A Distinctive Approach

The heart of a Seattle University education lies in its rich liberal arts tradition. The Honors program provides highly-capable, highly-motivated students the opportunity to join a cohort of students who enroll in a series of interconnected seminars centered on the liberal arts. These courses fulfill all of a student’s core or general education requirements outside the student’s major. Through these engaging seminars on the history of ideas, Honors students gain deep knowledge of the humanities, the social sciences, and the history and philosophy of science.

We follow a “march-through-history” approach. The journey begins during the first quarter of freshman year, when students are plunged into an in-depth examination of the ancient world and concludes with seminars asking students to consider the issues and crises humankind must confront in the 21st Century and beyond.

Three Options for Different Interests

We recognize that one size does not fit all. For this reason, the Honors program offers three distinctive tracks to accommodate students’ diverse interests and collegiate aspirations. All three tracks follow our “march-through-history” approach. They begin with the ancient world, with seminars on the “Origins of Philosophy” and “Polis, Republic, and Empires,” and then branch off into distinctive territories all their own. At the same time, while taking Honors seminars, students also can enroll in at least one class, depending on the track, outside of Honors every term—an ideal way to fulfill a foreign language requirement, complete the introductory Biology or Chemistry series, take courses within their majors, or simply explore other curricular interests.

Intellectual Traditions

This track, the oldest and most successful Honors curriculum at Seattle University, relies on an intensive focus on the humanities disciplines of philosophy, history, and literature, the social sciences, and the history and philosophy of science to firmly ground students in the major intellectual traditions that have informed the development of Western civilization and the rise of globalization during the past 2,500 years. The seminars are as follows:

Intellectual Traditions Course Overview Year One
Intellectual Traditions Course Overview Year 2

Society, Policy, and Citizenship

This two-year track begins with the same distribution of humanities seminars as the first year of Intellectual Traditions but then places a much stronger emphasis on political economy and on the social sciences during the second year.  It is ideally suited for students interested in public policy oriented careers and complements the social justice focus of the university mission.

Society, Policy & Citizenship Course Overview Year One

Society, Policy & Citizenship Course Overview Year Two

Innovations Track

While some students prefer completing the Honors Program in the first two years through either the Intellectual Traditions or the Society, Policy, and Citizenship track, others wish to extend the pace of their Honors courses so that the Honors experience is not as intensive each term. The Innovations Track is a three-year option, focused on the idea of Innovations, broadly defined. The track begins with two of the same seminars that are also in the other tracks, “Origins of Philosophy” and “Polis, Republic, and Empires,” and then moves through a series of seminars on “Major Debates,” “Catholicism and Its Global Reach,” “Literary Innovations I,” “The Rise of Science,” “History of Revolutions,” and the like:

Innovations Course Overview Year One
Innovations Course Overview Year Two
Innovations Course Overview Year Three

The Honors Approach

In all three tracks, through a battery of engaging, interconnected seminars, students develop writing and communication skills essential for their intellectual and professional development. Each quarter concludes with an oral exam, in which each student meets with his or her Honors professors during the quarter all at once. Through our Socratic seminars, our intensive writing and research instruction, and our oral exams, they graduate from the program with the poise they need to excel as students in their majors and as prospective job candidates in interviews. They also gain a deep knowledge of the humanities that is ideally suited to helping them address, in powerful ways, the problems of today.


Students complete all their non-major course work after completing any of these three tracks. Those interested in majoring in Philosophy, History, Literature, or Creative Writing receive credit toward these majors through their Honors curriculum.

Contact Us

Sean H. McDowell, PhD
Director, University Honors Program
Professor, English
Email: mcdowell@seattleu.edu
Phone: 206.296.5306
Building: Casey 232

Yancy Dominick, PhD
Associate Director, University Honors Program
Senior Instructor, Philosophy
Email: dominick@seattleu.edu
Phone: 206.296.5475
Building: Casey 203

Katie Fitzpatrick, PhD
Associate Director, University Honors Program
Associate Professor, Economics
Email: fitzpatk@seattleu.edu
Phone: 206.220.8593
Building: Pigott 404

Thorne Clayton-Falls
Program Coordinator
University Honors Program
Email: claytont@seattleu.edu
Phone: 206.296.5305
Building: Casey 2E

With Us