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Honors in Engaged Liberal Arts (HELA)

Honors in Engaged Liberal Arts (HELA) is an option for students who wish to combine their academics with civic or leadership experience by developing projects that involve a serious engagement with a significant intellectual, social, political, or practical problem. HELA requires that students draw from their coursework, integrating curricular learning with co-curricular and engaged modes of learning in which they exercise their own agency to solve problems, enhance civic assets, or otherwise catalyze meaningful change within a community.

Unlike like the traditional Honors major, which typically (with a few exceptions) requires the writing and submission of a thesis, HELA requires students to design a community-engaged project, and then prior to graduation, to provide a reflective document about their process and the project’s outcomes as a part of their final presentation to a committee of faculty, community stakeholders, and other students.

Honors in Engaged Liberal Arts may be pursued along with any Honors or non-Honors major in a Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science, or Bachelor of Science in Chemistry degree plan, or with a Bachelor in General Studies (B.G.S.). Honors in Engaged Liberal Arts is not in itself a major, so it must be pursued in combination with one of the aforementioned degree plans. Students are encouraged to consider HELA projects early, and to apply at least 3 terms prior to the one in which they hope to graduate.

Honors in Engaged Liberal Arts Process

Talk to an Honors advisor about your goals and to learn more about Honors in Engaged Liberal Arts. Remember, HELA is a plan that can work with any other major (or B.G.S.) and does not replace your major, so you can pursue learning in your chosen discipline at the same time you’re diving deep into a community engagement project or exploring leadership opportunities in your community. 

Reflect on courses you have taken that have prepared you in some way to address a significant intellectual, social, political, or practical problem. Consider which courses you might take in the future to further develop your abilities to address the problem. Don’t neglect other, non-credit bearing experiences: what co-curricular activities have prepared you to create meaningful change in your community? Talk with an Honors advisor about your past and potential course plans and co-curricular engagements, and begin identifying how these efforts count toward the Advanced Engagement point total required for graduating with Honors in Engaged Liberal Arts.

  • No more than 50% of your courses applied to HELA may come from your major department.
  • Honors does not restrict, by rule, the percentage or number of courses that may come from a minor or supplemental studies program, nor does it rule restrict which courses contributing to HELA may be taken P/F. Questions about minor, supplemental, and P/F coursework should be discussed with an advisor and addressed in your HELA proposal.
  • No AP/IB credit may count toward HELA.
  • Point values for non-credit bearing experiences should be discussed with an advisor during the HELA proposal stage.

What are Advanced Engagement Points?

Points are assigned to learning and engagement experiences that shape your HELA project. 

  • Courses that you take prior to and as a part of your HELA project development earn the same number of points as credits (e.g., 3-credit class = 3 points).
  • Co-curricular or non-credit bearing experiences also earn points.
  • Your actual HELA project will also earn a number of points.

To graduate with Honors in Engaged Liberal Arts, you must earn at least 30 Advanced Engagement Points. Use this Advanced Engagement Point tool to calculate some point possibilities.

Think about potential mentors for your project. You may already be working with faculty, staff, or community mentors who can help you pursue your engagement project goals; if not, an Honors advisor will be eager to help you identify people that can guide you in developing your project.

How to Apply

Apply: after consulting with an Honors advisor, you’ll be ready to develop and submit a proposal that defines your engagement project, establishes its feasibility, explains how it is informed by past coursework and will be further shaped by additional coursework and engagement activities. In the proposal, you’ll make a case for how many Advanced Engagement Points the project is worth. You’ll want to consider the timeline for your project and its supporting coursework as well. Honors expects HELA projects to extend beyond one term, and typically to require 2-3 semesters of serious effort.

See the HELA Proposal Guide for tips on drafting and submitting your proposal. When you're ready to submit your proposal, navigate to the Forms page and click on the blue box at the bottom of the page labeled HIMP/HELA form.

When is the right time to apply? You should apply at least three terms before you plan to graduate, but Honors encourages you to start thinking about the HELA opportunity early in your undergraduate career.

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