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Honors Program

The Department of Communication Honors Program provides academically motivated students with the utmost opportunity for intensive study of communication at an advanced level.  

The Honors Program

Students are invited to participate in a highly effective learning environment with faculty fostering intellectual creativity and innovative thinking. Toward this end, the department offers honors, honors option and graduate coursework, as well as opportunities to engage in a year-long closely supervised research project related to the student’s interest.  


Participants in the departmental honors program are granted the following privileges: 

  1. Honors students may undertake any communication graduate course for undergraduate credit with the permission of the honors director and faculty member teaching the course.
  2. Honors students may register for any honors course throughout the campus, provided that permission of the department or program is granted. 
  3. Honors students completing the thesis option have access to the department’s student participant pool (SONA) to collect human subjects’ data under the supervision of their thesis advisor.

All students enrolled in departmental honors courses are also members of the University Honors Program and thus may register for honors seminars offered through the general honors program as long as they have the permission of the communication department’s honors program director. They are also eligible for honors scholarships, outstanding undergraduate research awards and participation in all honors student activities and organizations.

Selection of Students

Ordinarily, students apply during the second semester of the sophomore year or the first semester of the junior year. Applications are filed with the honors program director who presents them to the Honors Committee for consideration. The Honors Committee is a sub-committee of the Undergraduate Studies Committee composed of the Undergraduate Studies Committee’s graduate faculty. To be considered for admission to the program, a student should possess the following qualifications:

  1. An overall grade point average of 3.3 or above.
  2. Completion of at least nine semester hours in the communication major coursework, including COMM250.
  3. A grade point average of 3.5 or above in the communication major courses.

Transfer students from accredited institutions receive equal consideration.

The academic progress of each departmental honors student will be reviewed at the end of every semester by the communication honors director. An honors student may be advised to withdraw from the program if his or her academic achievement and advancement in the program falls below the specified benchmarks of overall grade point average of 3.3, or if his or her departmental grade point average drops below 3.5. A student may voluntarily withdraw from the program at the end of any semester. 

Thesis Plan of Study

To complete the thesis plan of study successfully, a student must fulfill the following requirements:

  1. Satisfactory completion of normal requirements for the communication major, maintaining a departmental grade point average of 3.5 or above.
  2. Satisfactory completion of two upper-level communication honors, honors option courses or seminars (300-level and above) or graduate courses (600-level or above), maintaining a departmental grade point average of 3.5 or above.
  3. Satisfactory completion of six semester hours of COMM399: “Honors Thesis.”
  4. Completion of an honors thesis by week 13 of the semester, in which they are planning to defend the thesis under the supervision of the advisor who is a graduate member of the communication faculty.
  5. Satisfactory oral defense of the honors thesis before a Thesis Examining Committee composed of the thesis advisor and at least one member of the communication faculty. The oral defense lasts approximately one hour and must occur by the last week of classes.

Non-Thesis Plan of Study

To complete the non-thesis plan of study successfully, a student must fulfill the following requirements:

  1. Satisfactory completion of normal requirements for the communication major, maintaining a departmental grade point average of 3.5 or above.
  2. Satisfactory completion of at least four courses in communication at the 300-level or above in the honors and/or honors option, and/or graduate courses at 600-level or above.
  3. And the following:
    • Satisfactory performance in a “closed book” three-hour written comprehensive examination in the field of communication, which is evaluated by their Examination Committee.
    • The examination will be administered in the final (fourth) semester of the honors program. By week three of the semester that the exam is taken, students must have prepared a comprehensive reading list approved by their Examination Committee. The list consists of core readings and concepts from the theory and methods required courses and from honors and/or honors option and/or graduate courses taken for the Honors Program.
    • The examination consists of eight questions. Students select four questions to answer, two from the core COMM courses in communication theory and methods and two from the honors coursework including honors option and graduate coursework. Within two weeks of the written examination an oral defense will be held.

Curriculum and Advisory Committee

Students may choose either the thesis plan of study or the non-thesis plan of study.

For the thesis plan, students select a Thesis Advisory Committee composed of two faculty members as follows: One faculty advisor who is a member of the department graduate faculty and at least one additional communication department faculty member.

For the non-thesis plan, students select an Examination Committee composed of at least two members of the communication faculty who are graduate faculty. Students may consult the honors program director regarding the selection of courses, faculty advisors and advisory committee members.

Honors program students may select courses from the following three types:

  • Upper-level communication honors courses. Each semester, the department offers at least one honors course.
  • Honors option courses or seminars (300-level and above). Each student may enroll in only one honors option course, which may be satisfied by contracting with a regular faculty member in the department to pursue study which can be shown to be qualitatively beyond the normal requirements of the course. The honors option work must be approved by the Honors College in order for the course to count as honors.

To participate in honors contracting, an honors student must submit a completed Honors Option Contract provided by the University Honors Program. The form is available in the communication advising office. The contract will describe the honors course requirements to be completed by the student and will specify how these requirements are qualitatively beyond the normal requirements of the course. The contract must be submitted for approval to the University Honors Program by the 10th day of the class. The student will be notified within one week of the receipt of the contract whether or not it has been approved or denied. In addition to regular class attendance, students and faculty are expected to meet at least twice before the end of the semester on specified dates to discuss the honors component of the course and to assure that the provisions of the Honors Option Contract are being fulfilled.

If a proposal is denied, the student may re-submit a revised proposal addressing the issues specified in the "reasons for denial" section of the form. The entire process of reconsideration must be completed by the third week of the semester. There are no exceptions.

At the end of the semester the sponsoring faculty member will receive the Honors Option Final Report Form. As soon as possible, the faculty member should return the form indicating whether the work submitted meets the conditions of the Honors Contract and should receive honors credit. Based on this information, the Honors Program will notify the Office of Records and Registration whether to apply the notation "Honors credit" to the transcript.

  • Graduate courses (600-level or above)

Graduate courses (600-level or above) in the department may substitute for all or part of two upper-level honors course requirements. To enroll in any graduate level communication course, honors students must obtain permission from the honors director and the faculty member who teaches the graduate course.

Evaluation of Departmental Honors

Evaluation of departmental honors students is the responsibility of the Honors Program director. In the course of its evaluation of any students, the Honors Program director considers the following two main factors:

The student’s overall achievement in the program based on his or her academic record. 
(2a)The student’s performance in the oral defense of an honors thesis based on a written report of the Thesis Examining Committee or (2b) the student’s performance in the comprehensive examination based on a written report of the Comprehensive Examination Committee. In consequence of its evaluation, the Honors Committee designates the student as a candidate for the B.A. degree in communication "with high honors," "with honors" or neither. Successful candidacy for departmental honors is indicated by appropriate announcement in the commencement program and by citation on the candidate’s academic record, transcripts and diploma.

How to Apply

If you are interested in becoming a part of the departmental honors program contact Leah Waks, Director of Undergraduate Studies, to set up an appointment. Please email her several times that you are available.

Who to Contact

Leah Waks

Principal Lecturer & Director of Undergraduate Studies, Communication

2101B Skinner Building
College Park MD, 20742

(301) 405-6529