Carnegie Mellon University

Senior Honors Program

The Dietrich College Senior Honors Program was launched in 1982 as an opportunity for the college's most accomplished and promising seniors to work independently, with the close guidance of a faculty member, in the design and completion of a year-long scholarly or creative project. The "Honors Program experience" was conceived as an integrative and fulfilling capstone for student participants, as well as a vehicle for creating a distinguished scholarly and creative undergraduate student community. In addition to the experiences that this provides for senior participants, the program also provides an attractive academic goal for Dietrich College "sub-seniors."

Any interested student meeting the criteria below can find further details on proposal requirements, as well as the program application. A current roster of Dietrich senior honors students and project topics is also available for review. In addition, if you are interested in taking a look at past thesis copies to get a better sense of what you would be undertaking, there are copies of recent Dietrich College senior honors theses available to view.

For further information, contact the Dietrich College Senior Honors Program Director Joseph Devine.

Eligibility to enter the program is based on three criteria:

  • Student must have a major in Dietrich College, either as a primary or an additional major; or be in the BHA or SHS programs.
  • Cumulative QPA through the end of the junior year of at least 3.25 overall, and 3.50 in the Dietrich College major associated with the proposed project.
  • Departmental sponsorship in the form of an agreement by a faculty member to serve as advisor for the 2-semester/18 unit Honors project (graduate students may not serve as advisors; adjunct faculty may do so, but only in collaboration with a regular faculty member), and approval by the department head.

Project topics have included traditional research studies, analytical syntheses of research trends in a discipline, or such creative works as poetry or essay collections centered on one or more themes, full-length novels, and screenplays. The steady increase in the program's size to its current level (approximately 55-60 students per year) and the broad diversity of topics pursued by Honors participants across all Dietrich College departments testify to the program's popularity and impact in the college.

While most students choose a topic within their major, it is also acceptable to propose a topic that falls outside one's major. Students should be aware that faculty who agree to supervise these projects hold their students to very high standards, and would assume that (regardless of major) students have a sufficiently extensive background to pursue the topic proposed. Therefore, students proposing a topic outside of their major should be prepared to demonstrate the extent of that background when approaching prospective faculty advisors.

Most projects begin in the fall semester and end in the spring. It is possible to begin in the spring semester or summer session, if necessary. Students will be asked to select a project timeline when they apply to the program. The deadlines for application submission depend upon the project timeline selected, and are as follows:


Project start date:
Application deadline:
Fall semester Late March
Spring semester  Late October
Summer session
(one or two)
Late March

A number of events and requirements come with participation in the Dietrich College Senior Honors Program:

  • In the fall, Dietrich College hosts a dinner for Senior Honors students and their thesis advisors.
  • In addition to the 2-semester/18-unit senior honors thesis course sequence, Dietrich College Senior Honors students register for one of two sections of 66-400, Honors Colloquium, in the fall semester.  66-400 is a 1-unit course that meets bi-weekly during the fall semester.  This course is used for supplementary programming for senior honors students through which, among other things, faculty will share insights from their research experiences, senior honors students will report on and receive feedback about their thesis projects, and special guests will discuss topics broadly relevant to the senior honors experience (e.g., making public presentations; applying to graduate school; or harnessing the significance of your senior thesis project during a job search or interview). 
  • In the fall semester, on Saturday morning of Family Weekend, Dietrich College Senior honors students are expected to prepare and make a poster presentation for the Fall Dietrich College Undergraduate Colloquium.
  • In late spring, Dietrich College Senior Honors students are required to fulfill a presentation requirement by participating in the university's Meeting of the Minds Undergraduate Research Symposium either by way of a poster presentation, or formal presentation about their thesis projects.
  • On Saturday morning of Commencement Weekend, Dietrich College Senior Honors students participate in the College’s Senior Honors Convocation and receive the purple honors cord (to be worn on Commencement Day) that signifies successful completion of a Dietrich College Senior Honors Thesis, and graduation with Dietrich College Honors.