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UHP LogoGeorge Washington University
University Honors Program
714 21st Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20052
Phone: (202) 994-6816
Fax: (202) 994-0842
About the Site


This page describes the curriculum of the University Honors Program. For specific course information and availability, refer to the Course Offerings page and the online schedule of classes.

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Freshman Honors students take two year long proseminars:

  • Origins and Evolution of Modern Thought

    This two semester course immerses students in an exploration of significant exemplars, milestones and developments of human thought from ancient to modern times. First-hand encounters with foundational texts and representative thinkers from a broad range of traditions to provide students with an appreciation for the diversity and complexity of humanity's attempts to articulate responses to universal questions, problems and aspirations.

    The autumn semester (HONR 1015) engages students in an exploration of foundational thought and texts of the ancient world. Readings and discussion are organized along two axes, the first composed of basic questions and problems that have long fascinated and inspired human thought and inquiry, the second identifying in broad terms the civilizations from which representative thinkers and texts are drawn. Readings are drawn from philosophy, religion, literature, history and politics, and represent the civilizations of Greece and Rome, the Near East, India and China. This course also fulfills university UW20 requirements.

    The spring semester (HONR 1016) builds on the encounter with foundational ancient thinkers and texts provided in the autumn course by engaging students in the exploration of key developments and trajectories in human thought and inquiry to modern times. Spring semester readings and discussions are organized with reference to key themes, ideas and innovations characterizing these developments in a global context. Organizing themes for the semester include individualism, pluralism, secularism, natural science and rationalism in social/political thought.
  • Scientific Reasoning and Discovery

    These courses hone analytic and expressive powers, deepen understandings of our world, and broaden perspectives. Moving beyond the limits of a particular discipline or specialized program, students will explore connections among academic perspectives, life experiences, and personal observations and values. These courses stimulate the intellectual breadth, depth, and scientific literacy expected of citizens and leaders of the 21st century.

    Each fall semester (HONR 1033), students explore a chosen topic through multiple fields of modern scientific investigation, including chemistry, biology, physics, geology, and biological anthropology. In the spring semester (HONR 1034), students choose from among topical courses in areas of faculty specialties, such as Great Ideas of Science, the Science of Terrorism, and Geological Perspectives.

    Working in interdisciplinary teams, students learn to identify hidden regularities and patterns in nature that illustrate unifying principles, apply critical judgment to determine the validity of scientific claims, and understand the importance of gathering accurate and precise data. By the end of their spring course, students will be able to analyze and understand the complex, layered, and multidisciplinary basis of contemporary scientific issues that affect society, recognize the social, ethical, economic, political, regulatory, and communications context in which scientific problems and solutions are embedded, and analyze scientific and technological developments in the medium and distant future while anticipating potential societal and ethical implications.

    The Honors Program allows students to take alternative science courses to fulfill their major requirements. Approved alternatives are listed on our course offerings page. Speak with a Program Officer for more information.

Students admitted as sophomores take Enlightenment East & West during their Fall semester:

  • Enlightenment East & West

    HONR 2016 is exclusively available to students who entered the Honors Program as rising-sophomores, and must be taken during the fall semester of their sophomore year.

    This course replaces HONR 1016 for students who entered the Honors Program as rising-sophomores, and covers many of the same themes as an Origins course. For information about how to apply as a rising-sophomore, see the Admission page.

Between their second and fourth years students take two sections of each:

  • Self and Society

    Students must complete one section each of 2047 and 2048.

    In Honors 2047, students choose from a selection of social science introductory courses, such as Comparative Politics, Cultural Anthropology, Sociology, Micro-Economics, Macro-Economics, General Psychology, and Human Geography. These courses provide a foundation in the language, perspectives, methods, and research approaches of a specific social science discipline. In addition, each course is limited to fifteen students, enabling authentic dialogue and discussion.

    Students fulfill their second Self & Society requirement by enrolling in a multi-disciplinary thematic course (Honors 2048) on a contemporary social issue, problem, or question. The specific themes of each section will differ, engaging issues such as terrorism, gender and violence, women in American politics, authoritarianism, international development, urban poverty, and nationalism, to cite a few examples. As with Honors 2047, these courses are limited to fifteen students.
  • Arts and Humanities

    Students complete one section each of 2053 and 2054 between their second and fourth years.

    Honors 2053 courses offer a thematic, multidisciplinary, and cross-cultural analysis of the arts and artistic expression. Recently offered themes include built space and cultural heroes, the place of nature in the arts, historical memory, the cultural role of food in societies, and the emergence of popular literature as an aspect of modernity.

    Honors 2054 courses provide an in-depth exploration of important topics in the humanities and are grounded in specific disciplines. These courses are designed to develop academic skills required to engage in research in the students' particular areas of interests within the humanities. Recent offerings include courses on Nietzsche and the crisis of modernity (political philosophy), Buddhist Philosophy (religion), Victorian-era literature (English), and the concept of belief (philosophy).

Junior and senior year students will:

  • Participate in the Honors Capstone experience (Senior year)

    The Honors Capstone experience provides a series of month long mini-seminars that tackle a big theme - an "enduring question" - from whatever disciplinary perspective a faculty member might represent, or from a variety of perspectives that interest seminar participants. Students have the opportunity to take another course with their favorite Honors faculty in a more relaxed academic experience
  • Pursue special honors in their major or complete an otherwise approved honors thesis. See the Senior Thesis/Seminar Information (PDF) packet for more information.

Other opportunities for all Honors students:

  • Special and Introductory Topics

    Special and Introductory Topics courses are offered as a supplement to the Honors curriculum.

    In addition to providing unique opportunities to our students, these courses offer Honors students enriched options to fulfill school or major requirements.

    Students will find a broad range of courses varying each semester. Course topics can include economics, constitutional law, religion, race, medicine, and more. These courses often fulfill major, minor, or general requirements for students, and occassionally serve as approved alternatives for Honors curriculum courses as well.

Most Honors courses can be completed in a student's first two years if desired and may fulfill G-Pac and other school or major/minor requirements.