Honors and Awards
Students can participate both in College honors and department honors. The goal of our honors program is to provide students a graduate level research and writing experience that results in a writing project that can be offered to prospective employers or graduate schools as evidence of the student's best analytical and writing achievement. Students who demonstrate high quality efforts and initiative in Political Science classes work under the individual supervision of a faculty member during the student's senior year. Honors are awarded following the completion of a paper and a public presentation which are deemed to meet a high standard. In recent years successful honors projects have been written on the prospects for democracy in Serbia and on the Jurisprudence of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.
The Aime and Gertrude Forand Scholarship for Honors in Political Science, a $400-$500 cash prize, is awarded to a graduating senior from the department who successfully completes an honors project. This award is based on financial need in part.
Department Honors FAQs
What is Departmental Honors?
Departmental Honors is a designation this is placed on your transcript when you successfully complete all requirements of the honors project. The honors project is a thesis: a significant research paper that you complete over the course of your senior year. It consists of two semesters of independent study (POL 491 and 492, 8 credits total) in which you work closely with the faculty member of your choice (your honors advisor) on a question of interest to you.
Who can apply?
Students with an overall GPA of 3.25 or higher and a 3.3 GPA in the major are eligible to apply. They should have either successfully completed or be enrolled in POL 300 and 308 when applying.
When do I apply?
It’s never too early to start thinking about doing an honors thesis, but you’ll want to have developed a general idea of what you’re interested in and found a faculty member who is willing to work with you as your honors advisor by early in the second semester of your junior year, at the latest. Consult with your honors advisor to determine the date by which you must submit your proposal to him or her. Keep in mind that your advisor will have to sign off on your proposal before it can be forwarded to the Department Honors Director, who must have the final draft of your formal, written proposal by March 25th for the fall semester or October 25th for the spring semester.
How do I apply?
In the semester before the thesis is to begin, you, in consultation with your honors advisor, must prepare a preliminary proposal. The length of the proposal should be two to three pages and include a bibliography of at least ten sources that relate to your proposal and that you expect to examine in POL 491. You should submit both a hard copy and an electronic copy of the proposal to the Honors Director by the deadlines listed above (March 25th or October 25th). The Honors Director will make copies available to all political science faculty members who will vote for or against approval of the proposal at the monthly departmental meeting in the first week of April or November.
What happens next?
If the department approves your proposal, you will then need to complete an application for POL 491: Independent Study I. You can find this on the Records Office’s Forms page: http://www.ric.edu/recordsoffice/Pages/Forms.aspx. You will need to work with your honors advisor to determine expectations for the independent study such as when you will meet with your advisor, what assignments you will do, and how your grade will be determined. This form must be signed by the department chair and then the Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences or his or her designee by April 15th, for the fall semester, or November 15th, for the spring semester. If the department rejects your proposal, you will not be able to proceed with the project.
Why should I do an Honors Thesis?
Beyond the special designation on your transcript (and honors cords to wear at commencement!), successfully completing a thesis demonstrates that you have research and writing skills that are very much in demand and that you are able to complete independent intellectual work. Moreover, you will have an impressive writing sample for any employer or graduate program that requires one. Indeed, the Adams Library and the Political Science department will retain a bound copy of your thesis, and it will be available through the Digital Commons as well.
Honors Project Timeline
- Determine your area of interest and select your honors advisor
- Register for HONR 351: Honors Colloquium (2 credits, recommended, not required)
- Begin working with honors advisor to develop preliminary proposal
- Submit preliminary proposal to honors advisor by agreed upon date
- Preliminary proposal must go to Honors Director by March 25th (for projects to begin the following fall semester) or October 25th (for projects to begin in the spring semester)
- If approved by department, work with honors advisor to complete and submit form for POL 491: Independent Study I (4 credits)
- Get form to department chair for signature by the Friday of the week preceding November 15th or April 15th
- Complete Honors Project form at:
- Apply for funds from the DeStefano Research Program, if necessary*
- Familiarize yourself with the American Political Science Association’s (APSA) Style Manual:
- Work closely with honors advisor to develop final proposal (or to begin research/writing)
- Submit final proposal to honors advisor by agreed upon date
- Final proposal (or work that has been done thus far) must to go the Honors Director by the Monday after Thanksgiving break (for spring defense) or the Monday of the second-to-last week of April (for fall defense)
- If approved by department, work with honors advisor to complete and submit form for POL 492: Independent Study II (4 credits)
- Get Independent Study form to department chair for signature as soon as possible.
- In consultation with your honors advisor, select three faculty (one of which may come from outside the department) to serve as your Honors Thesis Committee
- In close consultation with your honors advisor, (continue) researching and writing your thesis
- Submit final draft of thesis to honors advisor by April 1 (if completing in the spring) or November 20 (if completing in the fall)
- Defend thesis before your Honors Thesis Committee, the Honors Director, and your honors advisor by April 15th (if completing in the spring) or by December 5th (if completing in the fall).
- Get signatures of Honors Thesis Committee members, department chair, and honors advisor on thesis signature sheet*
- If required, make final edits to thesis
- Present your project at the Convocation of Scholars on the Monday before the Cap and Gown ceremony in the last week of April and attend Honors Banquet that evening (highly recommended)*
- Submit a minimum of two (2) properly formatted Dinner on Monday evening hard copies of thesis to the Adams Library*
- Upload an electronic copy of the thesis to the Digital Commons at the Adams Library*
*For more information, see the Departmental Honors Projects page at:
Herbert R. Winter Award for Excellence in Political Science
A cash award to a graduating major in Political Science or Political Science with a concentration in Public Administration who has the highest overall GPA among graduating seniors from the department.
The North Providence League of Women Voters Award
A cash award to a graduating major in Political Science or Political Science with a concentration in Public Administration who has a 3.0 GPA or better and is a registered voter and resident of North Providence.
The Maryellen Hoye Scholarship
Awarded to a Political Science or Sociology major who is a sophomore or a junior, is registered with the Disability Services Office of the College and who has a financial need of assistance.
Pi Sigma Alpha
The Alpha Beta Epsilon chapter of Pi Sigma Alpha, the National Political Science Honor Society, was established at Rhode Island College in 2003. Each semester, the Pi Sigma Alpha Advisor emails students who have met several criteria (see below), inviting them to join. Students are formally inducted into the Society at a luncheon in mid-April. To learn more about Pi Sigma Alpha, please go to:
To become a member of Pi Sigma Alpha, a student must:
- have completed 10 credit hours of political science
- have completed at least one 300 or above level class in political science
- have completed 60 credit hours
- have a 3.25 overall GPA
- have a 3.3 average or higher in the political science concentration
If you believe you have met the criteria, but have not received an email, please contact the advisor, Dr. Michelle Brophy-Baermann at