May 27, 2024  
2024-2025 Catalog 
2024-2025 Catalog

University Honors Program

UC Merced’s campus-wide Honors Program is designed for the most motivated and high-achieving students. By defining student success as more than just classes, its mission is to enrich a diverse community of outstanding individuals by fostering critical thinking and creativity, developing leadership abilities, and supporting a culture of contribution. Honors students build their own path to success, forging a unique learning experience and personal transformation as scholars that will make a difference in a rapidly changing globalized world.  Honors students not only show a high level of academic achievement, but also demonstrate a commitment to community engagement, equity, social justice, and service leadership. 

University Honors Program Requirements

Each honors course provides students with an enriching and engaging experience that articulates with some or all Honors Program Learning Outcomes. In honors courses students take greater responsibility for their individual learning based on their own insights and creative abilities. What further differentiates an honors course is the level of engagement with the subject matter that emphasizes exploration, discovery, and higher levels of critical thinking as opposed to factual learning. Honors courses are intended to provide an enriched learning experience that might include supplementary or specialized units, supplementary or primary texts, interdisciplinary approaches, etc. Assignments might include research papers, oral presentations, group and individual projects, hands-on experiments, etc. Honors sections favor assessment of learning objectives that involve writing, problem-solving, and experimenting rather than objective testing, such as multiple-choice tests.

Honors-Designated Courses

A course is honors-qualifying if it is: a.) a graduate-level course, b.) a designated University, General Education, or department honors course, c.) a designated department honors discussion section, or d.) an independent study with honors designation. A non-honors course or an independent study course without an honors designation can be completed through an honors-by-contract arrangement with the instructor. Course numbers ended with an H indicate an honors course.

Honors-Designated General Education Courses

These courses include any honors course that also satisfy a General Education requirement. Offerings include honors versions of Spark seminars (Spark 001H, Spark 010H), Writing 010H, Crossroads, and multiple Approaches to Knowledge courses.

Honors By Contract

Honors Contracts allow students to pursue individualized work within the framework of a non-honors class and engage in study beyond the course requirements. Developed between the faculty member and student, contracts empower the student to take a leading role in their education and provide opportunities for faculty mentorship. Contracts are unique to each course, should never feel burdensome, and should be qualitatively different from the work assigned to other students in the course. Contract work may accentuate increased depth or complexity on a particular topic and may require additional reading or research. These supplemental activities should involve critical thinking, creativity, rigorous scholarship, and independent study. Examples might include:

  • traditional research paper or elevated (e.g., broader, deeper, higher-level critical engagement) class paper
  • case study or series of case studies
  • specialized lab experiment
  • art project, musical, or literary composition
  • original software or hardware creation
  • empirical research study or fieldwork
  • extensive gathering and analysis of quantitative or qualitative data

Contracts will be offered by faculty members who have opted to participate in the University Honors Program. Students will be notified of participating faculty members and contracts must be approved by the Honors Program. Expectations and outcomes should be clearly outlined in the proposal and must be agreed upon by both parties. The course will receive an H designation on the student’s transcript.

Course Requirements

Honors Seminar

First-year admits to the University Honors Program must complete the following four courses:

  • HON 001H: Honors Seminar I  Units: 1
  • HON 002H: Honors Seminar II Units: 1
  • HON 003H: Honors Seminar III Units: 1
  • HON 004H: Honors Seminar IV Units: 1

Students admitted to the University Honors Program as sophomores or lower-division transfer students must complete HON 002H, HON 003H, and HON 004H. Students admitted as upper-division transfer students must complete HON 003H and HON 004H.

Honors Electives

First-year admits to the University Honors Program must complete five additional honors-designated courses, at least two of which must be General Education Designated Honors Courses.

Students admitted to the University Honors Program as sophomores or lower-division transfer students must complete four additional honors-designated courses, at least two of which must be general education designated honors courses.

Students admitted as upper-division transfer students must complete three additional honors-designated courses, at least one of which must be general education designated honors courses.

Co-Curricular Requirements

In addition to the curricular requirements, each honors student is required to complete two co-curricular elements: one in the category of Experiential Learning and one in the category of Community, Mentorship, and Leadership.

The Experiential Learning requirement may be met by completing a research project, internship, or other experience that broadens the student’s perspective beyond the classroom and offers hands-on learning. Opportunities are available from UCM’s Summer Undergraduate Research Institute (SURI), Undergraduate Research Opportunities Center (UROC), external Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REUs), the University of Merced Washington Program (UCDC), University Center at Sacramento Program (UCCS), Study Abroad (UCEAP), or other internships and experiences such as UC Merced’s Student Success Internship Program (SSI), among others.

The Community, Mentorship and Leadership requirement is a minimum of one community service, leadership, or mentorship activity with at least 20 hours of engagement. There are many opportunities both on and off campus. Options include campus and off campus tutoring, working with the Peer Success Mentor program, community service, projects with Anthropology’s Community Research and Service minor, a leadership position in a registered campus club or organization, Yosemite Leadership Program, or similar activities.

Students should consult with the Honors Program advisor or Faculty Director to ensure that a particular experience will satisfy these requirements.

Admissions Requirements

Students may apply to be admitted to the University Honors Program as incoming first-year students, sophomores, or transfer students. To remain in good standing students must maintain a 3.1 GPA and successfully complete the yearly Honors Seminars.