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The Jay and Jeanie Schottenstein Honors Program

The mission of the Jay and Jeanie Schottenstein Honors Program is to enhance education throughout Yeshiva College by providing an exceptionally broad, deep, rigorous education for our most talented students.

To fulfill those aims, we emphasize research, intensive writing, and sophisticated thinking: critical, analytic, quantitative, scientific, interdisciplinary, and creative.

Students who take honors courses commit themselves to hard work, a challenging search for understanding, and intellectual excellence.

Students who pursue the Jay and Jeanie Schottenstein Honors Program will experience especially rewarding interactions with faculty members through honors courses, individual mentoring, advanced work, and senior honors theses.

Upon graduation, honors students should feel confident that they can fulfill their potential through advanced training, lifelong learning, and leadership within their various communities.

For questions or further information on the Schottenstein Honors Program:

Dr. Eliezer Schnall, Director
schnall@yu.edu

Benjamin Stein, Program Coordinator
benjamin.stein@yu.edu

Program Information

The Jay and Jeanie Schottenstein Honors Program is an invaluable educational experience. Students engage with ideas, texts, and course material which come to constitute a lasting intellectual foundation and framework. Honors students may work in almost any field of their choosing or continue graduate research at the highest levels. While pursuing our curriculum they have special opportunities to benefit from many cultural activities in New York: important theater productions on Broadway and elsewhere, concerts at the most important musical venues, visits to the top art and historical museums of New York, and special lectures by visiting scholars and artists. They also have the opportunity to participate in special honors summer courses taking place overseas in which they move forward in their programs and general education while getting to know interesting places and cultures from all around the world.

In the first year of the program, honors students participate in specially designated sections of the Yeshiva College Core Curriculum and of the First Year Writing course (FYWH). In these courses, students develop intellectual sophistication through intensive writing, research, and analysis.

Besides the first year courses, students choose at least four additional honors electives, usually in areas of the Core Curriculum (including BIB, JHI, and HEB).

Most students who are part of the program are supported by generous merit scholarships. Those scholarships last for at least four years, as long as students are enrolled and remain in good standing in the program. Simultaneously, each student must maintain a comparable level of excellence in Judaic Studies.

The culmination of the honors program is a senior honors thesis, in which a student, over the course of several semesters, develops an independent research project and works directly with a faculty mentor. Honors theses explore a broad range of topics in the sciences, humanities, social sciences, Judaic studies and the arts, and in recent years, several have been devoted to creative writing and musical performance. It is not uncommon for students to present the fruits of their research at both academic conferences and in published form in respected scholarly journals.

The culmination of the honors program is a senior honors thesis, in which a student, over the course of several semesters, develops an independent research project and works directly with a faculty mentor. Honors theses explore a broad range of topics in the sciences, humanities, social sciences, Judaic studies and the arts, and in recent years, several have been devoted to creative writing and musical performance. It is not uncommon for students to present the fruits of their research at both academic conferences and in published form in respected scholarly journals.

Overall, students must spend at least three full years and complete at least 94 credits in residence.

Recommendations written for an honors student from administrators and faculty members are virtually guaranteed to be exceptionally strong, and the students' diplomas specifically confirm their graduation both from the Jay and Jeanie Schottenstein Honors Program and Yeshiva College..

Faculty Honors Committee

The Honors Committee ensures the day-to-day success and determines the long-term direction of the Jay and Jeanie Schottenstein Honors Program.

  • Sumanta Goswami, Science (Chair)
  • Graciela Bazet-Broitman, Humanities
  • Barbara Blatner, Humanities
  • Daniel Kimmel, Social Science
  • Jess Olson, Jewish Studies

Student Honors Council

This council serves as the main liaison between Honors Program students and the Program Director.

  • Raziel Siegman, President
  • Benjamin Gottesman, Vice President
  • Ari Englander, Vice President
  • Jonathan Crane

Spring 2022 Honors Program Courses

The curricular component of the Honors Program is distributed between the general education and the major: six required honors courses, typically in Core Curriculum areas, and the completion of a thesis, typically in the major field of study. Of the six required courses, two are completed in the students' first year of residence: a first-year-only, honors section of a Core Curriculum class in the fall term and Honors First-Year Writing (FYWH) in the spring. For the remaining four courses, students may choose from the variety of Honors sections of Core Curriculum courses, including HEB, JHI and BIB, offered every term. Students qualified to enroll in graduate-level courses may count these, too. 

Non-Honors students interested in taking an Honors course should complete the requisite Permission for Honors Course form and obtain the signature of the course instructor and approval of the director of the Honors Program. Forms should then be submitted to the Yeshiva College Dean's Office for the director's approval. Students will be informed by e-mail of the status of their request in a timely manner. NOTE: Successful completion of this process does not guarantee enrollment in a course that is already closed. 

Spring 2022 REGISTRATION GUIDELINES FOR HONORS STUDENTS

● Fall 2021 First Time on Campus Students: MUST enroll in First-Year Writing (H).

● Upper classmen: Should enroll in at least ONE honors course that will go towards fulfilling the requisite 6 honors courses.

● Graduate courses, such as those at Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies or through the physics/econ departments count as honors courses.

● Students should not plan to take more than two honors courses per term.

● Students intending to graduate in June 2022: Should already have registered for thesis proposal this semester and should submit their proposal by the end of the semester. Please email the Program Director to arrange registration for thesis coursework credits for Spring 2022 (HON 4981H).

● Students intending to graduate in January 2023: Should be planning to write their thesis and must enroll in the 1 credit thesis proposal course for the Spring (HON 4977H).

● Students intending to graduate in June 2023: Should be on the lookout during the Spring for thesis topics/advisers as they take classes.

 

Honors Courses (please double check for any timetable changes):

 


ART 1630H American Architecture

Prof. Paul Glassman

T 6:45-9:30

Learn about the diverse traditions of American architecture, from its colonial beginnings to post-modern practices. You'll develop an architectural vocabulary and a greater consciousness of the built environment. Starting with roots in Europe, we'll develop a definition of the nature of American architecture, its vigor, and its innovations. We shall examine not only work of the masters of the discipline, but also architecture without architects. This introductory course will include lecture, discussion, critical written analysis, and video presentations by each class member. Frequent visits to architectural sites will highlight materials, form, ornamentation, and context.

 

BIB 2700H Psalms

Prof. Joseph Angel

T 1:05-2:45

With the aid of both traditional and modern commentaries, this course will study a selection of psalms (some familiar to you from the siddur, some not) representing the various types and genres included in ספר תהלים.  In-class discussion will consist of verse-by-verse analysis as well as broader consideration of each psalm as a whole, with special attention to its unique features, central message(s), and theological import.

The major objectives of this course are:

(1) to gain an appreciation and fuller understanding of the literary, theological, and  traditional meaning of individual psalms and of ספר תהלים as a whole;

(2) to hone the skills of reading, vocabulary building, and grammar necessary to interpreting the text on the most basic level;

(3) to grasp the function and significance of poetic imagery and technique in Psalms.

 

BIO 3203C Immunology (Honors) section 251

Prof. Radhashree Mitra & Prof. Gargi Bandyopadhyaya

M 5:50-7:30 W 5-8:20 An introduction to the fascinating world of immunology. In this course we will get an overview of the immune system as intended to introduce you to the complex yet fascinating subject of immunology. We will learn in detail the functions of the immune system beginning with its cellular components, followed by a description of the molecular structure of the immune molecules and understand the process of activation of the cellular and molecular components of the immune apparatus required to generate a response. We will integrate the response mechanism in correlation to the innate (early) and adaptive (late) immunity. Next, we will learn about cytokines, the soluble mediators that regulate immune responses and play a significant role immune cell maturation and differentiation. Finally, we will evaluate the mechanism involved in allergic reaction, organ transplantation, graft versus host diseases and the necessity of immune suppression during foreign object implantation. We would then focus on the spectrum of microorganisms that challenge the immune system with special emphasis on how immune responses are mounted in a vigilant, orchestrated fashion to protect the host from infectious diseases with a discussion of immune-prophylaxis use of vaccines that protect us from a variety of pathogenic organism. We would learn in-depth the mechanism of HIV infection, the process entailing the development of full-blown AIDS and evaluate the clinical consequences of resistance development with emphasis to epidemiology. This year we would add to our knowledge the immunological deficits that allowed Covid 19 to rampage the entire world population and how new class of nucleic acid (RNA/DNA) vaccines were developed in a short window of 7 months. We will evaluate why boosters are needed and follow the span of immunological memory for Covid 19. In the laboratory section of the course we will learn, immunoblotting, immunoprecipitation, ELISA, qPCR, flow cytometry, immunofluorescence microscopy and most excitingly we will raise antibodies in mice against specific antigen.

 

BIO 3250H Cancer Biology

Prof. Sumanta Goswami

MW 3-3:50 F 10:30-1:50

Cancer has recently surpassed cardiovascular disease as the leading cause of death in the United States for people under the age of 85. This holds true despite four decades of explosive progress in dissecting the mechanisms that drive cancer growth, new methods to detect cancers at earlier stages, and ever more insightful therapeutic strategies. The reason is simple: Cancer cells have an extraordinary ability to evolve. Using a multiplicity of pathways, they achieve self-sufficiency in growth stimulation and insensitivity to growth inhibition. Attain unlimited replicative potential and insensitivity to signals of cell death. They generate the ability to sustain growth by forming new blood vessels and by utilizing alternative fuels for energy metabolism. They attain the capacity to leave their original sites to colonize new ones, and mechanisms of resistance to all forms of therapeutic intervention. Until we understand what drives this evolvability and learn to control it, we will not crack cancer. This is the problem in cancer biology that this course revolves around.

Cancer Biology will provide a comprehensive overview of our current understanding of the disease, starting with the processes which control normal growth and division in normal cells. The course then examines the cellular, molecular and genetic changes that cause cells to begin dividing in an uncontrolled fashion and subsequently to spread throughout the body. Molecular mechanisms of genes responsible for these carcinogenic changes will be discussed in considerable detail.

This course includes elements of Cell Biology, Genetics, Molecular Biology, Immunology, Biochemistry, Virology, Pharmacology, Physiology, Developmental Biology, and Pathology. Cancer Biology is an advanced upper-division undergraduate course that not only encourages but requires active student participation.

The laboratory component involves state-of the art technologies and will train students with techniques involved in research, diagnosis, treatment and spread of cancer. These techniques involve a lot of reading pre-lab preparation and in-lab involvement.


COM 4580H Cyber Security

Professor Van Kelly

MW 3-4:15

This course gives an in-depth survey of the ever-changing front lines of the battle to secure computer-based information, along with a chance to experiment with offensive and defensive security techniques in a laboratory situation.  This course includes both in-person and online components.

Specific Objectives:

Cybersecurity is a competitive game for high stakes waged between offensive and defensive forces.  Neither offense nor defense can claim a high moral ground – it all depends on who is paying the bills and for what effect.  The goal of this course is help students understand

•           how various attacks work,

•           what their fundamental causes are,

•           how to defend against them, and

•           how various defense mechanisms work.

Based on such understanding, students will be prepared to

•           evaluate the risks faced by computer and network systems,

•           detect common vulnerabilities in software,

•           use proper methods to protect systems and networks, and

•           design and implement software systems and applications that are (more) secure against attacks.

 

ENG 1002H Diaspora Literature

Professor Elizabeth Stewart

MW 6:45-8PM

This course explores literature about historical diaspora experiences: “diaspora” refers the abandonment of home, whether voluntary or enforced, and a search for a new home, new opportunities, and new beginnings, even as the home of the past lingers in the imagination, in memory and in desire.

The twenty-first century has so far been characterized by massive and often chaotic displacements of peoples seeking refuge from violence, famine, and persecution in their homelands or are simply seeking opportunities for economic survival in an increasingly globalized and politically turbulent world. The twentieth century, the century of totalitarianism and genocide, had already seen seismic shifts in populations fleeing ethnic cleansing, political persecution, and specific events such as WWI and WWII, the Holocaust, African decolonization, the Indian partition, various regime changes, and nation-building. Literature and film in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries have recorded the histories, narratives, and representations of such diasporic experiences. The two oldest and most far-reaching global diasporas were the Jewish and the African diasporas. Both were intensely painful while also producing flowering cultural expressions of diasporic experience, and both continue to develop, centuries later and to this day.

 

HEB 1046H Readings in Aramaic

Professor Moshe Bernstein

TR 3-4:15

In this course we shall read texts in several Jewish Aramaic dialects, ranging from the “Canonical Jewish Literary Aramaic” (CAL’s classification) of Onqelos to that of Eretz Yisrael midrashim (Galilean Aramaic in CAL) [the actual selection may vary with the interests of the members of the class], focusing not only on the content of the texts, but on their language as well.  The basic grammar of the Aramaic language will be covered, and attention will be paid to the features which distinguish from each other the dialects which students are most likely to encounter.  During the semester, students will also be familiarized with the lexical, grammatical, and other tools which will enable them to work independently in reading any kind of Jewish Aramaic text.  Most of the assignments in the course will involve the reading, translation and grammatical analysis of the Aramaic texts under consideration. There will be some readings in secondary literature, and there will be a written assignment in addition to exercises and final exam.

THIS COURSE FULFILS THE ADVANCED HEBREW COURSE REQUIREMENT FOR STUDENTS WHO PLACE OUT OF HEBREW 1030 (GENERAL EDUCATION REQUIREMENT AT YC). IT ALSO GUARANTEES THAT YOU WILL MAKE AN EVEN BETTER “LEYNEN” UPON COMPLETING IT.

 

HIS 2503H New World Encounters

Professor Ronnie Perelis

MW 3-4:15

The arrival of Columbus’ caravels to the Caribbean islands of Guanahaní, Haiti and Cuba in the Fall of 1492 forever changed the course of world history. There could be no turning back for either the Europeans or the Americans. This course examines the nature of that encounter –beginning with Columbus and following it through the first 150 years of European exploration, conquest and colonization of the Americas. How did European travel writers make sense of the “New World”? How did they relate to the people that inhabited the “West Indies”? Where can we find the voices of the Native Americans? How did the encounter transform the Europeans and the Native Americans? What challenges do we as modern, western readers face when we attempt to understand the Columbine encounter?

We will pay particular attention to the ways that the Americas and the Americans are imagined, at the same time we will investigate the self-fashioning of the “Imaginers”; how does writing about others impact the self-understanding and self-presentation of the writer/observer?

We will focus on several Spanish narratives of the discovery and conquest of the Americas. In addition, we will consider the deceptions, distortions and illuminations offered by film. Shakespeare’s The Tempest will serve as a dramatic epilogue.

 

HIS 2159H Modern Germany

Professor Jeffrey Freedman

This course is designed to introduce students to the history of Germany from the reign of Frederick the Great in the 18th century to the chancellorship of Angela Merkel, with a particular emphasis on the years since the establishment of the German Empire in 1871. One of the peculiar challenges of such a course is that its subject matter—“Germany”—is highly elusive. Unlike England and France, which have existed as unified political communities since the Middle Ages, Germany has been politically divided for much of its history. Its forms of government, its geographic borders, its position in relation to other European countries and the wider world, and even, indeed especially, the criteria for determining who is a German—all these fundamental aspects of national identity have been subject to repeated change and contestation. This course will take the ambiguity surrounding German identity as a connecting thread. We’ll explore the struggles that Germans have waged from one period to the next over the political and social organization of their country—or countries—their relations to Europe and the “West,” and what it means to be a “German.” The course will proceed chronologically, with units corresponding roughly to the major political divisions of German history: the Enlightenment, French Revolution and Napoleonic occupation; the Restoration and the revolts of 1848; unification under Prussian leadership; Imperial Germany; World War I and the Weimar Republic; the Nazi dictatorship; the establishment of the Federal Republic and Communist East Germany; reunification following the fall of the Wall; and Germany today.

 

JHI 1465H History of the Jews of New York City, 1654-2021.

Professor Jeffrey S. Gurock (gurock@yu.edu)

F 9:30-12

American Jewish historians must not only tell comprehensively the story of that immigrant-ethnic and minority group. But to do their job well, they must contextualize that experience within the contours of both American history and modern Jewish history. This course’s initial objective is to examine the history of the Jews of New York from their first meager numbers in the 17th century to, and through, its emergence by the late 19th century as the largest Jewish community in the world. (Recently, it became the largest Diaspora community in the world as there are more Jews in Tel Aviv than in the five boroughs of Gotham.) The collateral objectives are to examine how New York’s Jewish history fits into the larger saga of the metropolis and compares with experiences of Jews elsewhere in America and the world during these three and a half centuries. In each stop along the way, while learning much about the metropolitan Jewish experience, we will examine if and why New York Jewish history was different from that of other Jewish communities while examining fully how events that took place elsewhere impacted upon this “local” Jewish experience. We will also frequently examine how N.Y. Jews lived with, among, and against, other ethnic and racial groups in this diversified city. All told, students will emerge from this course with not only a solid understanding of this immensely important urban Jewish experience but a background in both American and modern Jewish history.

The assigned readings for this course will be a combination of primary and secondary sources. For some sessions, to set the scene, a significant amount of background reading will be assigned and often in class, we will ask some challenging historiographical questions about the literature. Other sessions will focus on a particular significant document.  On occasion, we will do both—examine a document and review a secondary reading. There will be at least two bus-walking tours of NY Jewish neighborhoods

 

JTP 4930H Topics: Thought of Rabbi Sacks

Professor Dov Lerner

MW 3-4:15

In this course we will explore the work of perhaps the most prominent and influential orthodox Jewish thinker of our lifetimes--Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks. We will get a sense of his life and survey his writing in three key areas--theology, ethics, and politics--emerging with a firm grasp on the forces he opposed, the causes he supported, and the central elements of his thought.

 

JTP 5495 Athens and Jerusalem* *(Graduate course open to juniors and seniors)

Rabbi Meir Soloveichik, Professor Neil Rogachevsky

F 10-12:30

By "Athens and Jerusalem," modern thinkers refer to two worldviews and cultures that fundamentally formed the West: the worldview of thinkers of classical antiquity and the worldview of Judaism. This course compares and contrasts these worldviews through careful reading of Greek philosophers and dramatists and Jewish philosophical texts. Questions to be considered include: What is the status, role, and responsibility of the human being on earth, and what is the human relationship to the divine? What is the nature of the political community? What are the most important ethical virtues? How should we think about love, friendship, and heroism? By considering these questions, this course aims to bring students into dialogue with central themes of political and religious life. 

 

PHI 4930H Topics: Character and Ethics

Prof. Shalom Carmy

TR 4:30-5:45

20th century ethical theory was dominated by approaches concerned exclusively with duty or with utility. In recent years philosophers have evinced a renewed interest in virtue, i.e. character formation, the good life and the like.  This entails greater attention to the concrete ways that ethical theory expresses the ideas and ideals of particular cultures. The cogency and relevance of philosophical argument is enhanced by attending carefully to implicit, unacknowledged presuppositions that require an understanding of social, psychological and religious practices and goals, not only as external influences, but as constituents of philosophical positions themselves.

We begin by examining three representative thinkers—Mill, Kant and Aristotle—with special attention to the place of character in their ethics and their cultural context. We then turn to other major thinkers, like Maimonides, Hume, Kierkegaard and Nietzsche. The third part of the course introduces the late 20th century debate and, time permitting, interdisciplinary themes relating to ethical emotions like honor, shame, guilt.

Three topics to explore beyond previous iterations of the course: 1) Interaction of 19th century utilitarianism and British colonial policy in India; 2) Vestiges of theological argument in secular philosophers like Rawls; 3) Pleasure and ethics in Plato.

 

FYWR-HONORS (FYWR 1020H) 

Good writing is more than just an introduction, body, and conclusion. Writing is nothing if it doesn’t mean something, for the writer and for the reader. Good writing is intimate, and it is surprising. It reveals deep truths about the self, about one’s local and global communities, 

about one’s place and responsibilities therein. Good writing elucidates the human experience. Ideas are the foundation, but a strong piece of writing also has organization that is logical and effective, a voice that is individual and appropriate, word choice that is specific and memorable, sentence fluency that is smooth and expressive, and it follows writing conventions (punctuation, spelling, grammar, and mechanics) that are correct and communicative. All these elements have a symbiotic relationship and converge through a process that involves brainstorming and free writing, gathering and evaluating information, outlining, drafting, revising, editing, and proofreading.  

 Throughout this semester, we’ll be talking, reading, writing, and rewriting about a lot things, including your transition to college, your expectations for what happens here, and why reading and writing matter - to you personally and within the wider world. We’ll be developing the writing skills you’ll need for the rest of your time on campus and exploring how writing can enrich many aspects of your life, in college and beyond. We’ll look to join larger conversations taking place at YU and across the country, while you work to articulate your ideas & questions with clarity, nuance, and relevance.  

 

Requirements

Students Admitted to the Program

To remain in good standing, students must:

  • Take 6 Honors Courses, typically 1 per semester
  • Maintain GPA 3.5 or Higher
  • Complete Honors Thesis
  • Complete at least 94 on-campus credits

Current Yeshiva College Students Applying for Admissions

Students currently attending Yeshiva College who wish to apply to enter the Jay and Jeanie Schottenstein Honors Program must fill out an application form.

Criteria for admission:

  • A 3.7 GPA while at the college
  • Competent writing: the grade of A or A- in two courses in Composition or Literature
  • At least two strong recommendations from your college instructors.
  • In addition, it is advantageous to have achieved at least a 1400 on the SATs or a 32 on the ACTs.
  • Interest in completing the Jay and Jeanie Schottenstein Honors Program

Criteria for All Types of Honors Courses

As one goal of virtually all honors courses, regardless of field, the Honors Committee welcomes especially articulate communication and self-expression in person and in writing. In addition, to receive approval from the Committee, you must design your Honors Course to meet some of the following criteria:

  • Sophisticated, challenging thinking: critical, analytic, quantitative, scientific, interdisciplinary, and/or creative. 
  • Active employment of current discourse, methods, techniques, and theories in the relevant field or fields of inquiry. 
  • Critical investigation of primary as well as secondary sources. 
  • Independent learning with opportunities to exercise intellectual initiative. 
  • Pursuit of one or more research projects. 
  • Experiences that take advantage of the rich cultural, intellectual, institutional, and environmental resources of the New York area. 
  • Synthesis of discourse, knowledge, methods, theories and/or modes of thinking from two or more disciplines. 
  • Intensive writing and revision which facilitate growth as a thinker and as a writer, with publishable writing as an ultimate goal. 
  • Substantive participation by students in relevant professional activities such as a conference. 

The Senior Honors Thesis is the capstone project at the end of every Honors scholar’s Yeshiva College career. It is an opportunity to find mentorship from a favorite professor, investigate a pet interest with one-to-one guidance, and improve upon an academic resume. Thesis students will push their writing and analytical skills to their limits as they explore a question that matters to them in a meaningful, satisfying, and hopefully exciting way.  

A well-written and original thesis of high quality may substantially improve your chances for admission to the top graduate and professional programs around the country and abroad. Students who have completed theses have been successful in winning high academic honors: 50% of the valedictorians of Yeshiva College are graduates of the program, and honors students have garnered a disproportionate number of the graduation awards each year. They also have become very competitive in applying for the most prestigious fellowships: the winners of Rhodes, Goldwater, NSF Graduate Fellowships, and most of Wexner Fellowships have all been graduates of the program. These have been published as scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals, chapters of books, or even books in their own right in the humanities and/or Jewish Studies.

The process of writing a thesis involves the following steps (described below)

The Thesis Writing Process
Steps Timeframe
Finding a Mentor Spring semester 3rd year
Drafting the Proposal Summer after your third year
Submitting the Proposal September 4th year
From Proposal to Thesis October-April 4th year
Thesis Submission May 4th year

This calendar is tentative and the specific circumstances of a student (field of research, post graduate plans), etc might require to move forward or backwards those deadlines, so please read the document carefully. 

For more information, please contact the Honors Program at ychonors@yu.edu.

Finding a Mentor: Academic Matchmaking

Writing a thesis should grow organically out of your regular academic program.  Specifically, while you are taking classes or working in a lab, keep mental notes about ideas you would want to explore further or people whose work interests you.   As you think, consider who might mentor you through the process. To find a mentor, you can:

  1. Choose your mentor first, and find out what he or she is working on. Ask the potential mentor if you can join his or her research team by contributing to one aspect of his or her project. Working with the mentor, you can find a topic for your project that fits within the mentor’s research.
  2. Choose a topic, and then find a mentor willing to work with you. Consider the topics that interest you and will help you further your intellectual, academic, and career goals. Then find a professor who has both the expertise and the inclination to help you conduct the research that interests you.

It is quite acceptable to tell a professor that you are interested in doing research in his/her field of expertise, but that you do not have a specific project in mind. This will give him/her the opportunity to suggest several research possibilities for you to consider. You can begin researching who might be a suitable mentor here, via our faculty webpages.

The Honors Program can help you with ideas for professors whose interests match yours. If no appropriate professor is on the YC faculty, the Honors Program can help you find a professor at another college.

Drafting the Proposal: Getting Your Feet Wet

In its written form, the honors thesis proposal is the crucial first step for every student who aspires to complete this final requirement of the honors program. It sets forth in a concrete way the student’s commitment to write a thesis, the topic to be studied, and the faculty member who will serve as mentor. There is no “one form fits all” in the case of the honors thesis proposal nor is there a set length. However, every thesis proposal must have the following several elements:

  • Cover Sheet. This sheet should be filled out and signed by both the student and the mentor. The faculty mentor must indicate his/her approval of the proposal. You can find that document here.
  • A Working Title. While the title may be modified as time moves on, in its initial form, it should clearly indicate the topic and scope of the thesis.
  • The Thesis Statement. The thesis statement should discuss what it is the student wishes to accomplish in the thesis and/or the question(s) he wishes to answer. Depth of discussion is not the objective here, i.e. the proposal should, in summary fashion, go over previous scholarship, provide a sense of the methodology to be pursued, e.g. a thesis in the social sciences might employ a questionnaire if statistical analysis is the goal, and clarify how the thesis will contribute to the current state of research in any field of academic/intellectual endeavor.
  • Bibliography. Finally, the proposal should have a bibliography of primary and secondary sources appended which indicates that the student has investigated published books and articles relevant to the thesis topic. This bibliography should follow the citation format of the particular academic field of the thesis and thesis writers should familiarize themselves with such prior to submitting their proposal.

Submitting the Proposal and Other Paperwork: Conscientiousness Rewarded

Once your proposal is finished you will need to submit it to the Honors Program, along with any other relevant paperwork. Upon submission of the proposal, you will need the following paperwork:

  • Paperwork signup sheet
  • Finished proposal with expected bibliography

Once your proposal has been reviewed and accepted, the Honors director will sign you up for the remaining thesis courses. While HON 4978H must be worth 1 credit, you may choose how many HON 4980H is worth. You will usually take HON 4980H in your penultimate semester and 4981H in your final semester. These two courses should add up to a total of 4 credits. You may decide on the credit value for each class once your proposal is accepted.

This means that if you sign up HON 4980H for 2 credits in your penultimate semester, you will sign up HON 4981H for 2 credits in the final semester. If, on the other hand, you sign up HON 4980H for 1 credit in the penultimate semester, you will need to sign up HON 4981H for 3 credits in the final semester. Note that in some cases, it is possible to assign all 4 credits to HON 4981H in the final semester.

From Proposal to Thesis: Writing the Thesis

During the thesis writing process, you should meet regularly with your mentor. While there is no formal requirement, in general, a schedule of more regular meetings leads to steadier progress on the thesis. The mentor should also help you to determine deadlines for individual pieces of the project.

As part of the thesis writing process, you will also participate in a series of seminars with your fellow thesis writers and a professor who will help you with some of the general aspects of thesis writing. Topics for these seminar sessions include time management, organization, introduction and conclusion writing, research documentation, revision and editing, and oral presentation skills.

Please note while you write what past graders have said about the thesis. When asked about the qualities of a successful thesis, they answered that a thesis should be an original, compelling, sustained argument, written effectively, lucidly, correctly and interestingly.

Thesis Submission: The Home Stretch

Theses must begin with a cover page and follow formatting guidelines available here. A signed publication consent form must accompany your submission. 

Once we receive your thesis, the evaluation process starts. Your thesis will have two different readers, each one of which will submit a review, and a grade for the work. One of them will be your thesis mentor, while the other will be designated by the program in consultation with you and your mentor. They might suggest some minor modifications. The final grade will be assigned by the program and it is arrived at by averaging the grades submitted by the readers. In the very unusual case of a discrepancy between the grades proposed by the two readers by more than a full letter grade, the program might request the opinion of a third reader.

There is a graduation dinner/luncheon to celebrate the achievement of the graduating honors students. It takes place at the end of the year usually the day before commencement so that parents and family members can attend, and students have the opportunity to give a short presentation of the highlights of their research.

The final version of the thesis is bound and kept in the honors library and also is stored electronically in the Yeshiva University Library. Since the electronic version is accessible from outside the University, students have to give a consent for this publication.

See past theses in the Honors Library, and the YU Library, and follow the link to see last year’s Honors Dinner Program with titles of all the theses.

Important FAQs

  • Does the thesis have to on a topic related to my major?
    For many students, the answer is yes. But, it is not unusual for a student to choose a topic from an academic field in which he is minoring, or one connected to some other interest of his, for example Jewish studies.
  • May I choose a mentor who is not a member of the YU faculty?
    Although most students find a mentor within the YU community, over the years some have chosen to work with someone from, for example, Columbia, NYU, Bar- Ilan University, and the University of Pittsburgh. You will need to identify who your external mentor is and get approval from the honors program before beginning your thesis research and writing. The honors program will be in regular contact with the external mentor to make sure that the process goes smoothly and that we share the same expectations from the thesis. And, in many cases, it will designate an internal mentor as a liaison between the external mentor and the program.
  • May a collection of short stories, a novella, a portfolio of artwork, or the making of a film, for example, fulfill the requirements for completion of an honors thesis?
    Several recent thesis writers have submitted works of fiction, a photographic essay, or musical piece as part of the thesis, always under the mentorship of a faculty member, and as part of an academic project. We encourage these types of submissions, and can help explain the specific requirements.
  • May I begin my thesis work before the beginning of my fourth year on campus?
    By all means, we strongly encourage it. At the beginning of your third year on campus, you should start to think about possible topics and mentors.
  • By when must a thesis be submitted?
    Students should submit the thesis during the last week of classes, prior to reading week, in the semester in which they plan to graduate.
  • May I finish writing the thesis during the summer?
    If you are in no hurry to get your diploma in May, then you may continue your writing over the summer. If you wish to receive a September diploma, then your thesis should be completed and submitted by mid-August.

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