The mission of the HBU Honors College is to provide students with an interdisciplinary curriculum rooted in the Christian faith that cultivates knowledge, character and wisdom by examining the great works of Western civilization and exploring timeless questions.
Founded by HBU’s president, Dr. Robert B. Sloan, the HBU Honors College accepted its first enrollees in the fall of 2008. More than a decade later and with more than 200 Honors Scholars graduates, the College has become a distinguished academic program for high-achieving students, offering a small-group learning environment and a challenging course of study that serves students well for postgraduate and career pursuits.
The University’s campus-wide honors program, the Honors College is open to undergraduate students of any major. (The Honors College enjoys a joint-admissions program with HBU’s School of Nursing and Allied Health for students who work toward a Bachelor of Science in Nursing.) Typically, students enter their freshman year; the average student has a GPA of 3.6 and a SAT score of 1280. There is no additional cost to be a member of the Honors College, and typical Honors College students qualify for healthy financial aid due to their strong academic standing.
Students in the Honors College take a specially designed set of courses to fulfill their liberal arts requirements. The curricula are centered around the reading and discussion of great texts. In addition to enrolling in the small, discussion-based classes at the heart of each semester’s Honors College coursework, Honors Scholars participate in a weekly writing workshop, giving them specialized writing training. A weekly lecture series complements their learning experience.
Dr. Gary Hartenburg, director of the Honors College since 2013, said, “The Honors College lectures are given by dynamic faculty from around the University, and it’s become something of a tradition that the very last Honors College lecture our graduating students attend is given by Dr. Sloan, who draws on his expertise in Pauline theology to help our students think about how to fit everything they’ve studied in the Honors College — from Homer to C. S. Lewis — into the big picture provided by Christian theology and tradition.”
Benefits of the Honors College include more than a strong foundation in the classics, writing training and meaningful discussions. Students benefit from faculty mentoring relationships and cultural experiences throughout the area. “Students regularly tour the Museum of Fine Arts Houston and the Lanier Chapel and Theological Library, as well as attend the University are all designed to help students develop better reading, writing, thinking, listening and speaking skills. These features distinguish the program at HBU and from honors programs at other universities. Our students come from a wide variety of backgrounds, and the diversity of the Honors College reflects the (nation-leading) diversity of HBU in general. And among other honors programs, no others I know of cover the amount of credit hours we do while also providing one-on-one faculty mentoring and intensive writing instruction in a classroom setting.” performances at the Houston Grand Opera, the Houston Ballet, and the Houston Symphony,” Hartenburg said. “Honors College students often choose to continue to participate in other art and culture events on their own time because they come to understand the emotion-laden and sensory experiences these cultural outings provide enable them to draw connections in the classroom that might have otherwise gone unobserved. As students near graduation and are applying for jobs or places in postgraduate education, their Honors College mentors are able to write strong and detailed letters of recommendation for them.”
One of the unique components of HBU’s Honors College compared with other universities is the final course in the Honors College curriculum, “The Story of Scripture: The Biblical Narrative from Genesis to Revelation.” Hartenburg said, “This course was inspired by a remark that Dr. Sloan made to me about the value of a great-books education in a Christian setting: ‘We must help students to read and interpret the Bible well.’ If we don’t do that, we are failing them, regardless of whatever other great works we might introduce them to. With this in mind, the Honors College faculty created the Story of Scripture course in which students read through the biblical narrative of the people of God from the beginning of the Old Testament to the end of the New Testament. Their reading of the Bible goes handin-hand with reading (and watching!) some great works of Western civilization that are either inspired by certain parts of the Bible or serve as commentaries to help us understand the Bible better.”
Students who enroll in the HBU Honors College gain unique understanding of both study material and their world, Hartenburg said. “The reading requirements, the method of discussion-based education used in the twice-weekly seminars, the intensive writing instruction in weekly writing workshops, and the weekly lectures by faculty experts from across the University are all designed to help students develop better reading, writing, thinking, listening and speaking skills. These features distinguish the program at HBU and from honors programs at other universities. Our students come from a wide variety of backgrounds, and the diversity of the Honors College reflects the (nation-leading) diversity of HBU in general. And among other honors programs, no others I know of cover the amount of credit hours we do while also providing one-on-one faculty mentoring and intensive writing instruction in a classroom setting.”
“Biology courses lean towards the rigorous memorization of material. The Honors College differs from this linear style of thinking and takes a broadbased approach to education by emphasizing individual learning in a discussion-based environment. Through the Honors College, I am able to incorporate and cultivate my creative and critical thinking skills and prioritize teamwork, communication, and effective reasoning in my Biology major.”
“The years I have spent so far at HBU in the art department and the Honors College have been some of the most enlightening and influential of my life. The best thing about HBU’s studio art program is how closeknit and encouraging it is. After your first year or so in the program, most of the professors will know your name and, if you let them, really invest themselves in helping you grow and preparing you for the future. In the end, though, the content and style you choose to pursue in your work is up to you. Because, in this sense, art majors are left to their own devices, my experience in the Honors College has been invaluable. In the arts, no matter what field, you will always be faced with the questions ‘What do I want to express?’ and ‘How do I want to express it?’ The great texts we study in the Honors College have really shaped and reinforced my worldview and helped me to understand what characterizes great, enduring art. While the art program teaches you how technically to make art, the Honors College has taught me what true art is.”