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The College of Arts Sciences

Honors Program

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The Honors Program is open to Religious Studies majors who have done superior work and who wish to devote a substantial part of their senior year to advanced, specialized, independent research and writing of a thesis. Successfully completing an honors thesis will require sustained interest, exceptional ability, diligence, and enthusiasm. While admissions to the Honors Program and completion of a thesis do not guarantee that students will be awarded honors in Religious Studies, most students find the experience as intellectually rewarding as it is rigorous.

Students must enroll in RELST 4995 in their first semester of their Honors Program, and RELST 4996 in their second semester.


Candidates must have a minimum grade point average of 3.5 in the Religious Studies major and a 3.3 GPA overall.

Application Process

Students should submit an honors proposal by April 15 of their junior year. If accepted into the program, students should enroll in RELST 4995 in their first semester of the program, and RELST 4996 in their second. The application process consists of the following:

Identify a topic

At the beginning of the spring semester of their junior year, students should identify a topic or research question of abiding intellectual interest. Students should bear in mind that an honors thesis is far more than a research paper, and therefore should propose a topic based on original research using primary sources. Students should make sure that they have the appropriate language skills for their proposed thesis.

Select thesis committee Chair

Once students have a thesis topic in mind, they should approach a faculty member to supervise their work on the honors thesis (Chair of committee). The student's major advisor or the Director of Religious Studies can help identify a potential Chair appropriate to the topic. The student and the Chair will then review the student's transcript to make sure that the student is eligible for admission to the Honors Program (see admission requirements above). The Chair should also ensure that the student has appropriate and sufficient language skills for the proposed topic. Note: the student’s RELST advisor may serve as the Chair, but this is not a requirement; the RELST advisor must at least serve as one of the committee members.

Select a thesis committee

The student and the Chair will together identify one to two additional faculty members to serve on the thesis committee. It is the student's responsibility to contact (at least) one of these faculty members to request their participation on the committee before they submit their honors application. The thesis committee members should be:

  1. The professor who has agreed to supervise the student’s work (Chair of committee)
  2. Religious Studies major advisor, if the advisor is not the Chair (Required)
  3. Another relevant RELST faculty member (Optional)

Submit a thesis proposal

After consulting with the prospective Chair, the student must prepare a formal, well-conceived proposal for honors research. The proposal must include a statement of the research question, discussion of the relevant methodology and evidence, and a preliminary bibliography of primary and secondary sources. Additional components of the proposal are outlined on the Honors Proposal Cover Sheet and Honors Thesis Guide, found in 409 White Hall.

Submit the cover sheet and proposal, by April 15 of the student’s junior year, to the following:

  • all identified committee members
  • Director of Religious Studies
  • Religious Studies Undergraduate Coordinator (located in 409 White Hall)

Admission to candidacy

At the end of the spring semester, the committee in consultation with the Director of Religious Studies will notify students about whether they have been admitted as candidates in the Honors Program.

Note to students studying abroad

Students who are not in residence during their junior year (e.g., because of participation in a Cornell Abroad Program) should correspond with their prospective Chair as well as the Director of Religious Studies early in the spring semester regarding application to the Honors Program. Keeping in mind that being off campus prolongs the application process, students who are abroad should plan ahead and make sure they begin in a timely manner in order to meet the April 15 deadline.

Note to January graduates

If your final semester is the Fall semester, you will need to start the application process during the previous fall semester, to give yourself one full year to complete the program. That will put your deadline for the application in mid-October of your junior year. Please consult with the prospective Chair and the Director of Religious Studies if this is the case.

Past Honors Thesis

Below is a sampling of some thesis, some of which are available to view at our Administrative Office, 409 White Hall. 

Past Thesis
Name, Class Year Thesis Title Committee Chair
William Collazo, 1994 When Religious Worlds and Social Systems Collide: Religious Conceptions and the Formulation of Japanese Social Organization Professor Jane Marie Law
Holly Lebowitz, 1996 Archetypal Man, Archetypal God: A Jungian Analysis of "The Last Temptation of Christ" Professor Don Frederickson
Steven Gump, 1996 Can You Walk on Water?: The Meanings of Jesus’ Miracles in Christianity Professor Jane Marie Law
Jon Ryoo Miller, 1996 In the Shadow of the Lotus: Mandalas, Body Definition, and Early Tendai Esoteric Buddhism Professor Jane Marie Law
Danielle M. Brugs, 2004 Buddhism in Spain: The Seeds of a Buddhist Movement in a Predominately Catholic Society Professor Jane Marie Law
Hamsa Stainton, 2004 Flowing into the Ocean: Merging Philosophy and Practice in Non-Dual Kashmir Saivism Professor Jane Marie Law
Kevin Lowe, 2005 “Ain’t I a Woman?” The Gender Bending Eve in the Genesis Commentaries of Augustine and Martin Luther Kim Haines-Eitzen
Jonathan Barry Schmidt-Swartz, 2015 The Feasibility of a Nonpartisan “Biblical Archaeology”: A Case Study of Contemporary Religious Zionists’ Utilization of “Joshua’s Altar” on Mount Ebal/El – Burnat Professor Lauren Monroe
Phoebe Hering, 2016 Nous Sommes Qui? : Jewish  and Muslim French Narratives and the Politics of Identity in Modern France Professor Jane Marie Law
Lisa Marie Malloy, 2017 Compassionate Cinema:
No Color, No Sound, No Smell, No Taste,
No Touch, No Phenomena
Professor Jane Marie Law