Program Details

What We Do and How We Do It

Discussion

A Firm Foundation

Students enrolled in the Honors Program take one Great Books seminar each semester, in addition to major coursework and other electives within the university. These seminars replace the general education classes required by George Fox University (with the exception of one math and one science course).

The foundation provided by the Honors Program is an ideal complement to all fields of study, because it develops transferable skills highly sought in the marketplace:

  • Writing proficiency
  • Reading comprehension
  • Presentation competence
  • Charitable discourse
  • Collaborative problem-solving
  • Analytical and critical thinking
  • Adaptability and creativity

Honors students also develop a keen historical consciousness, enabling intelligent, informed engagement with a range of contemporary issues. Most of all, students learn to cultivate a rich interior life and a clear moral sensibility.

A Cohesive Curriculum

Our great books curriculum spans three to four years and is structured chronologically, following the movements of human thought throughout history, from Ancient Mesopotamia and Rome, through the Medieval Era, Renaissance, and Enlightenment, and into the 19th and 20th centuries.

Students have the option to complete the program in three, three and a half, or four years. This provides flexibility for study abroad, early graduation, or extra focus on difficult major coursework.

In addition to reading and discussing the great books, our students write one major paper each year, gradually progressing in length and complexity. Each course also includes smaller writing assignments and exercises, as well as comprehensive written and/or oral exams.

Why Great Books?

Each honors course has a substantial reading list of great books – texts that have had a profound and enduring effect on Western thought and that wrestle with perennial human questions: What is the good life? How should we live? What, and how, should we love?

These great books provide formation rather than information. They sharpen the conscience, enlighten the mind, and turn the soul toward truth. The Great Books prepare students to successfully navigate life’s complexities, such as making difficult moral decisions, facing unexpected hardship, and learning how best to love their neighbors and strengthen the global church in our time.

Text as Equalizer

In our seminars, the text serves as the democratic ground for engagement. Both students and professors are encouraged to avoid extra-textual knowledge, which shifts attention away from the text. Rather than interpreting texts for the students, our professors encourage students to discover possible interpretations through discussion.

Our discussions do not focus on context, but on the world of the text at hand, and on shared knowledge of texts previously read in seminar. After a text has been thoroughly discussed and understood on its own terms, our moderators create opportunities for students to consider how it applies to their own lives and cultural milieu.

Close Reading

Seminar moderation involves striking a balance between depth and breadth, as we are often covering lengthy, complex works within one seminar. The practice of close reading provides a way to gain insight into a text through specific examination of key passages.

Close reading involves an attention to the multiple dimensions of a text, with a careful eye on language (keywords, metaphors, imagery, connotations, etc.). Opportunities for close reading analysis may be suggested by the moderators or by the students.

Our great books program is distinct for two key reasons:

We are rooted in Christ. Each course includes philosophical and theological texts from prominent Christian voices of the era, with biblical texts woven throughout.

We offer a generous canon. While centered upon the foundational texts of the Western tradition, our curriculum also includes touchpoints with Eastern cultures, non-Western perspectives, and particular attention to women authors across genres. This generosity in the program’s canon extends to works of art, music, and texts related to philosophy of science.

The Socratic Seminar

Each honors seminar course is six credits, the equivalent of two typical college courses. These seminars are just under three hours long and meet twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Each seminar is moderated by two professors and limited to around 18 students, which results in an average student-to-faculty ratio of 9:1. This low student-to-faculty ratio allows the honors professors to closely mentor each student, both within the seminar and in one-on-one settings outside of class.

Within the seminar, professors use a modified version of the Socratic method; that is, professors do not lecture or interpret the texts for the students. Rather, professors spark and guide the discussion through questions, placing the responsibility of engagement on the students.

This approach creates an interactive and dynamic learning environment in which students must be active, rather than passive, continually challenging each other to read deeply and speak thoughtfully.

FAQ

Absolutely - we encourage it! Study Abroad options abound at George Fox and include the Summer Serve, Juniors Abroad and Semester Abroad programs. All honors students can participate in the any of these programs without impacting their life in the honors program.

We provide space for a Semester Abroad by lightening the course load during junior year; students sign up for one honors course in either the fall or spring. Many current students have taken advantage of this opportunity to go abroad.

Your incoming credits are valuable and represent a great deal of hard work on your part! Transfer credits can often be applied to the honors program science and math requirements, as well as contributing to elective requirements and major coursework. Starting with fall 2021, we will also be able to offer a three-year honors route to incoming students.

Honors replaces general education coursework and does not affect your ability to major in a field of your choice. In fact, honors students major in almost every field of study on campus! Looking around the seminar table, you could find engineering, biology, computer science and English majors all represented. While many of our nursing and engineering majors graduate in four years, some choose to spread their degree over five years for a lighter load. 

The only major that is incompatible with the honors program is elementary education. If this is your field of interest, we encourage you to contact us for more details.

Students in the honors program have all the same opportunities as traditional George Fox students, including living arrangements and activity involvement. Our students tend to be highly involved on campus, participating in sports, clubs, music, theatre, residence life, student government ... the list goes on! Every student also chooses a major independent of their honors coursework, and this provides additional ways to be involved on campus.

That said, the honors program has many unique aspects that encourage a strong honors community. The incoming freshman orientation trip initiates friendship and connection that is strengthened by Socratic seminar-style classes, shared academic rigor, and the the combination of department- and student-led events that occur throughout each year.

Rather than detracting from students' freedom to be involved on campus, honors provides additional opportunities for students to create communities and relationships that last.

Yes! You can participate in a sport and be in the honors program. Several of our students do this successfully every year. If you choose to major in one of the more time-consuming majors at George Fox, it will take a great deal of work and dedication to be an athlete and honors student. However, overall the student athletes at George Fox carry a higher average GPA, so you’ll be in good company with others who take their education seriously.

Honors programs look very different from one college to another. The distinguishing features of the Honors Program are our great books, curriculum, and discussion-based seminars. Explore the Honors Program webpages to learn about our program, and then take the time to compare our program with others. Best of all, come visit and ask questions. We look forward to sharing all about it and learning more about you! Visits can be arranged at visit.georgefox.edu.


We welcome your questions! Feel free to contact us by email at honors@georgefox.edu or call 503-554-2152.