Alex Salinas in the biosphere
Honors Scholar Alex Salinas spent her summer in Biosphere 2.

The St. Mary’s Honors Program curriculum spans eight courses, beginning and ending with philosophy and including courses in the social and natural sciences, aesthetics and theology.

To complete the “academic marathon,” each Honors Scholar undertakes a senior thesis or project demonstrating the ability to conduct original research at an advanced level.

The Honors Program is focused on holistic development. It makes sure you have the critical-thinking skills you need to be successful in the outside world.

Ashley Thomas, Biophysics major and Honors Scholar

Beyond our curriculum, we offer a stimulating variety of activities ranging from plays and concerts to community service projects and social events, often in collaboration with our student organization, the St. Mary’s University Society of Honors Scholars.

The great majority of our graduates go on to pursue further studies in medicine, law and other professions. We estimate that more than one-third will eventually earn doctoral degrees (M.D., Ph.D. or J.D.) in their chosen fields.

Program Benefits

In addition to the challenging courses, research opportunities and the Honors community, there is also a financial incentive.

Students may also have the opportunity to stay in the Honors Living and Learning Community, where they live with other Honors Scholars.

Many of the Honors Scholars graduate with honors (summa, magna or cum laude), win the Presidential Award and hold student leaderships positions on campus.

Incoming students who are not selected for the Honors Program have another opportunity to join the program after their first year at St. Mary’s.

Program Requirements

For fall 2021, St. Mary’s is a test optional campus, and will consider a holistic review for awarding of merit aid. The Honors Program will accept applicants without test scores for program application.  The University application for admission opens on August 1, 2020, at which time criteria for the Honors Program will be released. Application for the program opens November 30, 2020.

Students in the program must maintain a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher in their first year and 3.25 GPA after their freshman year. If a student falls below the required minimum GPA, the student will be placed on probation for the Honors Program and will be given one semester to increase their GPA. If the student does not raise their GPA to the required minimum after one semester, they are terminated from the Honors Program.

Application Requirements

The Honors Program seeks exceptionally well-qualified and well-motivated students of all religious, economic and cultural backgrounds. We delight in the diversity of talents and experiences that students have brought to our program through the years.

Most Honors Scholars are recruited to the program directly from high school, where they typically rank in the top 5 percent of their classes.

Those interested in joining the program are urged to complete their applications for undergraduate admission to St. Mary’s as early as possible. Top applicants will be invited to make a separate application to the Honors Program online.

The Honors Council invites more than 300 students each year to apply for approximately 40 positions in the entering class. Final decisions are normally made by the end of March.

Admission to Entering Class

Sophomore admission is an alternative avenue into the Honors Program. Application is by invitation, which are sent in May. Decisions are made in June. To be eligible for sophomore admission to the Honors Program, students must have:

  • 3.85 GPA
  • Completed 15 hours at St. Mary’s University

Students will be able to transfer no more than 6 hours into the HO core. After successfully completing the application process, new members receive “catch up” advising and are formally admitted to the program in the fall.

Sophomore Admission

Honors scholars must maintain a cumulative GPA of at least 3.0 in the first year and 3.25 thereafter to remain in good standing. Successful completion of the program is recognized at graduation, on diplomas and transcripts.

Good Standing and Graduation

Honors Curriculum

Honors program courses are being revisited for the 2021-2022 term.

With a demanding sequence of eight courses culminating in a senior thesis, the Honors Program curriculum fulfills many of the core curriculum requirements, which all St. Mary’s students must meet. Honors scholars, in addition to pursuing their major courses of study, normally take one of the following courses each semester:

First Semester. HO 1301: The Human Quest for Meaning focuses on the theme of authenticity, an important line of philosophical investigation in late modern and contemporary philosophy. Investigations into authenticity concern the nature and quality of the relationship between the conscious self and the world one is situated in.

Second Semester. HO 1302: The Focus of the Social Sciences serves as an introduction to the social sciences and the study of the social structures and institutions which shape the lives of individuals. The instructor will provide the course with a thematic focus appropriate to her or his discipline. Students should be introduced to the methods of social sciences while considering local, national and global issues. Common good and communitarian approaches should be considered.

Third Semester. HO 2301: The Practice of Citizenship serves as an introduction to the social sciences and the study of the social structures and institutions, which shape the lives of individuals. The instructor will provide the course with a thematic focus appropriate to her or his discipline. Students should be introduced to the methods of social sciences while considering local, national and global issues. Common good and communitarian approaches should be considered.

Fourth Semester. HO 2302: Emergence of the Universe introduces students to the study of the natural sciences as (1) a method, (2) an ethical process and (3) an on-going quest for a comprehensive understanding of the physical, chemical and biological evolution of the universe.

Fifth Semester. HO 3301: The Aesthetic Experience fosters an understanding of the evolution of aesthetic expression in literature and the arts in Western culture and the ability to interpret individual works of literature and art through their historical context.

Sixth Semester. HO 3302: Religion: Experience and Tradition explores the process by which human experience and the human quest for God give rise to religious tradition. The course may adopt an interdisciplinary approach in which the emergence of religious tradition is studied not only from a theological perspective but also from the point of view of other disciplines such as sociology and philosophy.

Seventh Semester. HO 4301: Senior Thesis or Project is an independent project normally done under the supervision of a professor in the student’s major or a related discipline. A weekly seminar brings senior honors scholars together for collegial discussion of projects. Students are guided in planning, researching, outlining and writing their senior thesis or project. Honors students in majors that require a senior thesis or senior project will not be required to complete HO 4301. However, all Honors students must complete a senior thesis or a senior project through their major or through HO 4301.

Eighth Semester. HO 4302: Prospects for Community and Civilization, taught as a senior seminar, brings the Honors curriculum to a conclusion with the consideration of current problems and the possibility of solutions that can sustain cohesive communities and human flourishing. The intent is for Honors students to refocus their work as a learning community toward the future as they prepare for graduation. While interdisciplinary in scope, the specific content of the course will be appropriate to the instructor’s discipline.


For more information about the Honors Program, contact Camille Langston, Ph.D. at

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