The Urban Honors College combines the benefits and rigor of a small liberal arts college with the opportunities and resources of a large urban research university. The College centrally engages Portland State’s mission to “Let Knowledge Serve the City,” drawing on PSU's institutional commitment to community engagement, sustainability, and internationalization as well as its civic leadership and location in downtown Portland. The Urban Honors College serves high-achieving, academically motivated students by providing an engaged and challenging educational experience that uses the city of Portland as a living/learning laboratory. Students in any department or major can join the Urban Honors College; all Honors students graduate with prestigious University Honors in their chosen field.
The Urban Honors College offers courses in the theory and research methods of the human, natural, and social sciences as well as a wide-ranging selection of intensive interdisciplinary seminars. Students have the opportunity to work closely with faculty on research projects, network and gain experience through internships, and study abroad with Honors faculty. In their final year, Honors students research and write a baccalaureate Honors thesis.
The Urban Honors College engages faculty from across PSU's campus, giving students the opportunity to work with our finest teachers and researchers. Urban Honors students become disciplined, nimble thinkers, prepared to become leaders, and ready to apply their academic learning to the challenges and uncertainties of the real world.
To view the degree map for Urban Honors undergraduate students, go to www.pdx.edu/undergraduate-programs.
Eligibility and admission
Interested students must complete the additional Urban Honors application questions available as part of the PSU undergraduate application. Current PSU students wishing to transfer into the Urban Honors College should see the Honors website for instructions on completing an application: www.pdx.edu/honors. In order to be admitted to the Urban Honors College, all students must first be admitted to Portland State University.
Minimum criteria for admission:
First-year students (entering from high school):
- 3.50 cumulative unweighted high school GPA
- 1200 on the SAT
- 27 on the ACT
Transfer/Current PSU students:
- Cumulative GPA of 3.25 or higher in college-level courses
Please note: Students who do not meet these criteria but can provide examples of outstanding achievements or document extenuating circumstances are also invited to apply. Letters of recommendation will be considered as part of the application.
All Urban Honors students must complete the Honors College curriculum and a senior thesis supervised by and presented in front of a faculty committee. Graduating from Honors requires a cumulative PSU GPA of 3.25 or higher. Students are welcome to transfer into the Urban Honors College from outside institutions or from within PSU at any point in their academic studies. (See below for placement guidelines.)
Honors students must meet the undergraduate degree requirements set by the University, including those governing total credits earned, upper division credits, the writing requirement, residence credit, and degree (BA/BS) requirements. Urban Honors students are exempt from all University Studies (UNST) requirements.
Honors courses satisfy many BA/BS requirements and the writing requirement, as detailed below. In addition, Honors students may count courses, including Departmental Honors seminars, “H” courses, internships, and Honors contracts, toward both Honors and major requirements simultaneously.
First Year: The Global City (15 credits)
Second Year: Urban Discourses (12 credits)
- Hon 101, Hon 102, Hon 103
- The sequence fulfills 8 credits of Arts and Letters, 4 credits in Social Science, and the University’s lower-division writing requirement.
Junior Year: Theory & Practice (12 credits)
- Hon 201, Hon 202, Hon 203
- These three courses fulfill 4 credits in Arts and Letters, 4 credits in Social Science, and 4 credits in sciences respectively. The sequence completes the lower-division writing requirement.
- Students entering Honors with 31-89 college credits should begin with the second year curriculum; all three courses are required.
Senior Year: Honors Thesis (minimum 6 credits)
- Students are required to take at least one 4-credit Honors Junior Seminar: Hon 407
- The additional 8 credits of Junior requirements may be fulfilled through any combination of Honors seminars (Hon 407), internships (Hon 404), research (Hon 401), departmental honors seminars, approved study abroad courses, or Honors contracts (maximum 4 credits).
- Students entering Honors with 90+ credits should begin with junior coursework; 12 credits are required.
- Hon 403: Thesis seminar (4 credits); Hon 403: Research and writing (minimum 2 credits); public presentation and defense
- Students wishing to transfer into Honors as seniors should contact Honors College faculty to discuss their research experience and plans.
First year: Foundations
The Global City: Hon 101, Hon 102, Hon 103 (15 credits)
This year-long sequence introduces the basic intellectual framework through which we will think critically about the urban environment and the interdependence between the city and the global world. It begins with the study of representations and perceptions of the city, considers the city in historical context, and concludes with the processes that shape the city’s geopolitical manifestations. Class size limited to 25.
Second year: Research Methods
Urban Discourses: Hon 201, Hon 202, Hon 203 (12 credits)
The three connected courses of the sophomore year take the urban, and specifically the city of Portland, as an appropriately dynamic subject for research shaped by the three “domains” of academic knowledge: the social sciences, the humanities, and the natural sciences. Students progress through an integrated set of research projects that develop not only their understanding of the systems by which cities operate but also their own critical capacities as urban residents and knowledge producers. Class size limited to 30.
Hon 201: Urban Social Sciences
This course examines the urban through the application of social science methodologies. Specifically we will focus on the maps of urban planners and geographers, the qualitative and ethnographic analysis of sociologists and anthropologists, and the archival and contextual investigations of urban historians. We will rehearse these skills through research into the neighborhoods of Portland.
Hon 202: Urban Humanities
This course examines the urban surround, this time through the lens of the humanities, by careful examination of artifacts, texts, and cultural institutions.
Hon 203: Urban Ecology
This course approaches the urban through the lens of science, exploring how science has shaped cities and how cities shape scientific practice. We look at trees, water, soil, and air as the elements of the urban landscape around us, learn about research related to the ecological systems of Portland, and plan research projects that further develop our understanding of the city.
Third year: "Let Knowledge Serve the City" (12 credits)
Honors Junior Seminars: Hon 407 (minimum 4 credits)
Hon 407. One 4-credit Honors Junior Seminar is required; additional seminars are encouraged. Students choose from among a wide variety of interdisciplinary seminars, taught by Honors and departmental faculty, broadly focused around key methodological and interdisciplinary questions. Seminar classes challenge Honors students to think creatively and analytically as well as rehearse the essential research and writing skills necessary for the production of a senior thesis. Class size limited to 20.
Hon 404. Maximum 8 credits. Students have the opportunity to gain experience, apply their academic learning, and make connections through approved cooperative education/internships. Honors students have in the past interned at OHSU, the U.S. Attorney's office, Portlandia, the National Institutes for Health, the Portland Art Museum, Mercy Corps, the Beaverton City Library, Willamette Week, and the Smithsonian, among many other organizations.
Hon 401. Maximum 8 credits. Students are encouraged to join ongoing research projects, conduct independent research, and develop creative projects under the supervision and mentorship of faculty.
Departmental Honors seminars and Honors contracts
Departments across campus are invited to create departmental Honors seminars; these courses simultaneously fulfill Honors and major requirements.
With the approval of Honors and the instructor, students may propose to make a seminar course in their major field Honors-qualified through the completion of additional research, writing, or other work. Maximum 4 credits.
Faculty from any department can propose Honors colloquia: these 1 to 4 credit experiences provide creative and engaging projects for students in a small alternative class. Examples of past Honors colloquia have included: attending the Portland Literary Arts lecture series with a faculty, then participating in a discussion and writing a critical response; a five-day ecological tour of the wild spaces at Portland's urban/rural boundary.
The Honors College runs faculty-led global seminars just for Honors students every year. Past trips have investigated cultural and ecological sustainability in Borneo, studied sustainable development in the highlands of Nicaragua, and explored global cities in Vietnam.
Fourth year: Community Engagement and Scholarship
Senior Thesis (minimum 6 credits)
Honors students are required to complete a thesis in their major field during their final undergraduate year. Students embark on the thesis project by enrolling in a 4-credit prospectus course (Hon 403) through the Honors College, research and write the thesis over two terms (also Hon 403), and then give a public presentation of their completed work. The thesis represents a valuable opportunity for students to work closely with senior faculty in their home departments as well as Honors faculty and to engage with community partners. Students will work together throughout the year of their thesis research to better understand the public implications of their work.
University Honors (Hon) Courses