Department Honors Coordinators

Honors Graduates celebrate after the Honors Convocation Ceremony at the American University in Washington, D.C.

Each department appoints a Department Honors Coordinator who represents the Honors Program in that department, answering questions about Honors and especially about the capstone that may come from students and faculty.

Because coordinators have a comprehensive view of the work of majors who are in the Honors Program, they are in a unique position to recommend students for Honors Awards, the Honors Capstone Conference, University awards, and national awards. Coordinators should feel free to forward names of stellar students to the Honors Office so that we can find opportunities for them and ways to recognize their accomplishments.

Coordinators can also help by adding materials or FAQs for their majors for this webpage and by recommending revisions to it.

The most significant role the Department Honors Coordinator fulfills is to assist seniors through the capstone process, especially in the beginning, when the coordinator’s signature is required*.

Answering Questions

Most often, new Department Honors Coordinators will refer questions to the Honors Office. A quick call to the Honors Office at 6194 will resolve most questions, where an Honors Counselor will be able to provide guidance.

Honors Requirements in the Major

Students have the option of graduating with “University Honors” or “University Honors in the Major.” To graduate with honors in the major, students must meet the guidelines listed here:

These requirements were created by departments in consultation with the Honors Office. Departments are invited to review their requirements each year and to determine how best to educate their majors pursuing Honors.

Awards and the Honors Capstone Research Conference

Each spring the Honors Office solicits faculty, staff, and departments for nominations for the annual Honors Awards. Department Honors Coordinators aid in the nomination process and serve on the selection committee. The Honors Capstone Research Conference is a prestigious opportunity for a limited number of Honors students to present their research. Department Honors Coordinators help select which Honors students will participate.

Capstone

The Department Honors Coordinator ensures that students have an opportunity to start their capstone in good order by determining that the research question, methodology, and work plan are feasible and of high quality. The Department Honors Coordinator also serves as a resource to both capstone students and the faculty advising them. Young and new faculty in particular gain from the advice and wisdom of the Department Honors Coordinator in ensuring that departmental standards of excellence are met.

All Honors students must complete a capstone in order to graduate with Honors. The Honors Program grants great latitude in how students pursue a capstone. Students can complete a capstone inside or outside their major. They can write a traditional thesis or pursue any manner or type of project.

The purpose of the capstone can be for academic enrichment, or students can use it to position themselves for graduate school or a particular professional field. The Honors Program encourages students to consult several faculty before deciding how the capstone can best serve them in the future.

The mechanics are as follows:

Students must submit the online capstone form by the add/drop deadline. The form asks for two attachments: a proposal and a work plan. The completed form is automatically forwarded to the capstone advisor for approval. Once the advisor approves the form, it is automatically forwarded to the Department Honors Coordinator.

IMPORTANT: The Department Honors Coordinator is assigned on the basis of the home department of the capstone advisor, not the student’s major. The logic is that the project must meet the disciplinary standards of the capstone advisor’s department. For example, a student in SPA who has chosen a capstone advisor in SOC will have a Department Honors Coordinator in SOC, not in SPA. Some projects will benefit from consultation between Department Honors Coordinators in different departments.

When evaluating the capstone form, Department Honors Coordinators should examine whether the proposal meets the standards of the field and whether the work plan is feasible and will help the student complete the capstone in a timely way. Work plans should have regular due dates and concrete products due at each date to ensure that students can finish the semester with a strong capstone.

When Department Honors Coordinators determine that a proposal or work plan is lacking, they should confer with the capstone advisor. Starting well is half the battle in creating a good capstone project, so Department Honors Coordinators are encouraged to be vigilant and constructive. An initially declined proposal is usually a step toward ensuring quality student work. Once coordinators accept revised proposals, their work on those capstones is done. Ultimately, the judgment of the quality of the capstone is in the hands of the faculty capstone advisor, who is the professor of record. Any questions or concerns should be referred immediately to the Director of the Honors Program.

Once the Department Honors Coordinator approves the capstone form, the form is filed in the Honors Office. There is no other stage of review. The Honors Program relies on the Department Honors Coordinator and capstone advisor to determine whether the capstone shows the promise of excellence.

There are several pages and videos on the Honors website describing the capstone, including a video of a Department Honors Coordinator describing this role. A separate page describes the role of the faculty capstone advisor. Department Honors Coordinators are encouraged to familiarize themselves with the information in these pages and to clarify with the Director or Associate Director any questions they may have. SIS has its own list of capstone guidelines.