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Honors Program


The Honors Program in History of Art allows exceptional undergraduate students to undertake independent research on a topic in art history in consultation with faculty members. The program is open to all History of Art majors with junior standing who meet a 3.30 grade point average in all general university courses and a 3.30 grade point average in courses in History of Art. They must also be approved for acceptance into the Honors Program by the departmental faculty and the Associate Dean for Special Academic Programs. 

Completion of the program requires 9 hours of independent study through any combination of hours that includes HART 3850: Independent Research (in the second semester of the junior year, unless the student is then studying abroad, in which he or she is expected to have enrolled in this class in the first semester of the junior year); HART 4998: Honors Research (first semester of the senior year); and HART 4999: Honors Thesis (second semester of the senior year); submission of an Honors Thesis, and successful completion of an oral Honors Examination. These independent research hours are expected to be in excess of the 30 hours required for the major in History of Art. Students meeting these requirements receive Honors or Highest Honors in History of Art, depending on the quality of their thesis, grades in art history courses, and examination results. Successful department Honors students will receive a Vanderbilt diploma that records Honors or Highest Honors in History of Art.

Application to the Program

The first step is the formulation of a thesis topic in consultation with a History of Art faculty member with expertise in a field directly related to the student’s area of interest, and who agrees serve as Faculty Advisor. The initial consultation should take place during the fall semester of the junior year (or spring semester of the sophomore year if studying abroad). The student should then enroll in HART 3850: Independent Research for the following term, filing a completed “Contract for Registration in Independent/Directed Study” with the departmental secretary within the first week of that term. 

The student will conduct research and meet regularly with the Faculty Advisor. Together in consultation with the Faculty Advisor, the student will write a two-to-three-page description of the proposed Honors Thesis. The description should consist of the following:  a clear thesis statement that outlines the overall theme of the paper; a review of the literature that already exists on the subject, explaining how the present approach differs from previous studies; a discussion of anticipated findings and contributions; a summary of chapters and their contents; and a complete, annotated bibliography. The description, together with a completed “Honors Candidacy Application” form signed by the student and Faculty Advisor, should be submitted to the director of the departmental Honors Program by April 1 (unless studying abroad, in which case, they should be submitted by Thanksgiving break of the junior year). The director of the departmental Honors Program will present the proposal and the student’s academic file to the faculty in History of Art and the Associate Dean for Special Academic Programs for approval. If the applicant is approved, the student will then be authorized to enroll in HART 4998: Honors Research.

Formation of the Honors Committee

Once the proposed thesis topic is approved, the next step is the formation of the student’s departmental Honors Committee. The Honors Committee includes the director of the departmental Honors Program, the Faculty Advisor who must specialize in the topic of the thesis, and one additional faculty member whose specialization is closely related to the thesis topic, usually from the Department of History of Art. The last is selected by the Faculty Advisor in consultation with the student. It is possible to petition for a faculty member from a different department to serve as the additional member of the committee (this applies to those students who select an interdisciplinary topic). The student must submit the signatures of the Honors Committee to the director of the departmental Honors Program no later than the second week of the first semester of the senior year; a form is provided for this purpose.

Honors Research

Honors students will complete HART 4998 and 4999 for a total of six hours of independent research. These hours will be devoted to the research and preparation of an Honors Thesis and completion of the Honors Examination. The sequence is letter-graded; students in good standing will receive an “H” at the end of HART 4998, which will be converted to a letter grade upon the successful completion of HART 4999. After consultation with faculty members, students may leave the program without losing credit hours gained in independent research. These hours will be converted on an individual basis from HART 4998 (Honors Research) to HART 3850 (Independent Research) and letter graded. The independent research hours can be a part of the 30 hours required for the major in History of Art. At the end of each semester, the student’s work must be approved by the department before the student advances in the program.

Honors Thesis

The Honors Thesis is an original work based upon the results of the student’s independent research. The topic and length must be determined on the advice of the student’s faculty advisor in consultation with the director of the departmental Honors Program. Undergraduate honors theses in the Department of History of Art have a maximum limit of 50 double-spaced pages in length (excluding illustrations). The entire first draft of the thesis must be completed and turned in to Honors Committee members by March 1, with revisions completed by April 1. Two copies of the final draft must be bound and deposited with the departmental secretary no later than April 27 of the student’s senior year. Failure to meet these deadlines will result in removal of the student from the departmental Honors Program.

Honors Examination

The Honors Committee appraises the student’s written work and administers a one-hour Honors Examination one week after the submission of the Honors Thesis. This examination consists of the following: an illustrated presentation of the thesis by the student, 15-20 minutes; questions, discussion, and defense, 15-20 minutes; assessment by the committee, in camera; and report of outcome to the student.  Assessment by the Honors Committee determines if the student has passed the examination and at what level. If the student passes the thesis examination they will receive Honors in History of Art. Exceptional theses and presentations may be awarded Highest Honors. The award of Honors or Highest Honors will be reported to the student upon completion of the examination.

Questions? Contact Professor Elizabeth Moodey: 615-343-1089,  elizabeth.j.moodey@Vanderbilt.Edu

» Honors in History of Art Application Form

[August 2018]