The James M. Johnston Center for Undergraduate Excellence
The Honors Program at the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill
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The Honors Curriculum

David Gardner

The heart of the Honors Program at Carolina is a curriculum of some 120 courses offered throughout the College of Arts and Sciences that contributes to the liberal arts education of students in their first three years of study here. Students help to fulfill general education requirements by taking Honors sections of departmental course offerings in everything from art history to calculus and also by participating in Honors seminars on a variety of topics each year.

Honors courses and seminars emphasize student participation and writing. They are for students who embrace the chance to work hard, read more, take risks, defend a belief, and challenge received wisdom. You don't get extra credit, more quality points, or an easy A by taking Honors courses. You just get the most challenging and enriching educational experience you can find anywhere.

We regard the Honors curriculum as a learning laboratory, where new course ideas and new ways of teaching constantly stimulate teachers and students. Several special seminar programs foster innovation:

  • The Brandes Seminars program supports the development of imaginatively-taught interdisciplinary seminars. Some Brandes Seminars of recent years include "Art and the Fictions of Hyperspace," "The Science of Global Environmental Change," and "Ethnicity, Race, and Religion in America."

  • The Johnston Seminars program identifies important areas of knowledge that have not yet found their way into the regular undergraduate curriculum. A committee of students and faculty suggests new Johnston Seminar topics and teachers each year. Both outstanding university faculty and visiting experts participate in the seminars. Some recent topics have been "Higher Education and the Democratic Ideal" and "Contemporary North Carolina Literature."

  • The Seminars in the Civic Arts help to further one of the university's founding missions: to train individuals for effective participation in civic life. Civic arts seminars bring exemplary civic leaders to campus and involve faculty whose own research concerns the relationships among individuals, groups, and the communities of which they are a part. The Seminars in the Civic Arts also provide students with an opportunity to relate what they learn in the classroom to challenges and opportunities in local communities. In "Building Educational Bridges for our New Urban Students," for instance, students combine a thorough grounding in policy debates about the "crisis" in urban public education with an intensive service-learning project mentoring middle-school students in the nearby city of Durham.
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