward General Education requirements, major requirements, or elective credits. They cover the essential content of the regular non-Honors courses as described in the university catalog, but also include experiences appropriate to Honors study.

Honors sections of departmental courses offer closer contact with faculty mentors, opportunities to share a passion for learning in an invigorating environment, and critical skills useful to those interested in post-baccalaureate research, graduate work, professional training, or similar intellectual challenges. Departmental Honors sections may encourage you to think about problems or angles to address in an Honors capstone project, a portfolio of creative works, or departmental research with a faculty member. Honors sections also build community between undergraduate scholars within departments and majors, which may lead to special opportunities for independent study or special events, lectures, and field trips.

Honors Seminars

The Honors College offers unique interdisciplinary Honors Seminars designed specifically to explore a range of complex and cutting-edge topics not otherwise covered in JMU’s academic departments or majors. These courses share the features of small classes and unique styles of teaching, but also a comparison of perspectives which promotes boundary crossing, bridge building, and integration across the disciplines. The seminars carry an HON prefix (e.g., HON 300). They are offered at the 200 and 300 levels.

Honors seminars are highly collaborative and require excellent communication skills and trust in the learning process. Team-based approaches found in these seminars elevate problems and best practices, rather than individual academic specialties. Seminar instructors will encourage you to engage in dialogue with students drawn from all majors on campus. Active participation, as well as mastery of a range of methods and tools, may connect to your Honors capstone, a portfolio of creative work, or other advanced research under the guidance of a faculty member.

Areas of Emphasis

The Honors College’s areas of emphasis is a signature series of linked seminars organized around the practice of unique, marketable skills. Area of emphasis classes are a valuable complement to the academic, technical, and liberal education provided by a JMU degree. The areas of emphasis encourage mastery of tools and skills useful to the successful completion of the capstone project, as well as to other academic or professional pursuits.

Students may pursue one or more of the following sequences:

  • Creativity
  • Global studies
  • Leadership
  • Research
  • Service

Each sequence consists of two 3-credit hour seminars usually taken during your sophomore year. To complete this area of emphasis, and receive a transcript notation, an elective 1-3 hour practicum is required in the junior year.

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Honors Seminars Abroad

Studying abroad is more than just sightseeing; it’s education with an edge – an exercise in global citizenship. The Honors College mounts a number of special Honors seminar abroad programs for 6-credit hours each spring and summer. 

For all Honors students, study abroad facilitates first-hand immersion in new cultures, an expansion of your worldview, and a new appreciation of things taken for granted. Our Honors study abroad directors will also encourage you to think about your own personal reasons for wanting to go abroad. You may simply want a better view of a nation’s people, history, and culture. Exploring a different culture offers exposure to interests and activities unavailable in your own backyard. Honors study abroad may open you up to career opportunities, formal education abroad, and challenging new environments.

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Honors Diversity Courses

The Honors College believes that learning about diverse perspectives, experiences, and cultures is a critical component of a well-rounded Honors education. Students are encouraged to take these courses, offered through Africana, African American, and Diaspora Studies (AAAD) and Latin American, Latinx, and Caribbean Studies (LAXC)as Honors elective credit.

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Honors Capstone Project

The Honors capstone project is the culminating experience in Honors. It challenges you to showcase your learning and skills through meaningful departmental research, creative endeavors and productions, and sharing with the wider public.

You receive six credits for the capstone project. This typically begins in the third semester prior to graduation. Discipline-specific capstone courses are offered through your major(s). Interdisciplinary capstones are offered by the Honors College.

The Honors capstone project is student-driven, with the guidance of a faculty advisor and committee. It is directed towards individualized learning in the sense that the project is tailored to your unique interests or career goals. The Honors project isn’t something that “just happens” to you; it leans heavily on your education at JMU and in the Honors College. The project powerfully demonstrates your abilities as someone who has “learned how to learn.”  It also shows future employers and professional programs that you have the ability to finish an extended, time-intensive, and intellectually demanding project.

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Honors Options

An Honors option allows you to earn Honors credit in a non-Honors course. By developing and completing a customized project or set of assignments, you can pull these credits into the Honors minor (as Honors electives). Honors options provide a unique opportunity to individualize your own curriculum.

While the process of developing an Honors option project is a deliberative give and take between you and the professor of the class, the driving factor should be your own intellectual, academic, or professional interests. It’s a chance for you to focus on what really matters to you. In this respect, Honors options serve as a gateway to the Honors capstone project in that they require you to think independently about your own intellectual commitments.

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