University Honors Program

Extend your education with the University Honors Program.

The University Honors Program at PennWest California provides academic, professional and social opportunities for students with high academic potential to join a supportive community of students who are challenging themselves to make the most of their university education.  

Incoming freshmen and Honors Program students in good standing are eligible for a number of honors-specific scholarships, grants and awards. They take innovative courses with outstanding PennWest California faculty. Honors students also have access to honors housing in Smith Residence Hall, a dedicated computer lab and library.

The program’s director, Dr. M.G. Aune, is a professor of English at PennWest California. The associate director, Dr. Craig Fox, is a professor of philosophy. Along with program administrative assistant Kim Orslene they are available to answer your questions about the University Honors Program.

For information, contact the University Honors Program.
Mail:    PennWest California
250 University Ave.
Box 100
California, PA 15419

Phone: 724-938-4535 or 724-938-1544

Read the latest University Honors Program newsletter

University Honors Program requirements

University Honors Program students must earn 24 honors credits by graduation. These credits are parallel to, not in addition to, the 120 credits a student must earn to graduate from PennWest California. 

To remain in the Honors Program, students must:

  • Maintain a cumulative grade-point average of 3.25 or higher.
  • Demonstrate ability in all honors (HON) courses.

Any student who fails an HON course (not an addendum course) will immediately become ineligible for the program. If a student's GPA slips below 3.25, he or she may be granted up to two probationary semesters to bring the GPA up to the requirement. 

Students who do not meet progress requirements may be granted up to one probationary semester to earn more honors credits. During the probationary period, students lose some benefits of Honors Program membership, including early registration, honors courses through addendum and the priority housing option. 

Students who earn a GPA that cannot be recovered to a 3.25 within two semesters will be ineligible for the University Honors Program.

Students who join the Honors Program in their first year must complete a minimum of 12 honors credits (HON or addenda) by the end of their fourth semester of full-time study.

Students who join the program after their first year of full-time study are required to complete a minimum of nine honors credits (HON or addenda) by the end of their second semester of Honors Program membership and full-time study.

Students who are declared ineligible for the University Honors Program for any reason lose all UHP privileges, including early registration and the priority housing option.

Required Honors Courses

All honors students complete the following HON courses:

  • HON 100: Honors and University Orientation (1 cr.)
  • HON 150: Honors Composition I (3 cr.)*
  • HON 200: Honors Research Practice I (1 cr.)
  • HON 250: Honors Composition II (3 cr.)
  • HON 300: Honors Research Practice II (1 cr.)
  • HON 499: Honors Thesis Project (3 cr.)

HON 100 fulfills the University's freshman seminar requirement, HON 150 fulfills the University's Composition I requirement and HON 250 fulfills the University's Composition II requirement.

*Incoming freshmen may use AP scores or other credits to place out of HON 150.

Additional HON courses are available each semester. Read descriptions of all honors courses in the Academic Catalog.

Honors Program Course Rotation 

Every Fall Semester:

  • HON 100: Honors and University Orientation
  • HON 150: Honors Composition I
  • HON 499: Honors Thesis
  • Rotating Honors general education elective course
  • Rotating Honors general education elective course


Every Spring Semester:

  • HON 250: Honors Composition II
  • HON 200: Honors Research Practice I
  • HON 300: Honors Research Practice II
  • Rotating Honors general education elective course
  • Rotating Honors general education elective course



  • HON 201: Topics in Quantitative Problem Solving
  • HON 210 Honors Introduction to Disciplinary Research in Mathematics and Quantitative
  • HON 215 Honors Introduction to Disciplinary Research in Technological Literacy 
  • HON 220 Honors Introduction to Disciplinary Research in the Social Sciences 
  • HON 225 Honors Introduction to Disciplinary Research in the Fine Arts 
  • HON 230 Honors Introduction to Disciplinary Research in the Humanities
  • HON 235 Honors Introduction to Disciplinary Research in the Natural Sciences 
  • HON 240 Honors Introduction to Disciplinary Research in Public Speaking 
  • HON 245 Honors Introduction to Disciplinary Research in Health and Wellness
  • HON 320: Topics in Self and Society
  • HON 330: Topics in Culture and Society
  • HON 335: Topics in Science and Technology
  • HON 340: Topics in the Arts and Humanities
  • HON 490: Honors Research Practice


Fall 2021 Courses 

  • HON 340: Topics in Arts & Humanities - The Auteur Film (TR 3.30-4.45), taught by Dr. M.G. Aune, director of University Honors Program and professor, Department of English.
  • HON 201: Quantitative Problem Solving (TR 2.00-3.15), taught by Dr. Craig Fox, associate director of University Honors Program and associate professor, Department of Communication, Design and Culture.

Read course descriptions in the Academic Catalog.

Addendums: Honors Credits for Non-Honors Courses

In order to accumulate 24 honors credits, an honors student typically earns at least three honors credits per semester. Sometimes because of scheduling conflicts or other reasons, students are not able to enroll in an honors course in a particular semester. An addendum, therefore, is an opportunity for honors students to complete a project for a non-honors course
that will give honors credit for that course. More importantly, it will create an opportunity to work with a professor, practice critical thinking and communication skills, and conduct original research / creative work.

Learn about the Addendum Process for students.

Thesis Projects: The Honors Program Capstone

All Honors students are required by the PASSHE Board of Governors to complete an Honors Thesis Project. The thesis is an in-depth investigation of topic through which you contribute to your disciplinary conversation of your choosing. The thesis is an in-depth investigation into a topic of your choice. It is the capstone to your academic career and serves as evidence of what
you have learned and what you are able to do going forward.

Students earn three (3) HON credits for the project by registering for HON 499. The course is offered in the fall, and students typically present their thesis project in the spring, after two semesters of work.

For the thesis project, each student works with a committee of four or more faculty members of their choice:

  • A thesis adviser. (This does not have to be your major adviser, but should be someone with whom you have a good working relationship.)
  • An independent reviewer.
  • An Honors Advisory Board member.
  • A research librarian

Members must be faculty at PennWest California, and at least one must be from the Honors Advisory Board. The committee guides the student in creating a reliable and valid thesis in his/her chosen area of study. Once a student has arranged a committee and proposed a project, he/she must complete and submit an honors thesis declaration form to the University Honors Program office. 

Students are required to present their theses to their committees and classmates upon completion. Family and friends may attend the presentation, which is typically about 20-25 minutes, followed by questions from the Honors Advisory Board and others in attendance. At the end, the committee will meet (with the Honors Program director and/or associate director) to discuss the project and grades. It is common for the committee to request a final round of changes to the thesis before assigning a final grade.

Students may begin working on their thesis projects at any time; however, they may not register for HON 499 until they have completed 18 honors credits (HON courses or addenda). 

Typically, students earn a grade of "Incomplete" for the HON 499 course at the end of fall semester. That grade is replaced with the final grade once the thesis project is completed, typically during the spring semester.