Honors Program

Honors Program Honors Program

The Honors Program at Saint Mary’s College brings together students who want to challenge themselves and transform the lives of others.

Honors students study together, earn honors course credits, develop leadership skills, do service projects and contribute to scholarly research under the direction of expert faculty. Benefits include early registration, mentorship, social events, special trainings and scholarship opportunities.

What are the benefits of being in the Honors Program?

  • Individualized curriculum and research developed by our most dynamic professors
  • Network with students and alumni from all majors and programs
  • Present research at the National Collegiate Honors Council Conference and the annual Spring Research Symposium
  • Priority class registration
  • Study and work for social justice in the San Francisco Bay Area
  • Get honors credit on your transcript and recognition at commencement
  • Participate in internship, graduate school, and career development workshops
  • Be part of a close-knit community of like-minded students and develop friendships through social, academic, and service-based activities
  • Field trips in the Bay Area such as Oakland A’s games, the Monterey Aquarium, museums, theater and more!h
  • Maintain a 3.5 GPA (if your GPA drops slightly below we will work with you to bring it back up)
  • Two Honors Contracts (or one Honors Contract and an Honors Independent Study)
    • Honors Contracts enable students to develop, under the guidance of a professor, an enriched curriculum from an upper-division courses in which the student is enrolled.
    • Honors Contracts demand that students achieve “greater depth and rigor” than what is required of their classmates and might well be viewed as a primer for graduate study.
    • Students must have completed at least one Honors Contract or Independent Study by the beginning of their senior year.  Except by special permission, only one Honors contract may be pursued at a time.
  • A Thesis or Capstone Project (this will be your third Contract)
    • Students whose major already requires a thesis will use that as their third contract. You will submit the same Contract proposal by the usual deadline and submit your final product to the Honors Program.
    • Students whose major does NOT require a thesis may sign up for independent study or topics courses in their departments, or develop their theses independently.  You will submit the same Contract proposal by the usual deadline and submit your final product to the Honors Program.
  • Presentation of Research
    • Honors Students must present research at least one time. Students may present any one of their contracts, in any semester. 
    • SMC Spring Symposium is a great way to present research; this takes place annually in May and most Honors students present their thesis or third contract at this event.
    • Other options include national and regional conferences, departmental thesis forum, or another avenue of the student's choosing. Read the newsletters to find scholarships to national and regional conferences!

What are colloquiums?

Colloquiums are a non-course credit seminar for students in the Honors Program. Colloquiums are different from the standard learning environment filled with exams, essays, and homework. Every colloquium is student-led and holds intriguing discussions and presentations with occasional guest lecturers. Honors students participate in discussions with their peers on a topic of their choosing. Students will gain communication and critical thinking skills, while bonding and developing life-long relationships with their like-minded peers. 

Who can attend colloquiums?

Colloquiums are open to all students in the Honors Program; however, all first and second year students are required to attend one colloquium per month. First-years are only required to attend in the spring, after they have been inducted, but they are encouraged to begin participating already in their first semester on campus. Typically, juniors and seniors lead or co-lead colloquiums. Honors points are allocated for each colloquium attended (1 point) or led (2 points).

When and where do colloquiums take place?

Students will be notified at the beginning of each week via our newsletter and can choose which colloquium to attend based on their interests and availability. In Fall 2021 most of them will be conducted via zoom, some in person. 

Past Colloquiums

  • Women in Sport and the Fitness Industry
  • Current Events
  • The Science Behind Healthy Eating
  • Analyzing Harry Potter
  • Understanding the Aeneid
  • Drunk History
  • The Funeral Industry & the Environment
  • Women in Business
  • Science and Fiction
  • Contemporary Race Issues
  • Exploring Wallace and Gromit
  • Science of Science Fiction

Colloquium FAQ

Q: How can I become a colloquium leader?

A: If you are interested in becoming a colloquium leader, fill out the form emailed out at the beginning of each semester! 

Q: Can I attend more than one colloquium per month?

A: Yes, you are welcome to attend as many colloquiums as you wish!

Q: What happens if I miss a colloquium?

A: You are allowed to miss one meeting a semester. If you need to or end up missing more, please contact the Honors Program.

Points Values *

Total point value to graduate with Honors: 150

Total point value to graduate with High Honors: 175

Total points to graduate with the Honors Medallion: 200

*these points values are for students who joined as a first year, see "Points Requirements" page for additional values


How do I get points?

Participation in an event (colloquium counts)

1 point

Participation in an event with a leadership component (leading a colloquium counts)

2 points

Participation in an event with a service component

3 points

Other SMC presentations (not for work or class credit)

2 points

Presenting research at SMC conference (including Spring Symposium)

3 points

Student jobs (Full and part-time)

3-5 points

* Depending on hours

Presenting research at conference (non-SMC)

5 points

Internships in career field (unpaid)

5 points

Successful completion of two days of service in a semester

5 points

Completion of course over summer (not receiving SMC academic credit for it)

5 points

Summer of Service

10 points

Honors Contracts/Honors Independent Studies

20 points

Honors Senior Thesis/Honors Senior Capstone

20 points

Independent Summer Research Contract w/ SMC faculty

20 points


Other forms of experience for which you are not receiving financial compensation or academic credit can also be petitioned for points (orchestra, service, attendance at academic events not required for a class, study abroad, etc.)

  • Transfer students should contact the Honors Director or Coordinator to work out their point goals
  • At least 60 points must derive from Honors Contracts, at most one Honors Independent Study, and at most one Senior Thesis
  • Students MUST end their freshman year with at least 10 points
  • Students MUST end their sophomore year with at least 35 points
  • Students MUST end their junior year with at least 75 points, of which at least 20 must come from an Honors Contract or Independent Study
  • For questions regarding points, please contact honors@stmarys-ca.edu 



Points Requirements ** Updated January 28th 2022 


For those who joined the program as a first year:

Honors= 150 points

High Honors=175 points

Honors Medallion=200 points


For those who joined the program as a second year:

Honors= 135 points

High Honors= 160 points

Honors Medallion= 185 points


For those who joined the program as a junior transfer student or third year (other transfer students please contact us):

Honors=90 points

High Honors= 115 points

Honors Medallion=140 points


For those graduating in three years (who joined as freshman):

Honors=105 points

High Honors=130

Honors Medallion=155




*Students MUST end their freshman year with at least 10 points

*Students MUST end their sophomore year with at least 35 points

*Students MUST end their junior year with at least 75 points, of which at least 20 must come from an Honors Contract or Independent Study.

Honors Program students conclude their Saint Mary’s experience by designing, executing and presenting an original thesis or capstone project. 

Your Thesis Project is your third Honors Contract: the same deadlines, forms and requirements apply

The thesis or capstone project will be your third Honors contract. If your department has a thesis or capstone course, to receive academic credit for it, you must enroll in your department’s capstone/thesis course. If your program does not require a capstone/thesis you may a) enroll in an Honors Independent Study or b) enroll in a related program’s thesis course. Ask us about your options before your final semester!

 As usual, submit an Honors Contract Proposal by the appropriate deadline. Thesis or capstone projects must be approved by the Honors Program Director, just like all the other contracts. Once completed, submit an electronic copy of the finished thesis to Honors Program. Remember: Honors students also have to give a formal presentation of their research at least once, so you will need to present at either:

  • State, regional or national Honors Conference (read our newsletters for calls for application)
  • Undergraduate conference in the student’s field (ask your professors for recommendation)
  • Saint Mary’s Spring Symposium (organized every May)
  • Departmental or School Thesis Showcase (some programs have their own panels)

The Honors Student Commission

Honors program students standing together smiling on campus

Student-Driven Focus

Honors Commissioners develop diverse leadership skills which they take with them into the world after graduation. Most of all, the Commission offers students a unique opportunity to integrate themselves into and to define the program such that it is truly responsive to its membership and serving the needs of every Honors student. 



Contact us

Honors Program


Dr. Helga Lenart-Cheng, Program Director


Office Hours: Wed 3pm on the Aquinas terrace