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Rethinking Honors Education

Three students from the Calhoun Honors Discovery program sit at their booth at the CHDP expo.
Three students from the Calhoun Honors Discovery program sit at their booth at the CHDP expo.

The Honors College at Virginia Tech is positioning the university at the forefront of honors undergraduate education in the United States and is a magnet for exceptional students. A new educational framework will build on students’ disciplinary knowledge to focus on experiential learning, undergraduate research, and collective real-world problem-solving by transdisciplinary groups of students.


The Virginia Tech Honors College offers you exceptional learning opportunities, extraordinary courses, and experiences that are not available to students outside the college and its partnerships. These opportunities are quite challenging and require that you stretch yourself beyond what is asked of you in high school and many other university settings. As a VT Honors College student, you should be aware of the following Honors College (UH) Course expectations.

We expect the best from ourselves and our colleagues – and that includes you, our students. We invest heavily in and have high standards for our individual and collective work, and we expect you will do the same.

These standards mean you should expect to –

  • Participate as a highly motivated, independent, and reflective learner, who builds collaborative and transdisciplinary skills. You will need to make connections and apply yourself across disparate domains of knowledge and action. This process requires you to play an active role in your learning, work respectfully across disciplines and sectors, and seek connections within and between courses.
  • Push the boundaries of knowledge and engage with new and challenging ideas to drive innovation. This is difficult work and requires more effort than you might initially think. Indeed, it is often more challenging than you may encounter in your major. Full engagement means failure is inevitable at times, as is learning from failure for growth and improvement over time.
  • Engage in constructive feedback or critique with peers and faculty, enabling you to iterate and improve both current projects and future work. We care deeply about you, your ideas, and your work, and we engage accordingly. We express this care and respect through feedback and critique designed to push you beyond your current limitations and encourage improvement through iteration. No matter how strong your work is, continually ask yourself, “What have I not yet considered? How could I improve this?”. Unlike some of your past experiences with feedback, Honors courses often require you to apply feedback to a new version of the same project so that you can improve it over time.
  • Be a strong partner in your education, asking critical, informed, and well-considered questions that will clarify and foster our collective inquiry and innovation. Asking questions about course structures you may not understand, expectations for your performance, and interpretation of feedback is key to success.
  • Value our diversity, our rich differences in disciplinary training, scholarly experiences, and approaches to teaching. As our partners in this transdisciplinary effort, you will need to embrace this diversity as well, moving beyond a desire for single perspectives and simple answers.


We value transdisciplinary collaboration of students with trusted mentors and peers who can both encourage and challenge students with their distinctive needs in decision-making and strategic action. Transdisciplinary collaboration provides direct and first-hand models which support students as they navigate the cultural diversity and economic transitions that characterize our time.

We value independent learning and advanced undergraduate research to foster students’ curiosity and self-directed educational trajectories and to maximize their abilities to engage in transdisciplinary collaborations.

We value place-based, problem-focused, and global contexts for learning in order to increase students’ use of the inclusive perspectives, purpose-driven engagement, and a sense of social responsibility that are hallmarks of the Virginia Tech Honors College student experience.

We value student participation in academic and professional opportunities, which we support through Honors College merit and experiential learning scholarships, individualized advising for national and international scholarships, and specialized professional programming and training.


Honors College faculty are continually working to publish scholarship that inspires. Their work features the impressive diversity of disciplines, research, and perspectives that is the backbone of our Honors philosophy of teaching and learning. By contributing to the national conversation regarding what lies ahead for undergraduate education, our faculty position the Virginia Tech Honors College at the forefront of educational innovation.