I. General Description
The honors program offers an opportunity for majors of proven ability and independence to extend their competence in the field of African American Studies.
Students have the option of writing a research paper or completing a special arts or community-based project supervised by AAST Department faculty members, who assist students in defining the nature of their honors work. Each student and her/his advisor decide upon two additional faculty members who will form the student’s honors committee. One committee member may be drawn from another Oberlin academic department. In some cases, an outside examiner may be selected to aid in evaluation of the student’s honors work.
The Honors Program builds on the 200 and 300 level courses offered within the Department. Students are urged to begin enrolling in advanced courses as early as possible if they want to be considered for the Honors Program. Because academic performance is a criterion for selection into the Honors program, students should also work at sustaining a GPA in the stipulated range.
Once students are accepted into the Honors Program, their work in AAST 350 (the Intermediate Seminar) and AAST 450 (the Senior Seminar) will comprise the first two components of the Honors Program. The third component will be completed in AAST 502, in the spring of senior year. The fourth and final component of the AAST Honors Program is a public talk and/or presentation given by the student, and oral examination given before the student’s committee.
II. Admission to Honors
The Honors Program is open to officially declared African American Studies majors who meet the standards of the College and Department. Grade point averages of 3.1 (B) overall and 3.5 (A-) in Department courses are the minimum expectations for selection into the Honors Program. Candidates for the Honors Program would normally have completed six full courses or the equivalent in the Department.
The AAST faculty will evaluate the performance of third year students between the first and second semester of junior year, ideally before enrollment in AAST 350 (the Intermediate Seminar). Students who are identified as possible Honors students will be invited into the Program, and begin their Honors work as Provisional Honors students in the Intermediate Seminar.
III. The Intermediate Seminar (AAST 350) and Junior Honors
For most students, the Intermediate Seminar will serve as their Junior Honors work. While all majors are required to take AAST 350, those who are Provisional Junior Honors students will use this work as the basis for their Honors program.
Those juniors who have already taken Intermediate Seminar in their sophomore or second year can use either their Intermediate Seminar work or new work in AAST 500 (Junior Honors) as the basis for invitation into the Senior Honors Program.
Project-oriented Provisional Junior Honors students needing preparatory work beyond the scope of Intermediate Seminar may continue such work by enrolling in AAST 500 (Junior Honors) with their main advisor.
IV. Department Review and Invitation to Senior Honors
Before admission to Senior Honors, Provisional Junior Honors work and continuing attainment of appropriate GPA’s will be evaluated by the AAST faculty at the end of students’ third or junior year.
V. Senior Seminar and Senior Honors
After being invited into the Senior Honors program, students will ideally enroll in AAST 450 (the Senior Seminar) in the fall, and will utilize the requisite seminar paper (35-50 pages) as the first component of Senior Honors. AAST 501 (Senior Honors) will only be used in the case of students who, for valid reasons, are not able to follow the normal trajectory of the Honors Program.
At this time, students will form their three-member supervisory faculty committee and report the names to the Chair and/or Honors Coordinator by mid-semester. The primary faculty advisor will be joined by two other faculty members, one of whom may be from another academic department. If an outside examiner is recommended by the student’s committee, this will also need to be reported before mid-term.
In the spring of the senior or fourth year, Senior Honors students will complete an additional written or project component of the Honors Program by enrolling in AAST 502 (Senior Honors) with her/his primary advisor. This final component may be in the form of an additional research paper (35-50 pages), building upon their seminar work or an artistic or community-based project. Students doing projects will write a 15-20 page reflection paper in addition to bibliographic or appended information, after their project is complete.
VI. Pubic Talk/Presentation and Oral Examination
The third and final component of Senior Honors will be a public talk and/or presentation given by the student, based on his/her work in the Honors Program. This talk/presentation will be advertised to the campus community and should last about an hour, including a question and answer period. This will be followed by an oral examination by the student’s faculty committee, possibly including an outside examiner.
VII. Grading Processes in the Honors Program
Following the oral examination, the committee will determine if the student’s work in the Honors Program has met the standards for recommendation of Honors to the College-wide Faculty Honors Committee. Students may qualify for Honors, High Honors or Highest Honors, depending upon the quality of their Honors work and their final GPA’s. Students will not be notified of the results until Commencement.
The faculty supervisory committee will also consult with the primary faculty member on the student’s grade in AAST 502.
The student should leave a record of her/his Honors work in the African American Studies office as part of the Departmental archive.
VIII. Failure to Complete or Pass the Honors Program
Being dropped from the Honors Program, or dropping out, or failing to pass the Honors exam does not necessarily entail a failing grade in any of the honors courses or the loss of academic credit. The only consequence is that a student does not receive Departmental Honors at Commencement. Students are graded separately for their work in the Intermediate and Senior seminars, which also count as major requirements, and for any other Honors courses they have undertaken and completed satisfactorily, retaining those grades regardless of performance in the Honors Program.
Thus, the African American Studies Honors Program consists of four (4) components:
1. Successful work in AAST 350 (Intermediate Seminar)
2. Successful work in AAST 450 (Senior Seminar)
3. Successful work in AAST 502 (Senior Honors)
4. Successful work in the Pubic talk/presentation and Oral Examination
Note: AAST 500 and 501 will only be utilized in some cases where needed. For most students, the Honors Program is complete without them.