Learn more about graduating with Latin Honors as an ENVS major.


The University of Colorado offers motivated students the opportunity to distinguish themselves by graduating with “Latin Honors.” Latin Honors means that your diploma will note that you are receiving a special Honors designation of either summa cum laude, magna cum laude, or cum laude. Whereas some colleges confer these honors based solely on a student’s grade point average, receiving Latin Honors at CU means a student has also successfully completed an Honors Thesis Project.

Two Options for Graduating with Honors

You can choose to do an Honors Thesis Project either through a department or the Honors Program; most students who graduate with Honors have completed Departmental Honors requirements. If you have an interest in the Arts and Sciences Honors Program classes or want to do a General Honors Thesis, please click here to get more information.

Eligibility for Doing an Honors Thesis Project in Environmental Studies

The Environmental Studies Honors Program is open to all ENVS majors. The most basic requirement is your grade point average (GPA). The college requirement is that your GPA be 3.3 or above; however, in ENVS you can do a project if you have a GPA of 3.0 or above. You can find the complete list of ENVS Departmental Honors Requirements defined at the end of this document.

ENVS Honors Thesis Project

An Honors Project is a self-directed, independent project that produces something new, creative, or otherwise useful in the field of environmental studies. You do this project with the guidance of faculty members, but it remains your project and not a faculty project. You receive assistance in developing a topic and project as part of the ENVS Honors process during which time you identify a minimum of 3 faculty who will serve as advisors on your thesis committee (one of the three is normally the ENVS Departmental Honors Director).

The A & S Honors Program Web site describes the Honors Thesis as demonstrating “scholarship, originality, and thoroughness in a particular topic or field of study.” Because environmental studies is an interdisciplinary program, the range of topics is much more broad and interdisciplinary than projects in most departments.

Historically, Honors projects in Environmental Studies have included topics and faculty from every college and department on campus, including fine arts, dance, law, business, engineering, architecture and design, education, music, foreign languages, English, economics, philosophy, international studies, as well as all of the natural, social, and behavioral sciences.

Honors projects come in three general varieties: creative projects; primary research projects; and scholarly, library, or analytical research projects. Many Honors Thesis projects combine aspects of all three varieties of projects:

  •  A creative project is one that combines environmental topics with one of the creative arts.
  • A primary research project is one in which you collect and analyze your own data for the project, which can be in a lab or in the field collecting samples or doing tests of air, water, minerals, insects, animals, etc., or it can be an ethnographic study of people, cultural studies, or study of a government or its policies.
  • A scholarly, library, or analytical project that does not require new primary research on an environmental topic, but does result in a creative or new perspective on a topic, such as a question in ethics or philosophy, or is a critical analysis of a policy or law that offers new insight or recommendations.

You are encouraged but not required to publish your thesis after it is completed, either through public presentation, on the Web, or in a scholarly journal or other publication.

Library of ENVS Honors Theses

Honors Theses completed over the last few years by ENVS graduates are available for your perusal in the Environmental Studies Office: Arts & Sciences Office Building 1, Suite 10 (formerly IBS 5). Unfortunately, they are not available to be checked out. You may also find more information on past theses by clicking here. 

Getting Started: Timeline, Finding Topics, and Forming a Committee

It is never too early in your undergraduate career to set your sights on doing an Honors Project. The first step is to meet with the ENVS Departmental Honors Director early in your process; you can discuss your interests, plan the courses you will take, or research projects you get involved with. You are encouraged to allow 3 semesters from beginning to completion of the project; most are completed in 2–4 semesters.

Some students begin the process or develop a topic of interest for an Honors Thesis project during or after an Internship or Study Abroad. Other students become interested in doing an Honors Thesis project after having already begun work in a lab or on a research project inside or outside the University; these students often have identified one or more faculty members to serve as advisors on their thesis committee. Still other students begin the process with or without an idea for a project, then seek out faculty to advise them.

Ultimately, your committee must comprise a minimum of three UCB faculty members: One is your Primary Advisor, at least one must be affiliated with a department other than ENVS, and one must be on the Honors Council—the same person can fill two or more of these roles; typically one of the three is the ENVS Departmental Honors Director, who is on the Honors Council. Generally, committee members are there to give you direction and offer advice on finding a context for your ideas or interests, to help with your preparation (including background research), to discuss research methods in the one or more fields your topic is in, and to provide supervision and feedback on your analysis and conclusions. Again, you will receive assistance in identifying faculty to serve on your committee.

In any case, you will need to identify a topic of interest that can be effectively researched in the time available, and for which you can find qualified and available faculty members willing to provide supervision. Locating faculty members who will serve as advisors is an important step and may require some negotiation of a topic to ensure that an appropriate match can be found. Developing your topic and filling out your committee with faculty advisors is nearly always a dynamic process, in part because your own research as well as faculty will help determine if or how a project can be undertaken and completed. Because of the interdisciplinary nature of projects in Environmental Studies, faculty from different departments often give students key guidance on specific aspects of a thesis project.

You should plan to complete a preliminary draft and outline of your thesis, working with your advisors, in the semester before the semester in which you will defend your thesis. In the final semester, you will complete and revise your thesis, and defend it before your committee.

Honors Designations

There are three levels of Honors Designation; from lowest to highest they are, cum laude, magna cum laude, and summa cum laude. Graduating with any Honors designation means that you earned that designation by doing well in your courses and that you took on the extra work of researching and writing an Honors Thesis. In general, you initially qualify to have your thesis considered for Honors at a specific level based on GPA thresholds: 3.3 for cum laude, 3.5 for magna cum laude, and 3.8 for summa cum laude. Because grades alone are not always a reflection of a student’s capabilities, in most cases ENVS also allows students with a GPA of 3.0–3.299 to do an Honors Project. Regardless of what level of Honors you initially qualify for, after your defense, your committee will recommend (or on rare occasion, not recommend) that you be awarded a specific level of Honors based on your GPA, your thesis, and your oral defense, and the committee will write a letter to the Honors Council making that recommendation.

Who Awards Latin Honors?

Although students can work through one of many departments and programs to develop and complete an Honors Project, Latin Honors at CU are actually awarded by the Honors Council. Each department and program has representatives on the council who, along with your faculty advisors, make the case to the Honors Council for each student who is nominated to receive Latin Honors.

For more information on graduating with honors, please see the Honors Program website.

Departmental Honors Requirements in Environmental Studies

Specific requirements for graduation with departmental honors in Environmental Studies are described below:

  1. GPA requirement: Your Honors GPA is based on your transcript up to but not including the semester you defend your thesis. In ENVS you can do a project if you have a GPA of 3.0 or above. If your GPA is below 3.3, however, be sure you talk with the ENVS Departmental Honors director about any special requirements or what it means to you.
  2. Course requirements: You must register for ENVS 4990-Senior Thesis, at least one semester (you can register for up to six Senior Thesis credit hours). You are strongly encouraged to take ENVS 3020-Advanced Writing in Environmental Studies and ENVS 3800-The Art of Research: Essential Elements of Research in Environmental Studies in your junior year.
  3. Committee requirement: You must form a committee of at least 3 UCB faculty members, from 2 or more departments, one of whom has agreed to be your primary advisor (or chair), one of whom must be from a department other than ENVS, and one of whom must be on the Honors Council (the ENVS Departmental Honors Director is on the Honors Council). Committee members can fill one or more roles on the committee. You must meet with each committee member on a regular basis.
  4. Registration requirement: Prior to your last semester, you must register with the Arts and Sciences Honors Program to declare that you are planning to defend a thesis. You can find the form on the Web at Colorado.edu/Honors, then select the “Application Packet for Graduation with Honors.”
  5. Thesis requirement: You must write a thesis. Your topic and outline must have been approved by the ENVS Departmental Honors Director and your committee.
  6. Thesis defense: During your last semester as an undergraduate You must prepare a PowerPoint and oral presentation of your thesis to your committee (you may also invite advisors who are not faculty, friends, family, or other faculty to your thesis defense). Your thesis and defense must be accepted by your thesis committee, and then the Honors Council of Arts and Sciences.
  7. Meeting requirement: You must meet regularly with the ENVS Honors Director while working on your thesis project.

For more information, contact Dale Miller.