What Is the Honors College?

Honors College Mission

UMass Boston’s Honors College provides a home for a cohort of intellectually ambitious students who are eager to research complex local and global issues from multiple perspectives. This unique experience fosters independent thinking, self-discovery, and leadership among undergraduate students who reflect the vibrant diversity of our urban, local and global communities. Seminars are taught by distinguished faculty from across the University in a collaborative and innovative environment that encourages active inquiry and rigorous analysis.

Aspirational Vision  

  1. To welcome students at all levels of entry or continuance of study at the University to participate in courses that require them to synthesize challenging material, drawn variously from the arts, humanities, social sciences, natural and life sciences, nursing and health sciences.
  2. To create for students an environment of ecological learning, in which students and faculty use different paradigmatic lenses and methodologies to construct new ways to understand the diverse challenges existing within our local and global contexts. 
  3. To attract students to the study of complex systems, trans-disciplinary ideas, and knowledge development.

Values

  1. To enhance students’ intellectual curiosity
  2. To model and inspire academic excellence
  3. To adopt leadership and integral supporting roles in the work of inspiring or advocating for individuals and groups, as well as ideas.
  4. To cultivate an appreciation for the connections among seemingly disparate fields of knowledge
  5. To generate excitement for exploring complex intellectual terrain and to foster ethical responsibilities in conducting research
  6. To encourage critical social consciousness:  to recognize our interconnectedness with others in local and global communities and to act on our responsibility to bring about greater equalities therein.
  7. To demonstrate how students’ developing knowledge and skills can benefit their diverse communities.

Honors College Learning Outcomes

Honors College students will:

  • Engage in the practice of integrating insights from multiple disciplines, and analyze connections among disciplines
  • Learn from other students from diverse majors and colleges by engaging together in the lively interchange of ideas
  • Appreciate that expertise and deep knowledge in a student’s major can be enriched by conversations about other areas of knowledge
  • Become increasingly aware of current events, ethical issues, and controversies that permeate and impact multiple disciplines of study
  • Understand that asking questions in different ways, utilizing different methodologies, and making different assumptions impacts the construction of new knowledge
  • View complex challenges in ways that incorporate local, national, and global perspectives
  • Engage in intellectual exploration of unfamiliar subjects, places, situations, and cultures, while being aware that deep understanding may only be achieved after significant time and thought
  • Acquire critical writing, critical reading, and critical thinking skills, while recognizing that these skills are continuously refined
  • Work closely and collaboratively with students and faculty
  • Approach complex arguments by evaluating evidence from multiple sources, and draw supportable conclusions based on this analysis
  • Invest time and careful thought into brainstorming and developing ideas for workable solutions to complex issues
  • Build self-awareness about one’s own interests and processes of learning
  • Apply new knowledge outside of the classroom through experiential learning opportunities (e.g. research, internships, service learning, student teaching, studying abroad)
  • Develop and practice the skills necessary to perform independent research
  • Engage deeply in field(s) of interest through a senior thesis project that requires sustained commitment and careful follow-through
  • Practice asking thoughtful questions – both broad and defined
  • Identify primary and secondary sources relevant to a refined thesis statement, and generate an annotated bibliography of those sources
  • Deliver one or more oral presentations at university, local, or national events and conferences
  • Practice informed decision making, in contexts such as selecting courses, applying for internships and jobs, choosing thesis projects, and considering as well as preparing for future careers 

Honors College Dean Rajini Srikanth teaching

Dean's Message

"Every Conversation Can Become a Powerhouse of Provocative Ideas”

Honors symbolizes aspiration. Commitment to learning and a willingness to explore unfamiliar areas of knowledge are two of the characteristics of an Honors College student. The third is a recognition that being an Honors College student is not just about enriching oneself but rather about contributing in however small a measure to the “public” good. Working in a lab and learning how to observe cellular changes in a fruit fly equips one to become a future researcher in human genetics or virology and be part of important advances in understanding cancer and containing global epidemics; training to be an accomplished dancer or musician can prepare one for a performance career that facilitates cross-cultural understanding and empathy; observing how infants acquire language and how they respond to linguistic and visual cues can lead to deep awareness of the best conditions for intellectual development in children; titration exercises in chemistry can hold the key to discovering groundbreaking technologies in ecologically friendly pesticides for environmentally safe farming; complex character analysis in the study of literary texts can provide crucial insights into effective conflict resolution practices in diplomacy and international relations. 

At the heart of Honors College courses lies the opportunity to understand how diverse fields of knowledge intersect, how the seemingly insurmountable problems we face locally and globally can only be meaningfully addressed by bringing together the insights of multiple disciplines. There is no limit to the ways in which you can affect the global community of which you are a part. A psychology major who studies the intersection between improv-comedy and cognition can provide important knowledge about how humor affects our neural networks and enables us to overcome debilitating inhibitions; a nursing major who is also skilled in languages or anthropology can be especially effective in serving patients from diverse cultures; a biology and English major on the pre-med track can be a highly effective physician through understanding the role of narrative in coping with chronic illness; a computer science major who revels in philosophy can help structure applications to protect our most cherished values, like privacy.

Part of the joy of being an Honors College student is that you can feel your mind expanding – intellectual “intoxication” can be a powerful experience! One of our students, a physics major, was on the team of researchers that in April 2019 captured the first image of a black hole. Think of how transformative that involvement has been for him and for humanity: our knowledge of the universe has now been increased in ways that we as yet do not fully realize. A senior environmental studies major is training how to be an entrepreneur because she wants to open a business that packages cosmetics in an eco-friendly way. She is already implementing her aspiration in small but decisive steps: she is marketing bamboo toothbrushes so as to reduce our use of toothbrushes with plastic handles that contribute to massive pollution when we discard them. Imagine if the plastic from millions and millions of toothbrushes could be eliminated: how far could that go toward cleaning up our environment!

You can chart your journey of self-discovery, and you can determine how that journey weaves through the landscapes of our local and global humanity. The Honors College experience provides you the stimulations and opportunities you need.     

Rajini Srikanth's signature

Dean, Honors College
Professor of English