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Melissa Berninger, Director University Honors Program
414 E. Clark Street
Old Main 120
Vermillion, SD 57069
(605) 658-3340 (Phone)
Dallas Doane, Program Coordinator
Kim Conrad, Program Assistant
Sarah Wittmuss, Advisor/Instructor
The idea of the Honors Program is as old as the tried-and-true curriculum of the liberal arts and as new as the latest research in the various disciplines. In fact, it is designed to be a combination of both, to provide talented students with a solid academic foundation, then to set their minds free to explore and create in special seminars and individual projects. The Honors Program welcomes students and faculty who are curious, who respect and enjoy debate, and who seek alternative approaches to new and old problems. The result is the best kind of education that a university has to offer: challenging, interdisciplinary, and rewarding.
Students in the Honors Program benefit from smaller classes that focus on developing their critical thinking and writing skills, which will complement the work they will complete for their major(s). The Honors Program has its own core curriculum that fits within the University’s Framework for Liberal Learning. The first two years of the curriculum are built upon interdisciplinary courses that encourage collaborative explorations of a variety of texts, historical issues, and contemporary problems. The last two years of Honors courses present a variety of academic experiences. Upper-division students take two seminars offered by faculty members recruited from every school and college, offering Honors students an opportunity to explore topics beyond what is usually available to undergraduates. As seniors, they complete an Honors thesis on a topic of their choice, with the support and guidance of faculty members in their field.
Honors students also enjoy individualized academic advising and support from the professional staff in the Honors office and can participate in a wide range of special events and opportunities sponsored by the Honors Program. Most freshmen live together in the Honors living-learning community, which is known for developing an energetic and supportive environment. Additionally, Honors students receive priority registration and have 24-hour access to the Honors lounge.
The Honors Program is open to students in all majors. The majority of students apply for and are admitted to the Honors Program before entering as first-year students. Generally, students who are accepted for Honors work have displayed their potential in high school through good grades, college preparatory curriculum, high ACT scores, and participation in school and community activities. Students who complete the Honors Core and earn a cumulative 3.25 USD grade point average will graduate with the special distinction of University Scholar.
A second pathway is open to students who have completed at least one semester of college coursework, but did not join the Honors Program as freshmen or entered the University as transfer students. These students who earn a 3.25 cumulative grade point average, complete two Honors seminars, and write a thesis will graduate with the special distinction of Thesis Scholar.
Nationally Competitive Scholarships
The Honors Program provides support to ALL USD students who are applying for the most prominent and lucrative scholarships available on a national and international level. These scholarships require University sponsorship, and include the Rhodes, Truman, Fulbright, Goldwater, Udall, Boren, and others.
The Alumni Student Scholars Program (ASSP)
The Alumni Student Scholars Program (ASSP) is a cooperative program between the USD Sanford School of Medicine, the USD Sanford School of Medicine Alumni Relations Council and the USD Honors Program that provides conditional acceptance to the USD Sanford School of Medicine for up to four South Dakota graduating high school seniors each year. Admitted ASSP students enroll in the Honors Program and pursue a baccalaureate degree in their chosen major(s), complete pre-medicine requirements and participate in one six-week long summer clinical preceptorship. ASSP students must successfully complete all ASSP requirements within 4 years and graduate with a minimum of a 3.50 undergraduate GPA. Acceptance for admission to the USD Sanford School of Medicine is subject to the final decision of the USD Sanford School of Medicine Admissions Committee.
ASSP students complete three 1-credit seminars in Issues in Contemporary Medicine (UHON 290) that collectively substitute for one Honors Seminar (UHON 390). For more information, contact Dr. Dawn Bragg at (605) 658-6300 or the Honors Program.
The Law Honors Scholars Program
The Law Honors Scholars Program is supported by the USD School of Law and Honors Program. Based on the quality of the applicant’s entering credentials, the program offers provisional admission into the USD School of Law, contingent upon the successful completion of the program requirements. USD Law Honors Scholars must graduate in four years with a 3.5 or higher GPA and complete the Honors Program. Under narrow sets of circumstances, Law Honors Scholars may not be required to take the LSAT. Please contact the Law School Admissions office for more details (the LSAT, if completed, will be used for statistical purposes and scholarship consideration only). Law Honors Scholars are strongly encouraged to take an Honors Seminar taught or co-taught by a USD School of Law faculty member if available.
Law Honors Scholars may be eligible for entry into the USD School of Law after three years if they simultaneously participate in the 3+3 program and meet the established requirements. Students who wish to follow this path will be required to take the LSAT. Please see the description of the 3+3 program for more details.
High school students must submit the University’s Common Scholarship Application materials to the undergraduate Admission Office and indicate that they are interested in Law Honors on the application.
Applicants must include the application, transcripts of high school work, and confirmation of ACT scores. Applicants must indicate on the form that they are interested in being considered for the Law Honors Scholars Program. A selection committee will identify applicants who will be invited for interviews. A student applying for this program must be a graduating high school senior, have excellent grades at the time of application, and have a score of 27 or higher on the ACT. Beyond demonstrated academic accomplishment and potential, the selection committee will seek students with the personal qualities required of a good lawyer. These include good moral character, integrity, compassion, fairness with colleagues, and a capacity for leadership. The best candidates will have a keen desire to understand and help people. For more information about the Honors Program see: www.usd.edu/honors or email University Honors: firstname.lastname@example.org.