Students polishing senior theses in Honors Program

Senior honors students are working hard to wrap up their honors thesis projects, with topics spanning literature, biology, graphic design, education, physics, broadcasting and many more.

Video: SUNY Oswego students discuss the Honors Program.

Upon acceptance to SUNY Oswego, qualified students are invited to participate in the honors program. According to Robert Moore, Honors Program director, the program allows students “to pursue their interests in smaller classes, in classes that give them the opportunity to express themselves and, in fact, demand that they express themselves whether it’s in writing or orally.”

The Honors Program requires its students to complete an in-depth independent project, the honors thesis, over an extended period of time, typically a year and a half. Students work with professors who possess expertise in the subject of their thesis projects. “The process is as important as the product,” Moore said. Taking a major project from an idea to a finished product is something honors students learn a great deal from. Plus they will have the honors thesis to present to graduate schools and prospective employers as evidence of the quality of work they are capable of producing.

Kelli Ariel, a senior graphic design major, focused her honors thesis project on package design and business branding. Titled “Corporate Identity: Gansevoort Market,” Ariel’s project revolves around a fictitious socially conscious meat company; she is constructing the company’s identity by designing its business cards, stationery, packaging, brochures and posters. Ariel chose this avenue because not many people think about the many things that go into the design of a product as simple as meat.

Georgia Keene, a senior zoology major, is interested in the “evolutionary relationships between black swallowtail butterflies and their host plants” as a topic for her honors thesis project, titled “Genetic and Ecological Studies of Food Plant Use in Papilio Polyxenes.” Keene explains that some of the butterflies’ host plants are toxic, but the butterflies “actually thrive more, sometimes, on the toxic plants.” She believes that the most challenging part of her project was figuring out what she wanted to accomplish and finding the resources needed to meet her research goals.

Jennifer Howe, a senior broadcasting major, began as an intern and now works for CNY Central, TV channels 3, 5 and 6 for the Syracuse region. She chose to focus her honors thesis project on organizing a major event for CNY Central. For her project, “The Planning and Execution of the Administrative Professionals Luncheon,” Howe plans to set up opportunities for administrative professionals to advance their training so that they can keep up with rapidly changing technology as a part of the luncheon. The event will also feature awards for top administrative professionals.

Moore explains that “the Honors Program was really built on the idea that learning occurs through the exchange of ideas,” instead of merely soaking up information without critically evaluating it. Lecture is a rarity in honors classes; rather, discussion-based classes encourage students to critically interrogate and explore ideas. Honors students challenge each other and some of the ideas introduced in class discussion.

Though honors students are intellectually challenged in classes, they receive the resources and support that allow them to be successful. “I believe that honors students get some of the best advisement,” Moore said, as each student has an honors advisor in addition to a major/minor advisor. Aside from school-related support, honors students are also invited to talk with Moore or Norm Weiner, honors program associate director, about personal issues so that each student feels like he or she can be successful.

“Just in the last two years, the honors program has grown by 20 percent, at least,” Moore added. The program is serving more students than it ever has before and is working to involve younger and newer professors to teach honors program classes. As a result of the program’s growth, students are gaining more opportunities to become involved in the honors program. The honors advisory board, consisting of honors students, was developed in spring 2010, and Moore also has plans to regularly publish an honors newsletter.

For more information about SUNY Oswego’s Honors Program, visit

(Posted: Nov 09, 2010)

Tags: intellectual rigor, honors program, honor thesis