Departmental honors are awarded by the faculty at commencement to a student who has met the following requirements for a program of independent study in her/his major field:

  • A student must have a grade point average of 3.0 or higher in major courses in order to submit a departmental honors proposal.
  • The student should start working on their idea in the fall term of their junior year. During this time they need to pick a faculty advisor. The student and advisor should meet with the department chair early enough to discuss the proposal and obtain approval so that the student may register for independent study in the spring term to write the proposal.
  • The student registers for a 1-2 hour independent study no sooner than the junior year. A special departmental honors proposal form is used for registration purposes. It needs to be signed by the sponsoring faculty member and the department chair. During this independent study, the student develops, with supervision from a sponsoring professor in the student's major, a proposal for his/her honors project.
    Guidelines for the departmental honors proposal> 
  • At the end of the independent study, the student presents the proposal to a sponsoring committee consisting of the major professor assisted by two other faculty members, one of whom is from outside the major department. Additional resource persons, such as staff members and persons from outside the Bluffton University community, may be asked to advise.
  •  The proposal, signed by members of the sponsoring committee, is submitted by the sponsoring professor to the Special Studies and Honors Committee before April 1 of the junior year. In exceptional circumstances, the committee is willing to consider a proposal submitted by Sept. 15 of a student’s senior year.  A successful fall proposal would need to have been started in the summer before senior year fall semester. The student defends the merits of the proposal before the Special Studies and Honors Committee. 
  • If the Special Studies and Honors Committee approves the proposal, the student registers for an additional 3-6 credit hours of independent study to complete the proposed study using the Departmental Honors Project independent study form. On this form the student reports all departmental honors hours for which he/she intends to register. (The total number of required hours for departmental honors, including the 1-2 hours granted for researching and writing the proposal, is 5-7 semester hours of independent research spread over at least two semesters.) Departmental courses, such as one taken as a research seminar, will not fulfill the independent research requirement. (Note: If the proposal is not approved by the Special Studies and Honors Committee, the student cannot pursue Departmental Honors; however, the student has the option of completing the proposed study by registering for standard independent study hours.)
  • The student submits progress reports to the sponsoring professor periodically throughout the course of the study according to the timetable included in the proposal.
  • Near the end of the study, the sponsoring committee gives an oral examination to the student concerning the project and the immediately related area of study. The sponsoring committee then submits to the Undergraduate Academic Programs Council a recommendation for or against granting honors. The major professor is responsible for assigning a grade to the independent study hours.
  • Following the oral examination, but no later than two weeks before the final faculty meeting of the final term of the study, the student makes accessible to the faculty the product of study. Copies of written documentation, provided by the student, are to be placed in the library, the student's major department office,and the office of the vice president and dean of academic affairs.
  • The Undergraduate Academic Programs Council makes a recommendation to the faculty for or against granting honors. Faculty approval of the Undergraduate Academic Programs Council's recommendation is necessary to grant the student Departmental Honors.
  • Departmental Honors Proposal Special Permission Checklist


Revised by Faculty, April 2022