Academic Standards & Requirements

The Honors Curriculum

The Honors curriculum includes honors courses, the Honors Community Engagement experience, and the Honors Capstone Project. Honors students enroll in designated sections of the university’s core curriculum and complete a minimum of 18 credits of Honors coursework. These credits may be fulfilled through the following courses:

  • HONR 100  Foundations of Honors
  • HONR 101  Honors Scientific Investigations*
  • HONR 102  Honors Challenges of Democracy*
  • HONR 103  Honors Human Behavior in Perspective*
  • HONR 104  Honors Literature, Philosophy, and the Examined Life*
  • HONR 105  Honors Aesthetics in Context: the Artistic Impulse*
  • HONR 220  Place as Text
  • HONR 300  Community Engagement Seminar
  • HONR 400  Honors Capstone Seminar
  • HONR 410  Honors Independent Study
  • HONR 430  Special Topics in Honors
  • WTNG 102-H  Honors How Writing Works*
  • An additional WTNG course at the 230-level or above*
  • 1 additional honors credit will be earned upon successful completion of a capstone project in a student’s field of study

(*) These courses fulfill a University requirement for General Education. 

The Honors Capstone Project

Your senior capstone is an opportunity to deeply explore your intellectual and/or creative interests and present them to a public audience during your final semester at RWU. The Honors Capstone is based on a significant academic project such as a thesis or senior project in the major, or a major capstone course. You may pursue your capstone in your major, minor, or as an interdisciplinary project with the approval of an identified faculty member. The Honors Capstone involves three components:

  • The Capstone Project itself
  • A written critical reflection, which supplements the project
  • A public oral presentation, typically completed at the RWU Student Academic Showcase (SASH) in April 

The Honors Capstone Project is founded upon the commitment to producing knowledge in service to others. Unlike other senior projects that focus primarily or even exclusively on academic concerns, this project should be situated in all the values of the University Honors Program: scholarship, service, and leadership.

All Honors Program students wishing to receive University Honors on their transcripts must complete an Honors Capstone Project. This is your opportunity to showcase how engaged learning, ethical and meaningful research, and a commitment to integrity and community can and does produce projects that enrich not only our own lives but also the public sphere.

General Characteristics

The Honors Capstone Project is an independent research, creative, or applied project such as a thesis, a work of art, an architectural or engineering design project, etc. It should focus upon a topic agreed upon by you and your mentor and approved by the Honors Program. It should require substantial scholarship and allow for a meaningful contribution both to your field of study and to the community.

What distinguishes an Honors Capstone Project from other capstone projects is your ability to contextualize the project in the tradition of Honors. Clearly scholarship is at the heart of any successful capstone project. But how does your project exemplify leadership and service? As part of your proposal to Honors, and ultimately your Honors Capstone Reflection, you should situate your project in what it means to pursue scholarship that serves something larger than your own disciplinary interests.

As noted above, your project may include (but is not limited to) any one of the following genres: critical or textual analysis, creative performance or exhibit, a business plan, interpretation of a text or art object, original creative project, laboratory or field experiment and analysis, case study, novel, short stories, or an original poetry composition. Regardless of the genre that you choose, the final product should be exemplary. To earn credit as an honors project, the academic project must receive a B+ or above.

Honors Capstone Project Requirements

Credit Requirements                                                                                 

An Honors Senior Research Project represents the culmination of a student’s undergraduate experience, with the experiential aspect of the project (research, project design, artistic or musical performance, etc.) completed sometime during the student’s final two years of study. Students are asked to designate a course(s), independent study, or other credit-bearing experience that will serve as the curricular foundation for his/her Honors Capstone Project. A minimum of 3 credit hours is recommended. You will need to obtain documented permission from the instructor of record.

Project Declaration & Mentorship

Students should identify a faculty mentor within their discipline who is willing to work with them on their project. Students are required to submit an Honors Capstone Project Declaration form signed by the faculty mentor by October 1st

  • The faculty mentor and student together determine the process for completing the Honors Capstone Project (defining the direction of the research, establishing regular meeting times, identifying deadlines for the completion of drafts, etc).  Because consistent faculty mentoring is an essential component of the senior experience, the Honors Program will periodically be in contact with your faculty mentor to assess your progress-to-date. 
  • In addition, to insure that all students have an identified plan for the capstone project and are making adequate progress, students are strongly encouraged to schedule two individual meetings with the Honors Program Associate Director – one during the fall semester and one during the spring semester.

University Dissemination

For the Honors Program, the dissemination of the senior capstone project represents the culmination of the Honors Capstone requirement. It is in this context that you will defend the meaningful contribution of your scholarship and/or creativity. 

All honors seniors are required to present their capstone projects at the spring RWU Academic Showcase in a special session for Honors Capstone Presentations. Members of the Honors Advisory Council will be present at the Academic Showcase to evaluate your project. 

Your presentation will be evaluated based on your reflections on your project and its connections to the Honors Program values of scholarship, leadership, and service. You are expected to work with the Honors Program faculty and your capstone project mentor to develop and prepare for this critical component of the Honors Capstone requirement.

Final Project Submission

Once the Honors Capstone Project has received final approval from the faculty mentor, students should submit their project to the Honors Program.  The format of the final project should be determined by the faculty mentor and the student and should be consistent with the standards of the discipline in which the project was conducted. Please note that all thesis submissions and materials are expected to conform to the university’s electronic thesis submission guidelines.

Thesis with Distinction

Thesis with Distinction is a designation that is separate from membership in the University Honors Program. Students interested in applying for Thesis with Distinction should contact the dean of their school or division.

Senior Distinction Guidelines

Honors Capstone Project Deadlines

The deadlines for completing the Honors Capstone Project are pre-determined and must be followed strictly by all students.

  1. Honors Capstone Project Declaration Form: October 1
  2. Draft of Honors Capstone Project or Capstone Reflection: April 1
  3. Honors Capstone Progress Report: April 1
  4. Honors Capstone Completion Form: May 15
  5. Honors Capstone Project Due: May 16
  6. Honors Capstone Reflection Due: May 16

Individuals unable to meet established deadlines must submit an appeal to the Honors Capstone Committee via the Program Associate Director, Prof. Robert Dermody (

Community Engagement Experience

The Honors Program prepares students to be Citizen Scholars through a reflective Community
Engagement experience typically completed during the junior year. Honors students and faculty partner with local and global communities to exchange ideas and address real problems. The Community Engagement experience may take the form of a course-based service project, a faculty-led service trip or alternative spring break, or a pre-approved independent community engagement project.

The Honors commitment to service goes beyond volunteering. As an honors student, you can expect to be a Citizen Scholar, engaging in critical service-learning opportunities and working alongside community members to make an impact. You will:

  • Complete a major Community Engagement experience during your junior year. This may take the form of a course such as HONR 300 – Community Engagement Seminar, a faculty-led service trip or alternative spring break, or a self-directed community engagement project.
  • Connect with fellow honors students and local and global communities through a variety of service opportunities in honors classes and extracurricular events.
  • Reflect on the nature of service and understand its complexities.

Recent HONR 300 classes have worked to address food insecurity in Rhode Island and beyond, and advocated with Scholars at Risk on behalf of political prisoners overseas. Past service trips include working in Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, and the Navajo Nation. In addition, honors students have partnered with local communities and groups like the Pokanoket Tribe and Nation, the Bristol-Warren Regional School District, and the Environmental Justice League of Rhode Island through course-based and independent community engagement projects. 

Independent community engagement projects must be pre-approved by the Honors Community Engagement Committee to count for program requirements. Please consult with the Honors Director if you are considering a self-directed project.

Opportunities for Research

Honors students work closely with the faculty in HONR-designated classes and with mentors and advisors in their fields of study. The Honors Program works closely with students and their advisors to identify pathways to place students in ongoing or brand-new research projects, including ongoing interdisciplinary and participatory-action research on environmental issues, public health, and inclusive community development. Funding to support Honors students' research opportunities is available via the Provost's Fund for Student Research, which holds two competitive funding cycles per academic year (Oct 15 and Feb 8). Honors students also can present their findings and network with other students and faculty at the annual conference of the National Collegiate Honors Council ( and the Northeast Regional Honors Conference (

Honors Experiential Learning Grant

University Honors students are  guaranteed a $2,000 grant (taken off bill) for one semester to support their research, studying abroad, a community engagement project, or an internship undertaken in their junior or senior year.

Academic Requirements and Excellence

Academic Requirements

To maintain good standing in the Honors Program, students must make progress towards completing the required 18 credits of Honors coursework, and must also maintain a cumulative GPA of 3.3 in all classes at the University. The Community Engagement requirement should be fulfilled prior to the student’s final semester. Honors Capstone plans must be declared by October 1st of the student’s graduation year. Attendance at Senior Capstone presentations (SASH) is also required for all members of the Program who are in residence at the University. 

The University Honors Program is committed to encouraging student research and scholarship, and our students are very accomplished in this regard as evidenced by their attendance and participation at professional conferences and their creative performances and productions. Honors students are encouraged to seek research collaborations with faculty within their major and as part of the honors experience throughout their time at RWU. In addition, students are required to complete an Honors Senior Capstone Project as part of the honors curriculum.

Academic Excellence Award

Students who achieve an overall 3.6 GPA or higher at the end of the academic year will receive the Academic Excellence Award, providing an additional $1,000 towards their next year’s tuition.