University of Houston-Victoria

University College

Honors Faculty Mentor Guide

A Guide for Faculty on Developing Honors Contract Courses and Senior Projects

First, thank you for considering being a faculty mentor in the UHV Honors Program. This program would not be possible without the support and helpfulness of the faculty.

An important preliminary note: Working with the Honors Program is a voluntary part of your teaching. In all cases, the Honors Program will yield to your professional judgment. Individual faculty are the expert in their specific fields and know best about what is necessary for success. Frankly, there are some classes where changing, augmenting, or expanding an assignment is not reasonable either due to faculty workload or the course content. There is no problem if a faculty member needs to refuse a student’s request for a class to be converted into an Honors Contract Course. The Honors Program Director will make other arrangements with students. Further, any variance between the needs of an academic program and the Honors Program will respect the needs of the academic program and other accommodations will be made in the Honors Program.

Contract Courses:

Contract Courses are our way of offering an Honors curriculum to upper division students given our commitment to our programs and due to UHV’s small size. (As one can imagine, dedicated honors sections would not be feasible.) Basically, faculty mentors need to work out a way to change a regular course so that it meets the interests of an Honors Program student. This should not be difficult. If it starts looking difficult, please call the Honors Program director. The director will help you come up with ways to make the project manageable.

For this project, it is the advisable that faculty mentors think about giving other work, not more work. Where possible, consider replacing a typical assignment with something that is of interest to an Honors student—something that encourages them to develop academically. Faculty mentors should trust their expertise and experience to know what various students need to succeed. Use your judgment to determine what a high-performing and motived student can feasibly do in a semester. (Often Honors students will try to do too much!) Think of something challenging, but not daunting. Honors work should not only help your student develop deep knowledge of the field but also some of the soft-skills required for success. This includes closer academic relationships with faculty, networking with other professionals, or an expanded knowledge of a discipline. Interdisciplinarity is encouraged. An Honors Assignment can be as simple as preparing for an undergraduate research conference, expanding the final project to include some original research, or replacing daily work with some other project. However, do not be scared to be creative. Do make Honors students expand their comfort zones somewhat—make them explore more than they might on their own. Encourage shy students to present at conferences, for example.

Some other ideas that have been suggested by UHV faculty include:

  • Additional reading based upon student interest with substantial journaling and individual meetings
  • Incorporating a media project into the final project
  • An ethics student might do a project on how ethical theories inform the rhetoric of the presidential campaign and lead a class for a day on this topic
  • A history student might organize a spring break trip to a historical site for additional research
  • A science student might set up a laboratory project and perform original research
  • A student might organize a roundtable discussion of scholars to supplement a project

Once faculty mentors have made the assignment, please notify the Honors Director about the basics of the project. The Honors director will contact faculty mentors after the semester is over to ask about their progress. Satisfactory progress involves high performance in the class (an A/B average) as well as satisfactory completion of the contracted assignment. Honors students are expected to maintain a 3.5 GPA and to participate actively the university community—so Honors Students should be working at a high level in the classroom.

Senior Projects:

The Honors Senior Project is a capstone project for students to complete in their final semester. The work does not have to very different than the work in a Honors Contract Course—but it should have a high level of polish. Honors Senior Projects should be the sort of work that could highlight a student’s ability. Consider original research, creative work, or a portfolio. The classic senior project in an honors program is a short honors thesis—and many program require this. UHV’s requirement, however, is a little more open ended. Consider independent study courses for senior projects—so that students can dedicate a significant amount of time to their project. However, a normal senior class or a capstone class can be used as a senior project. Students will also work with the Honors Program director to develop ideas for their projects. It is permissible to combine the Honors Senior Project with other capstone or senior work.

Contact Information:

Justin Bell, PhD

(361) 570-4312

Office: Jag Suites 106