Old book header

Honors Program

You are here

The Department of Political Science has a program leading to a B.A. or a B.S. degree with honors, for both international relations and political science majors. Ambitious and motivated undergraduates are encouraged to pursue departmental honors.

Departmental Honors vs. University Honors

Graduating with Departmental Honors and graduating with University Honors are two opportunities available to high-achieving undergraduate students, each with specific and distinct requirements. Some students pursue both options while others pursue one or the other. Membership in Honors at Iowa is encouraged, though not required, to earn Departmental Honors. Visit Honors at Iowa to learn more about the University's honors program.

Honors in Political Science

Students majoring in political science have the opportunity to graduate with honors in the major. The requirements are as follows:

  • A UI and major g.p.a. of at least 3.50.
  • Completion of 9 s.h. in specific departmental honors courses with a grade of B or higher in each course. The required honors courses are included in the minimum 36 s.h. for the major.
    • POLI:4000 Honors Seminar on the Study of Politics, preferably in sophomore year.
    • One additional honors seminar chosen from POLI:4100-POLI:4500, or a graduate-level seminar with consent of the instructor.
    • POLI:4600 Honors Research Project OR POLI:4601 Honors Senior Thesis
    • Oral Discussion of Honors Thesis—see below.

POLI:4600 Honors Research Project or POLI:4601 Honors Senior Thesis are independent study experiences undertaken under the mentorship of a faculty member.  Students interested in pursuing Departmental Honors are encouraged to begin planning for their honors thesis or project at least a semester, if not a year, in advance with direction from their faculty mentor. 

Those choosing to write an honors thesis are required to schedule an oral discussion of their completed honors thesis, mainly to enrich the intellectual experience of its author. The author discusses the thesis with a faculty committee including the thesis director and the department’s honors director or a faculty member designated by that official. The committee may withhold approval of fundamentally inadequate theses, but directors are to schedule theses for discussion only when they are ready; and the discussion typically concentrates on exploring thesis ideas from several perspectives rather than whether to approve a thesis.

Honors in International Relations

Students majoring in international relations have the opportunity to graduate with honors in the major. The requirements are as follows:

  • A UI and major g.p.a. of at least 3.50.
  • Completion of POLI:4500 Honors Seminar on International Politics or POLI:4400 Honors Seminar on Comparative Politics in addition to the minimum major requirements.
  • Completion of an honors thesis. Honors students enroll in POLI:4801 Honors IR Senior Seminar.

Pi Sigma Alpha

Pi Sigma Alpha, the National Political Science Honor Society, has over 730 chapters on college and university campuses in the U.S. and Canada, including the University of Iowa.  For further details and news, visit our Pi Sigma Alpha page.  For information on how to be involved, contact the Director of the Departmental Honors Program, Professor John Nelson.

Phi Beta Kappa

The Phi Beta Kappa Society is the oldest and most prestigious undergraduate honors organization in the United States. Since 1776, election to Phi Beta Kappa has been a recognition of academic achievement. The Greek initials for the society's motto of Philosophiae Biou Kubernetes ("Love of learning is the guide of life") were used to create the name Phi Beta Kappa. The Alpha of Iowa chapter was chartered at the University of Iowa’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences in 1895.

Outstanding students who are eligible are invited to join the Society each semester. Every student inducted into the Society receives a lifetime membership in Phi Beta Kappa.  The Department of Political Science is proud to have many students inducted each semester and we encourage all who are invited to accept this prestigious membership.  For more, visit our Phi Beta Kappa page or connect with the UI chapter through their Facebook page.