Honors College Faculty Handbook
Stephen Kinsey with a student mentee
  • Documents and Forms for Honors Faculty
  • What is Honors & who are Honors students?

    About Honors

    The Honors College offers specific honors courses and co-curricular activities for students and faculty. These activities have a common thread of encouragement: curiosity, critical thinking, and independent work skills, as well as to develop a community of honors students on campus. The Honors College also reaches out to all students on campus through the Center for the Support of Undergraduate Research and Fellowship (CSURF). The Honors College works closely with many offices on campus to achieve its mission. By offering special opportunities to attract and retain academically talented students, the Honors College attempts to model a love of learning and academic excellence from which the entire campus can benefit.

    The Honors College administers the four-year University Honors program, the transfer-specific Bridge Honors program, and the Departmental Honors (or thesis) program open to all students at UNCW. Students in the University Honors program take honors sections of University Studies courses and interdisciplinary honors seminars, taught by faculty either in-load or as overload courses.

    Who are Honors students?

    Honors students are curious, interdisciplinary thinkers and--very often--student leaders on campus. They are typically

    • Intelligent, but not necessarily skilled in all subjects,
    • Creative: if given the opportunity, they will learn and demonstrate learning in unconventional ways,
    • Hard-working and motivated,
    • Self-starters,
    • Expressive both orally and in writing,
    • Possessing various interests, abilities, and success in adjusting to college life.

    The majority of Honors students enroll in Honors as first-year students, selected through an application process tied to their general UNCW application. A smaller proportion enter as transfer students, or enroll in Honors after completing their 1st or 2nd semester at UNCW.

    Honors students are frequently heavily involved on campus. Honors-specific student organizations include the Honors Scholars Association and the Honors Student Media Board. Students may also take place in co-curricular programming with Honors, ranging from fall break and spring break trips, to short study abroad programs through Honors, to social and volunteer programs on- and off-campus.

    First-year Honors students live in Cornerstone Hall (and sometimes Keystone Hall, depending on overflow). Honors RAs provide support and Honors Mentors (one assigned to each HON 110, or Honors First-Year Seminar course) provide academic support and referrals.

  • Honors Curriculum and Course Descriptions
    Learn more about honors course descriptions and curriculum requirements in the student handbook. To learn more about teaching Honors courses, visit our Call for Classes page

  • About Teaching in Honors

    What We Offer Instructors

    The Honors College allows instructors to teach small class and to work with highly motivated and talented students. This allows the opportunity for work in interdisciplinary teaching teams, the opportunity to introduce innovations to the classroom, and support from the Honors College.

    Honors Classroom: The seminar room in the Honors Office in Randall Library is available for scheduling honors courses. The room may be reserved for additional class meetings or for students to study. There is access to a multimedia system, the internet, and a smart board.

    Funds: The Honors College can often help with funds for class travel, such as van rental for field trips. We also have a small trust fund to assist with required activities such as cultural events. If you have any unusual supply requests, we may be able to assist. We can also make copies of your syllabus and class handouts.

    Workshops: Each semester, the Honors College offers seminars in honors teaching for new and returning honors instructors. In addition, as needed, we hold a mid-semester meeting to discuss issues of concern. We often offer honors-related lunchtime workshops through the Center for Teaching Excellence (CTE).

    CTE Summer Teaching Initiatives: CTE offers summer teaching initiative grants for developing innovations for teaching existing courses. This is the ideal way to re-tool a university studies class for honors presentation, or to develop an honors seminar.

    Conferences: Honors instructors are invited to participate in the National, Regional, and State Honors Council conferences, and the Honors College will typically pay for all expenses.

    Honors Course Presentation

    Honors courses are meant to allow a number of things that differ from traditional classes. They should include less lecturing and predigesting of material and allow faculty to approach the material more selectively. This allows for the following to occur during honors courses:

    • More use of primary sources and original documents,
    • More critical thinking and independent scholarship,
    • Less passive note-taking,
    • More student adventure in learning with focus on open discussion,
    • Seminar-style course formats focusing on discussion,
    • Space for professors and students to take risks.

    Work and Assignments

    Honors courses make greater use of independent scholarship and student-directed projects where possible. It is crucial that they involve not merely more work or harder work, but more in-depth analysis, creative expression, and work directed to the students' level.

    As a general rule, instructors should not require substantially more reading. Even though these are capable students, they may not read faster than their peers who are not honors students. In fact, some evidence shows that many honors students read slower than average because they read closely and carefully. We tell the students to expect that honors courses will be more challenging than the non-honors sections, but that they are not harder just for the sake of being harder.

    Because it is our goal to encourage the development of critical thinking and independent work skills, it is entirely appropriate to require more complex and innovative assignments. This may make the course more challenging, but it should also be more rewarding for the students and the faculty. This allows for a more intensive version of an undergraduate course.

    Teacher-Student Interaction

    Honors courses usually involve more study of the process of discovery, more feedback on writing and discussions, and more individual attention through more frequent teacher-student conferences and other student-teacher contact out of the classroom. Honors courses encourage faculty to redefine ourselves as teachers and re-think the line between teachers and learners.


    Honors scholars are normally students who will be making As and Bs in their regular classes. Since clustering of grades can sometimes pose a problem for instructors, the following observations and guidelines may be helpful.

    The goal of the Honors College is not for students to be penalized for taking honors courses. Therefore, to assign grades on the basis of a normal curve would in effect hurt them and be detrimental to student morale. A more reasonable method would be to grade based on comparative performance. If the work done by the student would earn an A or B in a regular section of the same course, it should receive the same grade in an honors course. Theoretically, all students in an honors section could receive an A in the course.

    Honors students are typically asked to perform at a higher level than in regular classes. They may be asked for more in-depth class participation, independent work, and analysis. The grades should reflect this higher level of expectations, and take into account the degree of difficulty. With that being said, honors students are not guaranteed high grades. If a student does not put forth effort or does not achieve the appropriate mastery of the material, the grade should reflect the lack of achievement.

    Who can take an honors course?

    Honors courses are open to students in good standing in the Honors College. All students enrolled in 499 (honors project) are eligible to enroll in honors classes. On rare occasions if space si availble, the instructor may request that other students (who have earned at least a 3.3 GPA) be added. 

  • Honors Contract Courses

    Honors Contracts are another type of honors teaching experience. In this class, the professor and the honors scholar student make a contract (similar to a DIS proposal) to add honors-level experience(s) to an ongoing course, so that the student does "honors level work" in the class (but only that student does the work and receives the honors credit).

    What do students do for Honors Contracts?

    Completing an honors contract may mean that the student engages in additional reading--such as primary sources--with additional or different types of papers for the class. For example, the student might add a critique/analysis to a general class paper, or significantly expand the depth and length of a paper that is already part of the classwork. Or the student may learn a particular section of material well enough to make a special presentation to the class. Other examples include: synthesis of additional compounds and research report (Chemistry); community service focused on the topic of the class (Nursing); create promotional materials (newsletter and calendar); reflective journaling; literature reviews; interview projects; etc. The idea is to engage the student more deeply in the topic of the class, develop applications, and expect mastery of specific material.

    How is credit earned for contract courses?

    The student must earn at least a B (3.0) to receive honors level credit for the course (designated as such on the transcript). 300 or 400 level classes in the student's major or minor are eligible for honors-level contracts. This can be a very unique learning experience to explore a particular content area in depth.

    Each semester, before the end of add/drop, a student must submit the Honors Contract Course Form on InfoReady. The student is expected to initiate a discussion with the instructor and agree upon a set of assignment(s) for the contract independently. Then, the student should submit the form, and the instructor will sign off.

    The designation of "honors-level work" will not appear in Seanet or on a student's transcript until the class is completed. After the end of grading each semester, the Honors College will contact instructors directly to ask whether students successfully completed their honors-level work and earned a B or better. At that point, Honors will ask the Registrar to add the words "honors level work" to the class on the student's transcript.

    What requirements do honors contract courses fulfill?

    Typically, honors contract courses fulfill the "3 extra hours of Honors credit" category of Honors College requirements (see requirement worksheets above). In some cases, honors contract courses may be approved to substitute for Honors University Studies requirements, in a case where students enter the Honors College with a significant number of University Studies courses already fulfilled by AP and transfer credit.

    Each student may complete up to 2 contract courses. Students wishing to take more than 2 contract courses should contact the Honors College Director, Dr. Shawn Bingham.

  • Opportunities for Faculty Participation in Honors

    Faculty can teach honors university studies sections as well as honors seminars. Other participation can include, but is not limited to:

    • Guest lectures in the Honors First-Year seminar,
    • Honors contract courses,
    • Offering upper-level honors sections,
    • Directing senior honors projects (499),
    • Becoming a faculty advisor for honors students,
    • Leading study abroad trips with honors students, 
    • Serving on the Honors Faculty Advisory Council (see heading below),
    • Acting as an honors liaison for your academic department,
    • Designing honors experiences for your academic department,
    • Directed Individual Study (DIS) courses which lay the groundwork for more advanced honors projects,
    • Departmental or interdisciplinary seminars and/or internships which encourage independent work in research, service, or performance,
    • Assisting with special projects or acting as a faculty mentor,
    • Mentoring a student applying for national scholarship, fellowship, or award,
    • Serving on the CSURF Board, 
    • Collaborating with Honors on academic lectures, workshops, volunteer events, or other programming for students,
    • Or really anything you can think of. 
  • The Honors Faculty Advisory Council

    The Honors Faculty Advisory Council is comprised of twelve faculty members appointed by the Provost.

    Current Members of the HFAC

    Nominations are made to the Provost by the Faculty Senate Steering Committee which receives recommendations for members from the deans and honors director. Nine members come from the College of Arts and Sciences, and one from CHHS, CSB, and COE. Ex-officio members are the honors director and associate director, director of University College, Advising Center, director of the Center for Teaching Excellence, chair of Academic Standards, the Provost or representative, and the presidents of the Honors Scholars Association and Student Honors Advisory Council. Members serve staggered three year terms.

    The Council assists and advises the director on issues of curriculum planning, recruitment and retention of students, scholarship awards, program evaluation, and student concerns. Members of the Council serve as the representatives of the Honors College on honors senior projects. Faculty interested in serving on the Council should request membership via the Faculty Senate Committee Preference Survey.