Ellen Weinauer, Dean
The University of Southern Mississippi offered its first Honors classes in 1965. In 1971, the university established the Honors Program, named in honor of George R. Olliphant, and in 1976, the program became a full-fledged Honors College.
Today’s Honors College provides a stimulating education for high-ability students from all of the university’s academic disciplines, rewards and recognizes excellence, and prepares students for entry into the most prestigious national and international graduate schools and the workforce. From their freshman year, students are taught in small classes by experienced professors and are introduced to the practical applications of knowledge as well as to its theoretical foundations. In their junior and senior years, Honors College students work closely with faculty mentors to develop original thesis projects. Throughout the curriculum, Honors scholars are strongly encouraged to serve as contributing members of the campus community and to participate in study-abroad programs in order to widen their cultural and intellectual horizons.
The curriculum of the Honors College consists of two phases: Honors Foundations (for freshmen and sophomores) and Honors Keystone (for juniors and seniors).
To enter the College as freshmen, students compete with other applicants on the basis of high school grades, scores on the American College Test (or the Scholastic Aptitude Test), essays, and letters of support. Students may also be asked to come to the campus for a personal interview. The typical applicant will have an ACT score of 27 or above and an unweighted high school GPA of 3.5 or higher.
In addition to completing the curricular requirements of their major and/or minor, students in Honors Foundations must:
- Complete a minimum of 20 Honors Hours, to include 2 hours of Honors Forum (HON 321 ); typically, students will complete the remaining 18 hours in Honors-only sections of General Education courses)
- Take Honors hours each semester (typically 5-6).
- Maintain a cumulative GPA of 3.25 or above to remain in good standing; for information about policies with regard to probation and suspension, please consult the Honors College Student Handbook, available at www.usm.edu/hc.
Students who have completed the Honors Foundations curriculum will automatically advance to Honors Keystone. Students seeking admission to the Honors College as Keystone students must meet the following requirements: (1) a cumulative grade point average of 3.25 on at least 40 hours of undergraduate work; (2) a recommendation from one professor; (3) resumé/list of honors and activities; (4) a sample of written work; and (5) transcripts.
Honors Keystone Curriculum
The Honors Keystone curriculum is designed to enhance students’ intellectual curiosity and research skills through completion of an Honors thesis, under the guidance of a faculty advisor. This thesis must be completed in the student’s major, unless previously approved by the Honors College Dean. The keystone curriculum is structured incrementally, with the thesis project typically developing over four semesters. (For more information about thesis requirements, please consult the Honors College Student Handbook, available at www.usm.edu/hc.) Keystone curriculum requirements are as follows:
- HON 300
- HON 301
- Honor Thesis hours (3 hours, taken as 492H in the department of the student’s major, or in a course equivalent, i.e. CHE 496H, PHY 499H, PSC 490H/ PSC 490LH and PSC 491H/PSC 491LH)
- Comprehensive Examination in the student’s major, to be completed no later than four weeks prior to the expected graduation date.
- Students must maintain a cumulative GPA of 3.25 or above to remain in good standing in the Honors College; for information about policies with regard to probation and suspension, please consult the Honors College Student Handbook, available at www.usm.edu/hc.
At graduation, all students who complete Honors Keystone with the required GPA of 3.25 or above will receive the special recognition denoted by the Latin designations summa cum laude (3.8 or higher), magna cum laude (3.50-3.79) or cum laude (3.25-3.49).
Students enrolled in the Honors College may apply for financial aid through the Office of Financial Aid on the same basis as any other student. Scholarships available only to Honors students are listed below.
- Honors College Achievement Scholarships: Each year, the Honors College will designate a select group of incoming Honors freshmen as Presidential and Discovery Scholars. Applicants are expected to have high ACT or SAT scores and superior grades, and to embody the principles of curiosity, intellectual motivation, and leadership that the Honors College represents. The value of the Presidential Scholarship is equal to tuition, on-campus housing/board, and a book stipend for a four-year period. The value of the Discovery Scholarship is equal to tuition for four years, on campus housing for the freshman year, a one-time study broad stipend and a one-time research stipend. Presidential and Discovery Scholars are required to maintain at least a 3.25 GPA, remain in good standing in the Honors College, and complete all Honors College requirements in order to retain their award. The Schilling-Baird Scholarships, O.L. and Marie Sims Scholarship, the Pulley, Pulley, Pulley and Gough Scholarship, the Lee Cornelius and Vera B. Burns Scholarship, the Drs. William G and Hannelore Giles Scholarships, the J. Lloyd Milam Scholarship, the C. Spire Scholarship, the George R. Olliphant Scholarship, and others are awarded from special Honors College endowments.
The University Forum
The University Forum is a special series of lectures and programs open to all students, faculty and townspeople. Students who attend the forum lectures and designated films, concerts, plays and other activities may receive an hour of credit on a pass/fail basis by enrolling in HON 321 and completing course requirements. This course may be repeated by any Southern Miss student for up to eight hours of credit.