Honors Program - Graduating with honors

Different kinds of honors may be awarded at graduation. University Honors are described in the Bulletin and based primarily on grade-point average. Criteria for departmental honors vary from one department to another. For the Department of Philosophy:

  1. As specified in the Bulletin, to qualify for the honors program in Philosophy at CSUSB a student must have taken at least five courses at CSUSB which count toward the Philosophy major and, for courses taken at CSUSB, must have a GPA of at least 3.5 in Philosophy, and 3.0 overall.

  2. Any student who meets these general prerequisites may (and is encouraged to) approach a prospective faculty advisor, and with his/her help develop a written honors proposal. The proposal should include the honors cover sheet and a one or two page description of the proposed thesis topic along with principal bibliographic sources.

    Thus the proposal is for a paper: Not necessarily super-long, but somehow more than is ordinarily expected in philosophy coursework. The paper may or may not develop existing papers from philosophy courses, but if it does develop existing work, the honors thesis should represent a significant advance over it. The department is looking for something like what a first-year graduate student might be expected to produce. This should be attainable, since the honors candidate might very well BE such a student shortly!

  3. The honors proposal is submitted for departmental approval at least three quarters before graduation, i.e., by the first week of Fall for June graduation, the first week of Winter for September graduation, the first week of Spring for December graduation, and the tenth week of Spring for March graduation. Candidates are encouraged to work with their advisor well in advance of this deadline, so that their proposals are well-developed by the time they come up for departmental approval.

    Admission to the honors program is contingent not only on the criteria from (1) and the proposal from (2), but also on factors like overall class participation, outstanding course incompletes, and the general expectation that the candidate is positioned to complete the project. Given departmental approval, the department appoints a three member committee (including the primary advisor) for review of the project.

  4. Under the guidance of the primary advisor, the candidate completes and submits a draft of the thesis no later than two quarters before graduation. Within one week of submission, each committee member returns the paper to the candidate with written comments and a judgment about whether the project promises to develop into a successful honors thesis. If at least two members judge that there is such promise, the candidate continues with his or her honors thesis.

    These projects are supposed to demonstrate some independence on the part of the student. However, the advisor is there to help, and comments from committee members may provide substantial guidance. A total of 4 units of independent study may be applied toward the honors thesis, either at this stage, or the next.

  5. Under the guidance of the primary advisor, the candidate completes and submits the final version of the thesis no later than one quarter before graduation. Within two weeks of submission, the committee meets with the student to discuss his or her project and, by majority vote in private session, decides if honors are to be awarded.

    Thus this honors process is a sort of "pale reflection" of the full-fledged thesis or dissertation process as it typically occurs at a graduate school—though, as above, what is expected in an honors thesis is significantly less than would be expected there. The process is deliberately rigorous. However, it is not meant to consist merely of an intimidating series of "hoops." Rather at each stage, the process is intended to provide the sort of evaluation and advice that make a successful honors thesis possible. In case honors are awarded, the candidate is encouraged to present his/her work at a department colloquium, and generally feted as having achieved something truly honorable!