National Collegiate Honors Council


Date of this Version



Honors in Practice, Volume 8.


Copyright © 2012 National Collegiate Honors Council


Most research about honors has focused on general education honors. Less research is available on honors in management-related fields, two examples being Leong and Wagner’s work on honors accounting and Siegfried’s on economics. A guide to implementing a departmental honors program at minimal cost might thus be useful as honors programs continue to grow in number and in context. The revival of a departmental honors program in management and marketing at Rhode Island College (see Appendix A for background) provides the model for a nine-step process that can apply to other business school departments in institutions with existing general honors programs or to any department where there is already an institutional commitment to honors studies and where a path to a thesis already exists.

Most institutions attract a diverse population of students whose breadth of ability levels does not necessarily include the best and brightest. Nonetheless, accommodating gifted students is as important as accommodating remedial students (Waggoner); not all bright students are destined for the Ivy League, and many seek lower-cost alternatives in institutions with honors programs (Long; Hébert & McBee). Thus, for many decades institutions of higher learning have offered honors programs to attract and retain the brightest students while keeping costs low (Long).

Honors programs in business school departments are particularly important because students in these fields rarely find research opportunities as undergraduates. The nature of an undergraduate education in management or marketing tends to direct students into professional schools during their post-graduate careers, but gifted students who eagerly wish to attend MBA programs need innovative classes and enthusiastic teachers. A departmental honors program is an effective way of engaging faculty and students in undergraduate research, and it also shows young business majors that careers in research and academia are available to them as well as careers requiring an MBA. Table 1 summarizes some of the benefits of a departmental honors program in business as well as some of the challenges.