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Teaching Honors Seminars

Honors seminars offer an excellent opportunity for faculty members to try out new ideas in teaching and research topics, to pilot a course that they may develop for their own department or program, and to work with a small group (not more than 20) of excellent students. Defining features of Honors seminars include:

  • Fairly flexible small classes that may reflect unique, sometimes experimental, styles of teaching
  • May be team-taught by a diverse faculty team
  • Designated course numbers HON 200 or 300; always 3 credits

Honors seminars often include:

  • Interdisciplinary material
  • Extensive use of original sources
  • Intensive creative and/or other writing
  • Independent research
  • Intensive discussion-based teaching methods
  • Analysis of current information from various media
  • Community involvement
  • Trips off campus
  • Involvement with guest speakers and artists

Honors seminars often provide faculty the opportunity to teach a "pet" topic of special interest or research. These courses DO NOT need to fit within any one departmental curriculum or structure. Recent Honors seminar topics include:

  • Psychology of Sexual Diversity
  • Quality and Process Improvement in Action
  • The Social Animal
  • Women & Early Cinema
  • Viral Discovery and Genomics
  • Technology of Interdisciplinarity
  • Intergroup Dialogue
  • Science in the Movies
  • Game Theory

Proposal Process

Professors interested in proposing a seminar for the Honors Program should take the following steps. Proposals should be submitted one or two semesters prior to its proposed offering so that the program directors have adequate time to review and comment on the course and can coordinate with the relevant department and the Registrar’s office in curriculum planning.

  1. Develop a 1-2 page seminar proposal
  2. Email an electronic copy of the proposal to the Program Director AND submit a hard copy, signed by your department head, to the Honors Program office
  3. Decisions will be made by September for a spring semester offering and January for a fall semester offering

Proposals should include the following information:

  • a paragraph or two describing the course
  • a bibliography listing proposed readings
  • a brief outline of the course trajectory
  • a description of the evaluation process (papers, exams, etc) and their percentage allocation
  • comments regarding what about the course makes it an honors course (see below)
  • a description of your qualifications (e.g. research on the topic) to teach the course along with a copy of your latest curriculum vitae
  • a statement about how the course relates to other JMU courses on the topic
  • a statement indicating whether or not you have consulted with the professors for related JMU courses
  • Adjunct faculty members: please also speak to your teaching experiences and provide at least two references who can speak to your teaching skills
Criteria for Honors seminars

Honors seminars should incorporate one or more of the following attributes, which are not listed in any order of priority:

  • interdisciplinary content
  • use of primary materials
  • writing intensive, independent research, discussion intensive
  • other features that call upon students to develop high levels of critical thinking and writing

Faculty may be asked to meet with the program directors to discuss questions about the proposal. For sample proposals, please contact the director or the Honors Program office. 


All proposals should be signed by the faculty member making the proposal AND by the department head.   

Course Evaluations 

All professors offering courses through the Honors Program, including seminars, are requested to submit their syllabi to the program office at the beginning of each semester and copies of their evaluations at the end of the semester.