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The Austin E. Knowlton Honors Program

What are Augustana honors students like?

Student blogger Rukmini Girish: "Honors in a Nutshell"

They are curious about ideas and different areas of study.

They care about learning, and not just about grades.

They read on their own — from Glamour and Sports Illustrated to the Chicago Tribune to Jane Austen.

They have had good relationships with their teachers.

They tend to take part in discussions, even if they are naturally quiet.

They enjoy expressing themselves through writing, and not always academic writing.

They are busy with other things, like band, theatre, a sport, volunteering, learning judo… any number of things.

They have a great sense of honor and integrity when it comes to their work.

Many colleges and universities have honors tracks, but few have what Augustana has — a carefully planned sequence of interdisciplinary honors courses.

These courses:

  • Fulfill college graduation requirements
  • Develop skills in writing and thinking that are essential to any major
  • Offer an exceptional foundation for learning in higher education
  • Connect students with engaged mentors
  • Involve a special sense of community

What does 'interdisciplinary' mean?

Every Augustana student graduates with at least one major in an academic discipline, and sometimes two or three. But ideas themselves have no disciplinary boundaries, and the most interesting ideas can influence many fields of study.

How is it a 'community'?

As an honors student, you probably will make your best friends in the honors classroom. Because you study your entire first year with a particular group of students who tend to be like-minded, and because you discuss the big-picture issues that matter most, you become very close. Your professors choose to teach in honors, and work to create rich, interesting, intense courses. This common work produces an esprit de corps, a feeling of mutual pride and personal bonds.

How can I 'earn a place'?

Everyone who wants to join the honors program visits campus for an interview with a professor. The interviews are friendly and relaxed, last about half an hour and involve discussion on what you read, write and think about. We want to see that your interest is genuine, and that you have the energy, ability and passion for this kind of study. About 10 percent of each first-year class chooses the honors program, but not every excellent student applies, and not every applicant fits the program well.

Details and options

Our integrated, interdisciplinary set of honors courses begins with either of two first-year honors program tracks, Foundations or Logos. Admission to Foundations or Logos is by invitation, after application and a faculty interview.

Both programs involve a carefully planned year-long course of study taught by scholars from a variety of academic fields. These first-year courses offer intensive writing instruction, an orientation to important books, art, music, history and ideas, and an opportunity to work with professors as co-learners in a world of interconnected ideas.

Students who successfully complete one of the first-year programs are invited to continue honors study with two more courses. First, a sophomore course brings Foundations and Logos students together to consider bridges between different disciplines.


Eric Stewart, Associate Professor (Religion)
B.A., Pacific Lutheran; M.A., Claremont; Ph.D., Notre Dame
Cyrus Zargar, Associate Professor (Religion)
B.A., UCLA; M.A., Ph.D., California, Berkeley

Capstone Tutorial

To complete the honors cycle, students also may propose a Capstone Tutorial project and enroll in an independent study/tutorial course. This course offers students the chance to work under the guidance of a professor in a project of the student’s own devising. By the time students complete this cycle of courses, they should be skillful at independent inquiry and expression.

Course requirements

All honors courses except the Capstone Tutorial fulfill specified core curriculum requirements. Completion of first year honors courses (Foundations or Logos) fulfills the requirement for the Liberal Studies First-Year (LSFY) Program; in addition, as long as one of the courses is taught by a professor of religion, the first-year programs also fulfill the Christian Traditions requirement. Completion of the second-year course satisfies the Learning Community requirement.

Students who complete a capstone project for credit earn the title of Honors Scholar on their transcripts.

About 10 percent of Augustana students earn a place in Foundations or Logos. If you are interested in the intense, intentional and cooperative spirit of the honors program, please apply.


Foundations is an integrated, and interdisciplinary year of study involving three courses, each for four credits. Foundations assumes—in the words of Socrates—that “the unexamined life is not worth living” and that certain basic questions have long perplexed inquisitive people. Reading of classic texts and writing to develop integrative and critical thinking skills are central in each course.

Completion of the program fulfills the requirement for the Liberal Studies First-Year (LSFY) Program; if one of the three courses is taught by a professor of religion, the program also fulfills the Christian Traditions requirement.

In the Foundations sequence, three professors from different disciplines teach three consecutive, carefully integrated 4-credit courses.


  • 101 Self and Other uses classic Western texts to explore what it means to be a "self," to hold a point of view and follow a way of life, and what can happen when a self encounters other points of view.
  • 102 Community and Faith uses critical and historical perspectives to explore the basis of community and the nature of faith.
  • 103 Vision and Visionaries builds on the two previous Foundations courses to examine the lives of extraordinary individuals whose vision set them apart from their communities.

Logos: Discourse and Discovery in the Sciences

Logos is also an integrated and interdisciplinary year of study involving three courses, each for four credits. Logos focuses on the development of science through history, the understanding and practice of science at particular historical moments, and the ways in which we are affected today by the achievements of science. The nurturing of writing and critical thinking skills is integral to the program.

Completion of the program fulfills the requirement for the Liberal Studies First-Year (LSFY) Program; if one of the three courses is taught by a professor of religion, the program also fulfills the Christian Traditions requirement.

Like in Foundations, Logos students also take three consecutive 4-credit courses during the first year. Besides 121, two options from 122-127 are offered each year.


  • 121 Evolution of Scientific Principles provides a general introduction, focusing on the logic, philosophy and methods of scientists from ancient Greece to the present.
  • 122 Seeking Logos: The Dialogue Between Theology and Science examines the historical interplay between science and religion within the Western tradition.
  • 123 Exact Thinking: The Mathematical Dimension of Science provides the historical dimension of mathematics, emphasizing its role as a liberal art.
  • 124 Great Controversies in Science critically examines various sides of some of the major controversies in the natural sciences.
  • 125 The Sociology of Science examines some of the cultural variables that shape scientific inquiry.
  • 126 Science and Literature examines the relation-ships between certain archetypes in science and literature, and how each discipline has historically influenced the other.
  • 127 Science and Values uses theoretical and applied readings to explore whether the scientific enterprise is "value-neutral."

How to apply

Step 1. Tell us you're interested.
Email or call your admissions counselor to make sure s/he knows you are interested in the Honors program. The admissions committee also may identify you as a potential honors student.

Step 2. Send your honors application and writing sample.
All accepted first-year students are eligible to apply. You may apply to one or both of the honors tracks (Foundations or Logos ). After your interview, you'll have a clearer understanding of whether you might thrive as a student in Foundations or Logos. The writing sample is typically a research paper or essay written for a high school class. The number of interviews conducted on each day is typically capped at 24, and interviews are offered on a first-come, first-served basis. It is prudent to apply as early as possible, and no later than two weeks prior to your desired interview date.

Step 3. Interview on campus.
Interviews occur on five specific dates between early December and early March. Admission to the program is competitive, and the on-campus interview is integral to the application process.

Step 4. Earn your place in the honors program.

We will let you know by early April if you are accepted into the honors program. If there is a wait list, those students will be notified of final acceptance into the honors program as soon as possible, and no later than the end of May.

Ready to apply? Click here.