The State System Summer Honors Program

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Three honors students listen to a speaker on an Honors ExcursionThree honors students listen to a speaker on an Honors Excursion


Since 1985, the State System has provided Honors students from the fourteen state universities with the opportunity to study abroad through the Summer Honors Program. Each student’s scholarship covers the cost of 6 academic credits, travel and room and board at the host university and abroad. The application process is competitive; students must complete a written application and be in good standing within their respective Honors Program to be considered for the summer program. They are selected based on academic achievement, service to the Honors Program and the university and their interest in the program of study.


This year's summer program is hosted by Indiana University of Pennsylvania and will take this summer 2016 in Spain.  Their program title is "The Road to Santiago: A Medieval Pilgrimage from Leon to Santiago de Compostela, Spain."



The opportunity to travel appeals to many people as the chance of a lifetime. To experience a new culture and civilization, and to benefit from experiences that will change one’s perspective of knowledge and diversity. 

The PASSHE Summer Honors Program provides not only all expenses paid traveling opportunities, but also educational experiences for students to study abroad through one of the Pennsylvania State Systems of Higher Education universities and receive credit for completing the course toward their Honors Program.

California University of Pennsylvania is one of the 14 universities that participates in Summer Honors Program trips for Honors students to study abroad and take an academic course on a topic that is related to the country selected. A group of students stand on a wooden deck overlooking a large, wavy body of water.

Lauren Griffith, a Cal U senior and Journalism major, was fortunate enough to have the chance to experience the PASSHE Honors Program and partake in a trip to Nova Scotia, Canada in the summer of 2014.

“Mansfield University of Pennsylvania hosted it and we went to Nova Scotia, in New Brunswick,” said Griffith. “We studied the Maritimes region and sustainable agriculture and geology.”

Through this program, students were given the opportunity to study the physical geology of Canada’s region as well as agriculture life in New Brunswick and how it differed from United States’ agriculture.

“I learned that there is a big difference to how Canada does things in terms of farmers’ markets, grocery stores, and restaurants, at least from what I have experienced in Pennsylvania,” Griffith said. “It made me more aware of what I could be doing with limited resources such as money. So I check out farmers’ markets at my local Whole Foods and try and shop more organic.”

The students participated in various agriculture shopping experiences such as visiting two local farmers’ markets in Nova Scotia and having the chance to discuss with restaurant owners where their foods come from and processes with how they are grown.

Griffith and the students also had the opportunity to visit a farm that grew a berry found in Canada that the United States does not have.

“My favorite part was going to this farm where they have the Haskap berry. The farm was sustainable so they used things like seashells to help fertilize the plants,” Griffith said. “They make wine from the berry and juice from it that we got to taste. They put the wine and juice in a recyclable bottle so the whole process was sustainable.”

Two girls sit on large rocks just above a calm body of water during a sunny day.

The PASSHE courses lasted for three days, then the trip to Nova Scotia was a three-week excursion in which the participants were able to explore the region and work together to educate themselves from the courses they had learned. For Griffith, this trip gave her a chance to meet new people and build better connections.

“I still keep in touch with a couple of people from the trip through Facebook and we Skype. I was very grateful to take part in the trip which helped ease up on the work load for my senior year as a student since I received honors credit for the trip,” said Griffith.

Allowing students, the chance to experience a summer where they study abroad and build connections through other honors students, really made a difference in Griffith’s life. She now has more time to focus on her honors thesis and she encourages any honors student to apply for the next PASSHE Summer program.

“I encourage any student to get involved as much as possible with the honors program, specifically, the summer honors program because you may never have an opportunity like that again,” Griffith said. “Even if I do visit that region of Canada again, I don’t know if I would have done those things unless I was pushed to do it.”

Having other students from different universities come together as a team while on the trip made the process easy for Griffith to participate in some of the activities the PASSHE program provided in Nova Scotia. Griffith said she even partook in catching lobsters which she does not even eat being a vegetarian.

“I don’t eat meat or fish but they cooked the lobsters that we caught from lobster fishing and served them that night to students,” said Griffith. “It was very neat and it was very competitive doing that but cool to check the lobster traps.” 


More Information


In 1985, seeking to facilitate development of collaboration in Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education (SSHE), Edinboro University proposed a system-wide summer honors program. That year the program was funded by a grant from the Exxon Corporation. The first summer honors program offered a choice of specially designed courses comparing cultural and political differences between the approaches of China and Japan as they opened their doors to western influence. Although topics have varied over the years, the collaborative programming was established to offer Honors students selected from the 14 SSHE universities international topics, with broad based, scholarly opportunities. 

Over the past 27 years, the program has expanded to include on-site international study each summer. In 1992 and 1993, Canada was selected as the host country in a cooperative endeavor involving the University of Guelph and Mansfield University. In 1994, Edinboro and Slippery Rock Universities co-sponsored a program focusing on English Art and English History. Instructors from both universities developed courses with a thematic emphasis on gender sensitivity, which was taught alternately at Edinboro, Slippery Rock, and Edinboro’s center for summer study abroad, Exeter College at Oxford University. The success in program integrity and student response assured continuation of the international theme. Following the Oxford experience, “Sense and Sensibility in English Art, Architecture and History: the Female Concept and Contribution,” Kutztown University provided a summer experience ending at the Diplomatic Academy in Moscow, Russia. 

The tradition of excellence was well established by the mid-‘90s. The ingenuity of Honors Program Directors, faculty, and student representatives continued to provide successful international study experiences. In 1996, Indiana University sponsored an interdisciplinary focus in Fin de Sièle in Vienna. This experience emphasized culture at the turn of the 19th century−art, crafts, music, architecture, family life, fashion, medicine, etc. The 1997 SSHE Summer Honors Program was co-sponsored by East Stroudsburg and Bloomsburg focusing on history of the ancient world and contrasting old and new world archaeology. Students participated in an ongoing archaeological dig. The following year, Clarion University sponsored geological and geo-archaeological study of Tuscany, Italy. The overseas component consisted of lecture at Franklin College, Lugano Switzerland, a nine day archaeological field project at the Etruscan site of Poggio Civitate, Murlo and four days of excavation near Florence Italy; finally, students visited Rome. In 1999, California University sponsored an interdisciplinary study approach to the Renaissance and Reformation movements in Europe from the time of the arrival of Black Death to the advent and ascendancy of so-called scientific method and the scientific revolution of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Exploration of original artifacts and museums occurred in Madrid, Rome, Florence, Nuremburg, and London.

The PASSHE Honors Directors and their respective faculty have succeeded in collaborative planning, statewide selectivity of students, and constantly enriching scholarly experience. Overcoming the logistic problems of planning, international travel arrangements, and steadily increasing costs during economically unstable budgets, the State System Honors Programs have established a tradition of academic excellence and sensitivity to students’ learning experiences.

Past Program Excursions

Since the initial founding in 1985, the Summer Honors Program has rotated among the fourteen PASSHE universities. CalU has had the honor of hosting the program three times since its inception. Past programs have included, and are listed as Title of Program, Location, and Host School:

1985   “Global Realities: East Meets West: An Interdisciplinary Summer Honors Program in the Humanities” Hosted by Edinboro.

1986   “Culture in Conflict: An Examination of Arab-Israeli Relations”  Hosted by Bloomsburg.

1987   “Latin America: Reform or Revolution?” Hosted by Shippensburg

1988   “Science, Politics, and Public Policy: Nuclear Energy, Genetic Engineering and the Interaction of Science and Government in the Twentieth Century” Hosted by Millersville 

1989   “The Russian Experience: Myths and Realities” Russia   Hosted by Kutztown

1990   “Black Issues in the Twenty-First Century” Hosted by Slippery Rock

1991   “The Global Environmental Crisis”   Hosted by West Chester 

1992/1993     “Canada :Unknown Northern Neighbor”   University of Guelph. Hosted by Mansfield 

1994   “The Country as Text” Exeter College, Oxford. Hosted by Edinboro & Slippery Rock

1995   “Diplomatic Academy” Moscow, Russia. Hosted by Kutztown

1996   “Interdisciplinary Focus in Vienna, Austria” University of Vienna. Hosted by Indiana University

1997   “Explorations in Our Past: the Arbeia Roman Fort, South Shields” England Hosted by East Stroudsburg & Bloomsburg

1998   “Archaeological and Geoarchaeological Studies in Italy”   Tuscany, Italy. Hosted by Clarion

1999   "Tempus Mirabile: Renaissance and Reformation Studies"   Italy, Germany, Great Britain   Hosted by California University of Pennsylvania

2000   “Edinboro@Edinburg: The Scottish Enlightenment” University of Edinburgh. Hosted by Edinboro

2001   “A South African Vision: The Call to Citizen Leadership in Nation Building” Hosted by West Chester

2002   “Conflict in Spanish Art and Culture” Spain   Hosted by Lock Haven

2003   “The Politics of Latin America” Ecuador Hosted by Kutztown

2004   “Costa Rica” Hosted by Slippery Rock

2005   “Moulin Rouge, Monet, and Mallarme: The Art, Music, and Culture of Paris from 1850-1914” France Hosted by Clarion

2006   “Kingdoms, Nation Building, and Democracy: A Journey to Ghana” Ghana Hosted by Cheney

2007   "Mirabile Inventu: Renaissance and Reformation in Early Modern Europe with Antique Connections"  Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, Great Britain   Hosted by California University of Pennsylvania

2008   “China Today: People, Policies, and Preferences” China Hosted by: Bloomsburg University

2009   “Constructing European Identify: The Middle Ages and the Modern Era” Belgium and France Hosted by Shippensburg. Link to host sites page, Youtube, and video photo show.  

2010   "Mapping Cultural and Historical Egypt" Egypt  Hosted by Clarion University. Link to host site page

2011   “The Atlantic World in the Age of Revolution” Bermuda. Hosted by Millersville University of Pennsylvania.  Visit their facebook page

2012   “There and Back Again: Medievalism, Modernity, and the University” England. Hosted by California University of Pennsylvania.

2013   "Music & Media" European Tour. Hosted by Bloomsburg University.

2014    "The Canadian Maritimes: Geological Wonders Living from the Land and Sea." Hosted by Mansfield University.

2015    "'Nobel' Ideas from Norway:  Peace and Environmental Awareness." Hosted by West Chester.