If students complete all four years of UVM Honors College requirements (or three years for students accepted as sophomores) in addition to their school or college major requirements, they will graduate as Honors College Scholars. The following outlines the specific requirements for Rubenstein School students and should be discussed with their thesis and academic advisor.


The Honors College experience begins with a six-credit seminar (three credits taken each semester of the first year), HCOL 95: The Pursuit of Knowledge. Each semester of the second year, students take a three-credit honors seminar (HCOL 185), choosing from an extensive slate of offerings created for Honors College students by schools and colleges throughout the university.

In the junior and senior year, the Honors College requirements are determined within the home school or college to focus more intensively on a field of study related to the student's major. The requirements for students in the Rubenstein School are as follows:


Junior Year

  • ENVS 201 Research Methods (3 credits, Fall Semester – required): This course has two primary aims: 1) to give students a big-picture understanding of what research is and how to do it; and 2) to help students effectively structure and begin their own research project. The course culminates in the preparation of a literature review and thesis proposal. ENVS 201 is taken during the fall semester of junior year. Students who are abroad in the fall of their junior year should take it in fall semester of their sophomore year.
  • NR 199 Honors Seminar (1 credit, Spring Semester – required): A discussion and readings seminar that features guest speakers as well as activities to develop long-term peer support structures. This course is designed to expose students to active research in environmental disciplines. Students spending spring semester abroad during junior year may arrange to take NR 199 during their sophomore year or senior year.

Senior Year

During the final year, students carry out their senior thesis research project. A total of 6 credits will be earned for this work between fall and spring semester through registration in one of the following discipline areas reflecting their major:

  • ENSC 299 Environmental Sciences Honors
  • ENVS 202/203 Honors Thesis
  • FOR 299 Honors
  • NR 299 Honors
  • PRT 299 Parks, Rec and Tourism Honors
  • WFB 299 Wildlife & Fisheries Honors

When thesis credits are spread across multiple semesters, students making satisfactory progress towards completion of the thesis in the first semester are awarded a grade of Satisfactory Progress (SP) for their first semester of thesis research, and course credit is awarded. (Unsatisfactory Progress receives a grade of UP, and no credit is awarded.) When the student earns a final thesis grade, the instructor assigns that grade for all thesis credits. The temporary SP and UP grades do not affect a student's GPA. Once the final thesis grade is entered and the earlier SP or UP is converted to a standard letter grade, that letter grade is calculated as part of the GPA.

A final thesis grade of A- or better is required for RSENR/HCOL students to receive Honors College Scholar designation.

Thesis Requirements

Thesis Advisor and Committee Structure 

While RSENR students may receive help choosing a thesis advisor through ENVS 201, students most frequently identify their advisors through specialized coursework in their program and major. Students must also assemble a three-person thesis committee, consisting of the advisor and two other committee members. At least one member of the committee must be in the student's major program. One member of the committee may be from off campus, if that person has special expertise related to the project. The committee should be formed no later than October 1 preceding a May graduation (or June 1 of the same calendar year, for December graduates).

Thesis Proposal

The thesis proposal is approved by the instructor of ENVS 201 and by the student's thesis advisor. In the unusual event that the proposal is not approved in the semester in which ENVS 201 is taken, or the thesis research topic must be changed, the thesis proposal must be re-evaluated by the faculty advisor and approved by the thesis committee no later than November 1 preceding a May graduation or June 1 of the same calendar year for December graduates. 

Thesis Document  

The HCOL thesis in RSENR is a research-based thesis that addresses specific research questions and highlights a student's ability to collect, analyze, interpret, and communicate scientific information. The focus and methodology of that research can vary depending on the student's disciplinary focus but should still culminate in a formal thesis that is evaluated and approved by the full thesis committee. 

RSENR/HCOL students must submit the defense draft of their thesis to the committee at least three weeks prior to the scheduled defense date. Revisions are due within one week of the thesis defense. A final thesis grade of A- or better is required for RSENR/HCOL students to receive Honors College Scholar designation.

Thesis Presentation and Defense

Both a public presentation (open to the University community) and an oral defense (before the student's committee) of the thesis are required of RSENR students. Typically, both will take place in a single event, with the committee defense following the public presentation. The defense must take place prior to the first day of final exams in the semester of graduation. The thesis presentation and defense must be publicly announced at least one week prior to its occurrence.


Junior Year

  • May 15: Thesis advisor finalized, Thesis Proposal approved via ENVS 201 (and advisor approval)

Senior Year

  • October 1: Thesis committee finalized
  • November 1: Any changes to original proposal finalized and approved by committee
  • May: Thesis presentation and defense timeline (Note: deadlines may vary for ENVS majors. Consult your ENVS advisor for details.)
    • RSENR HCOL students must submit the defense draft of the thesis to the committee at least three weeks prior to the scheduled defense.  
    • Thesis presentation and defense must be publicly announced at least one week prior to the scheduled defense
    • Thesis presentation and defense must be completed prior to the first day of final exams in the semester of graduation
    • RSENR HCOL students then have one week following the defense to make any necessary revisions to their thesis suggested by their committee.
    • The HCOL faculty advisor confirms the successful completion of the thesis presentation, defense, and final thesis document before the final day of exams.


Any questions should be directed to the RSENR Honors College Coordinator,  Associate Dean Jen Pontius (Jennifer.Pontius@uvm.edu).