Black Hills State University: An Honors Program with International Opportunities

Editor’s Note: The following post is one in a series written by honors professionals across the country.

By Dr. Courtney Huse Wika, assistant professor of English and director of the Black Hills State University Honors Program

The gold rush and the old west aren’t the only gems of the historic Black Hills of South Dakota. Students looking for an Honors Program with unique academic engagement, opportunities for international travel, and a powerful social support network, should take a look at Black Hills State University.

The University Honors Program at Black Hills State University is designed to provide the University’s top students with the support and individualized instruction they need to pursue their highest academic and professional goals. Located in the scenic Black Hills of Spearfish and Rapid City, S.D., the University Honors Program at BHSU adds to the already tremendous value of a Black Hills State University education.

Here are seven significant advantages of the University Honors Program:

1. Unique Coursework: The goal of the Honors curriculum is to provide students with a well-rounded education and, at the same time, to give them a chance to follow their own academic, professional or creative interests. Depending on the degree program, there are two tracks for the University Honors Program: Bachelor’s and Associate. Faculty create one-of-a-kind courses that promote academic excellence and the free exchange of ideas, academic scholarship and research, and experiential learning.

2. Faculty Mentors: From their first semester on campus, students work closely with professors across campus and specifically in their chosen field(s) of study. Traditionally, Honors classes remain small to promote individualized instruction and foster the student-faculty mentor relationship.

3. Undergraduate Research and Creative Scholarship: Each Honors course promotes academic engagement and research, and Honors students are a majority presence at The Black Hills Research Symposium and presenters for BHSU at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR), the annual national research conference. As a final opportunity to direct their own research, creative activity, service project, or study abroad experience, students complete and publicly defend a capstone project under the mentorship of their capstone committee composed of esteemed BHSU faculty. The capstone project often serves as material for application to graduate schools, school districts, and in the professional world.

4. Opportunities for International Travel: The University Honors Program partners with the Office of International Studies and Global Engagement to offer tailored international experiences for interested students, such as study abroad, faculty-led colloquia, teaching abroad, and international service-learning trips. Students who complete the University Honors program with a meaningful international experience have the the distinction of graduating as an International University Scholar.

5. Honors Colloquia: Designed as intensive seminars, these courses are unique to the University Honors Program. They are mid-level courses that assume no prior background in the area but that emphasize scholarly reading, writing, and research. Colloquia topics have included “Molecules that Changed History,” “Harry Potter and the Politics of Power,” “Ethics and Leadership in Popular Science Fiction,” and a service-learning course with a 10-day stay in the Philippines.

6. Home Away from Home: University Honors students enjoy a built-in social and academic community through frequent social events, “stocials” (study socials), community service projects, and Thursday afternoon Geek Speak lectures from esteemed faculty. The program also hosts its own student group, the Honors Club, which organizes campus and community events and activities like blood drives, volunteer afternoons at the no-kill animal shelter, and the BHSU Pantry for students and student families in need. University Honors students also enjoy a private Honors Center in historic Woodburn Hall.

7. University Scholar Transcript Designations: Students who successfully complete the University Honors Program requirements will receive the academic distinction of “University Scholar” on their official academic transcript. This designation indicates to employers and graduate program committees that the applicant’s academic achievement is higher than most graduates.

Students at BHSU are surrounded by picturesque vistas on campus with nearby hiking and biking trails for the perfect study break. Challenging and engaging academics inspire profound research and international experiences which are at the core of the BHSU University Honors Program.