Program Description

The Honors Program is designed to empower high-ability students to control the nature and pace of their learning and development. We work to impart to students the notion that coursework provides the foundation of their learning, but many abilities grow in less structured settings. These include critical thinking, communication, and self-direction. Other important traits, such as engagement, interpersonal skills, efficacy, and personal values also grow in extra-curricular activities. Together, the curriculum and extra-curriculum—what we call the Pillars of the Honors Program—are intended to most effectively develop the whole person and prepare them for fulfilling careers and lives.


Requirements of the Honors Program

Honors students must fulfill three requirements to complete the Honors Program. These are three Honors General Studies courses (9 credit hours), Three Honors Option courses (9 credit hours), and a Senior Study. From time to time, we will allow a student to replace one of the general studies courses with an additional Honors Option.

English Class

Honors General Studies Courses

Students in the Honors Program are required to complete three Honors General Studies courses (9 credit hours). These are classes that meet the general studies requirements, but are designated for Honors Students only. The instructors are among UNK's best, the classes are designed to be interactive, and the students challenge and support each other. Instructors, knowing that Honors students come to class prepared and eager to participate, are able to structure the course and lectures in a way that increases critical thinking and engagement. 

Honors Option Courses

Students in the Honors Program are required to complete three Honors Option courses (9 credit hours) of custom upper division courses. These "H-options" are regular courses, but the student negotiates an additional component with the instructor for each course they select. The purpose of H-option courses is to allow the student to invest more in a particular course (and get more out of the experience), to work more closely with a faculty member on scholarly work in their field, and to gain some control over their learning.

Senior Study

Each Honors student must submit a scholarly paper to the Honors Program prior to graduation. This paper is not an assignment from the Honors Program, but is a project already completed for another purpose such as an H-Option or independent scholarly work. The student selects the paper from various projects he or she has completed to represent their “best work” as an Honors Student, demonstrating their knowledge, writing skill, and quality of independent scholarship. 

The Honors Program Pillars

A driving strategy in the Honors Program is to put students in situations where their learning and development is not limited. In classes, instructors must cover specific material and progress at a pace accessible to the broader student population. However, Honors students may have appropriate learning interests beyond the curriculum, and be able to advance faster than other students. Empowering Honors students to explore, learn, and develop according to their interests and abilities helps students achieve their own goals.

Four areas of extra-curricular activity have been established as priorities in the Honors Program. These are referred to as the Honors Program Pillars.

Independent Research & Creative Activity

As early as the freshmen year, students can work with professors to design, conduct, and disseminate scholarly projects outside of course requirements. This experience increases learning in the subject matter, fosters ownership of education, improves communication skills, and supports other powerful benefits. Funding is available through the Undergraduate Research Fellows program ($1000 stipend per year, renewable) and the Summer Student Research Program ($3250 for one summer). Honors students often present their research at conferences, and even get articles published in academic journals.

54% of Honors students participate in undergraduate research.

Community Service

We see students in the Honors Program as the people who will have the energy and talents to make their communities thrive, and we expect them to develop the habits of active citizenship during their undergraduate career by working  on an issue that has importance to them. These experiences will help them see that communities are good places because of what people do when they are not getting paid, and they will feel the rewards of contributing.

90% of Honors students volunteer.

Study AbroadStudy Abroad

Purposeful learning activities in other countries have tremendous value for students. They learn about other cultures, and through comparison they learn about their own culture. Typically students on study abroad develop increased self-awareness and confidence because they must function outside the cultural safety net to which they are accustomed. Even for students who do not plan international careers, study abroad can be a highly valuable experience in their own personal development.

29% of Honors students participate in Study Abroad

UNK offers a range of study abroad opportunities, from organized groups spending a semester in Peru to short summer programs for UNK course credit. The Honors Program also has an exchange agreement with the University College Roosevelt, which is an Honors College in The Netherlands.

Leadership Development

Honors students by definition have above-average academic potential, and they often demonstrate creativity and energy for achievement. They will likely have opportunities or the need to act as leaders in their future communities, employment, and professional settings. To help students develop an understanding of leadership and to foster their own leadership skills, UNK offers leadership classes, seminars, and a broad range of learning opportunities through clubs and student government. Honors students are encouraged to take advantage of these opportunities for their own personal development.

77% of Honors students participate in Leadership Development

Outcomes of Success in the Honors Program


UNK Honors students take classes, do projects, and live in a community that pushes them to learn more about their chosen fields, and about the accomplishments of diverse civilizations and cultures. Honors students become lifelong learners.


UNK Honors students participate in campus activities and non-profit organizations, developing experiences and values that make them important assets in their workplaces and communities.


UNK Honors students are surrounded by people who help them develop the personal values of hard work, integrity, and community that let them develop into mature citizens


UNK Honors students graduate with a record of academic excellence, broad knowledge, and personal achievement that are valued by employers and universities.