University 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 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 University Honors College; all Honors students graduate with prestigious University Honors in their chosen field.
Honors at PSU 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.
Engaging faculty from across PSU's campus, the University Honors College gives students the opportunity to work with our finest teachers and researchers. 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/academic-programs/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 Honors College should see the Honors website for instructions on completing an application: www.pdx.edu/honors. Students are welcome to transfer into the University Honors College from outside institutions or from within PSU at any point in their freshman, sophomore, or junior years. Students wishing to transfer into Honors as seniors should contact the University Honors Director to discuss their research experience and thesis plans.
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
All Honors students must complete the Honors College curriculum and a senior thesis supervised by a faculty advisor. Honors theses are presented at a public symposium and are published on PDX.Scholar, PSU's open source thesis and dissertation database.
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, as well as any additional degree requirements set by their major department.
Graduating from Honors requires a cumulative PSU GPA of 3.25 or higher and a cumulative 3.25 GPA in all Honors (HON) courses.
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.
- First year students must complete the Global City sequence regardless of the number of AP/IB credits they may have completed.
- Incoming first year transfer students with 29 or fewer college credits must complete the Global City sequence.
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 30-79 college credits should begin with the second year curriculum; all three courses are required. It is recommended that transfer students begin with HON 202.
Senior Year: Honors Thesis (8 credits)
- Transfer students must begin with the 4-credit HON 399: Honors Writing. This course counts towards the 12-credit third year requirement for transfer students entering at the junior level or above.
- 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, or approved study abroad courses.
- Students entering Honors with 80+ credits are required to take HON 202 or its equivalent during their first term in Honors. 12 credits of junior level coursework are also required.
- Hon 403: Thesis Prospectus (4 credits); Hon 403: Thesis Continuation (4 credits); public presentation and defense
- Students wishing to transfer into Honors as seniors should contact the Honors College Director to discuss their research experience and plans.
First year: Foundations (15 credits)
The Global City: Hon 101, Hon 102, Hon 103 (15 credits)
This year-long sequence serves as a foundations course and provides the basic intellectual framework for the social, cultural, political, and material study of the urban environment. "The Global City" introduces the means to think critically about the urban environment and the interdependence between the city and the global world.
Over the course of three terms, this course focuses on developing and refining student understanding and practice of the three writing tools dealt with throughout the Honors curriculum: summary of argument, explication, and placement in relation to a discourse community, as part of the preparation for writing the undergraduate thesis.
While each section of the course will have different material, the writing tools studied throughout the year are the same from section to section. "The Global City" sequence is taken in a cohort model, with students remaining with the same peers and faculty throughout the academic year. Class size is limited to 24.
Second year: Research Methods (12 credits)
Urban Discourses: Hon 201, Hon 202, Hon 203 (12 credits)
The three connected courses of the sophomore year take the urban 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 urban structures and processes through a combination of social science methodologies including, but not limited to, spatial analysis, qualitative and quantitative methods and archival research. Field drawn upon may include sociology, anthropology, geography, and other social sciences. Students will explore and practice these skills by conducting original research in the Portland area.
Hon 202: Urban Humanities
This course examines the city as text, using humanities methodologies that produce closes analysis of cultural artifacts and texts placed in cultural and historic contexts. Disciplinary approaches may include History, Languages and Literatures, Art History, Film Studies, Gender Studies, Cultural Studies, and others.
Hon 203: Urban Ecology
Utilizing Portland as a living laboratory, this course introduces methodologies in the natural sciences. We explore foundations of experimental design while also sharpening observational skills and awareness of physical and ecological patterns and processes in the city. Different focus areas depend upon seasonal activity and include a range of topics such as stream ecology, plant science, and ornithology.
Third year: "Let Knowledge Serve the City" (12 credits)
Honors Writing for Transfer Students: HON 399 (4 credits - counts towards 12-credit third-year HON requirement)
This 4-credit course is the required entry point for transfer students entering Honors College at the junior level. HON 399 introduces transfer students to ways of thinking about the urban experience, introduces and develops the basic writing and research tools necessary for upper-level seminar work in Honors and for the senior thesis, and provides working examples of disciplinary scholarship. This is a writing intensive course and fulfills 4 credits of the third year requirement for transfer students. Class size limited to 24.
Honors Junior Seminars: Hon 407 (minimum 4 credits - maximum 12 credits)
At least one 4-credit Hon 407 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.
Honors Abroad: Hon 407 (4 credits - 8 credits)
The Honors College offers faculty-led global Hon 407 seminars for Honors students every year. Past trips have investigated cultural and ecological sustainability in Borneo, studied sustainable development in the highlands of Nicaragua, explored global cities in Vietnam, and examined the history of plague and pestilence in London. These courses fulfill the Hon 407 Junior Seminar requirement.
Internships: Hon 404 (4 credits - 8 credits)
Students have the opportunity to gain experience, apply their academic learning, and make connections through approved cooperative education/internships. During their internship, students must enroll in and complete the online Hon 404: Internship module on D2L. 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.
Research: Hon 401 (4 credits - 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 H-Seminars (4 credits - 8 credits)
Students may fulfill up to 8 credits of the junior requirement by completing approved H-seminars offered by departments across campus. A list of approved H-seminars is published on the Honors website each term.
Fourth year: Undergraduate Thesis (8 credits)
Hon 403 Thesis: Prospectus (4 credits)
Hon 403 Thesis: Continuation (4 credits)
Honors students are required to complete a thesis in their major field during their final undergraduate year. Students first take the 4-credit Hon 403 Thesis: Prospectus seminar, in which they identify their advisor and write their thesis prospectus. Upon successful completion of the Prospectus course, the student enrolls in one or more Hon 403 Thesis: Continuation sections, in which they complete their thesis. Finally, the student presents the thesis at the Honors Thesis Symposium. Honors theses are published online through the PSU Library database PDX.Scholar, and are also available in the Undergraduate Research Commons, showcasing undergraduate research from universities nationwide.
University Honors (Hon) Courses