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Honors Challenge Course

Honors Challenge Course (HNRS-398): In small groups of 3-5 students, Honors students tackle a research question of their design from multiple disciplines. The course is 3 credits and students are guided by a faculty mentor of their choice. In this course, Honors students have the oppoetunity to use the critical thinking, research, and collaboration skills they learned in Theories of Inquiry to tackle real-world problems, from the transition of white masculinity after the Regan presidency, to the rising level of micro-plastics in DC drinking water. At the end of the semester, the students present their final projects to a larger audience at the Honors Research Conference. Scroll down to explore some of the final projects that Honors students have completed!


To support students in their Challenge course projects, Honors is proud to offer funding on an application basis. These funds help to make student's research more robust. Use the link below to download an application.

 Examples of Honors Challenge Course Projects:

Hidden Hostility DC

Fall 2018

There’s a good chance that if you’ve walked around in any city, you’ve passed by defensive architecture. It’s all around us and it shapes the fabric of the city—which is why it’s important to understand what defensive architecture is. This project explored the precense of defensive or hostile architecture, architecture designed to limit the ways in which a space can be used, in Washington, DC. These subtle design implementations act as miniature zoning laws that dictate appropriate uses of public space. Our goal is to educate people on what hostile architecture looks like and who it impacts.

View the "Hidden Hostility" website

Let's Talk About Environmental Education

Spring 2021


This group of Honors students wanted to know: how effectively do Appalachian schools teach about the environment? And, "what are the barriers to environmental literacy in Appalachian schools?" To study this, the students interviewed educators and program directors about the challenges they face in introducing students to the environment, and their successes. They compiled their results into a podcast.

Listen to the "Let's Talk About Environmental Education" podcast

Visionary Fiction & Prison Abolition

Spring 2022


This group examined the US justice system and prison abolition through works of visionary fiction. Visionary fictionis a form of speculative fiction which allows us to imagine beyond the current oppressive structures to see thr future we want to create. Through reading works of visionary fiction and creating their own, these teammamtes created a zine designed to get the reader thinking about their visionary future.


Long Story Short, Teachers Want to Teach

Spring 2023


This project provides an analysis of the current issues of Critical Race Theory, the Don’t Say Gay Bill and issues pertaining to culturally restricted content in American public school classrooms. Maddy, Juliana, Heather, Madeline and Emma explore the threat of books being banned from schools by interviewing seven teachers from around the DMV and displayed their findings in the University Library.

View the "Long Story Short" website

PFAS in Washington, D.C. Drinking Water

Spring 2023


For their project, Kathryn, Maddie, Anna, and Takumi explored per- and polyfluroalkyl substances (PFAS) or “forever chemicals” in Washington, D.C. drinking water. They conducted interviews with various PFAS experts, including activists, scientists and policy makers and conducted their own water tests for PFAS in tap water across D.C.

View the full project on their website

D.C. Queer Christianity Project

Spring 2023


How do LGBTQ+ people identify with religion? LGBTQ+ people can face discrimination in religious settings because of their gender or sexual identities. This project focuses not on religion itself but on the experience of LGBTQ+ people, specifically within Christianity. Through a combination of a survey and interviews, Abby, Neal, and Alexia asked several LGBTQ+ people about their attitudes and comfort toward their current church and a previous church in their life. They also created a database of hundreds of churches in the DC area and classifies them as accepting, neutral, or discriminatory to help LGBTQ+ individuals find welcoming spiritual communities.

View the "D.C. Queer Christianity Project" website