Honors Courses

The Honors Program offers an education in the liberal arts.  These arts are called liberal because they are appropriate to free people, and because they liberate the mind. The liberally-educated mind is free from complacency and prejudice, and free for its proper function of understanding what is true, choosing what is good, and admiring what is beautiful.

The Honors Program consists of four types of courses: seminars, language classes, math-science classes, and electives. Each is described below.


In the seminar courses students and faculty read and discuss great books. Four different sorts of teachers are active in seminar.

First are the great books themselves, in which the finest minds have recorded their finest thoughts. As we work to understand the books, the books work to unsettle our thoughtless assumptions and expand our horizons.

Second are the faculty members who lead the student discussions; the instructors are experienced and intelligent readers who serve, so to speak, as trail guides to the high country of the mind.

Third are all the other students in the seminar, from whose insights, perspectives, and questions a larger understanding emerges.

The final teacher is each individual student, whose engaged and active intelligence makes the work of the other teachers effective.

Language Classes

The language sequence begins in the freshman year with Latin, an inflected language whose study forces us to attend to the liberal art of grammar. In the sophomore year we study literature written in English, beginning with narratives and dramas, and ending with lyric poems.  The literature is drawn from a wide range of British and American authors.

The junior language course concerns rhetoric, the liberal art of persuasion. We study rhetoric directly through texts of Plato and Aristotle, and by example through American political and constitutional debates and orations such as those of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. We also study a number of Supreme Court cases, including a series on civil rights.

The final language class is a senior capstone course in which the student, working closely with a faculty member, writes an extended essay on a topic of the student’s choosing.

Writing is emphasized in all the language courses, and instructors give detailed feedback on all writing assignments.

Math-Science Classes

The math-science sequence consists of five courses, the first four of which are part of the liberal studies core.  All math-science courses focus on the elements of mathematical and scientific inquiry. The goals are to understand  the world, to see how theories illuminate facts, and to reflect on the power and presuppositions of science.

The sequence begins with logic and Euclidean geometry, and then moves in the second semester to astronomy and the rise of early modern physics. The third semester takes up the study of mechanics from Newton to Einstein’s theory of relativity. Biology is the concern of the fourth semester, which focuses on Darwin’s theory of evolution. The upper-division course deals with issues in the social sciences through an introduction to economics and an elementary treatment of statistics.

Elective Courses

In addition to its core sequence, the Honors Program offers elective courses based on student and faculty interests. A sample of recent electives is listed below.

  • Stories of the Quest
  • Professional Ethics
  • Ghosts and Vampires in Literature and Film
  • The Bible: New Testament
  • Islam
  • Preparing for the 21st Century: Contemporary International Issues
  • East Asian Religion and Philosophy
  • Civil Rights Movement in America