The Pennoni Honors College

About the College

The mission of Drexel University’s Pennoni Honors College is to deepen and enrich the University experience for ambitious students from all majors. The Honors College is comprised of six units: the Honors Program, the Center for Interdisciplinary Inquiry, the Office of Undergraduate Research (includes STAR Program), the Drexel Fellowships Office, the Center for Cultural Outreach, and The Drexel InterView. With the exception of the Honors Program, whose members are selected by application, all Pennoni Honors College academic units and their programs are open to and serve the entire University student population. In addition, the Honors College administers a program for exceptional high-school students, the High School Scholars Program.

The Pennoni Honors College is named after Annette and Drexel graduate C.R. “Chuck” Pennoni, CEO of Pennoni Associates, and two-time interim president of the University. Honors students endeavor to emulate the Pennoni's qualities of strong leadership, integrity, and commitment to Drexel.


About the Programs

The Pennoni Honors College houses many of of Drexel University's innovative and student-centered programs, centers, and offices, including:

  • The Honors Program
  • The Center for Interdisciplinary Inquiry
  • The Office of Undergraduate Research
  • The Fellowships Office
  • The Center for Cultural Outreach
  • Drexel InterView
  • The High School Scholars Program

Honors Program

Students selected for admission to the Honors Program have shown academic achievement and varied intellectual interests based on multiple indicators of intellectual strength, accomplishment, and motivation. Selection is based on a written statement, academic GPA, extra- and co-curricular activities, leadership experiences, awards and honors, and SAT/ACT scores. Honors students must maintain a GPA of 3.2 or higher once accepted, make satisfactory progress toward their degree, participate in Honors courses, and demonstrate conduct befitting an Honors student.

Application Process For Incoming First-Year Students

Entering freshmen not directly invited to the Program may apply between January and June 1st of their senior year of high school. The Honors Program has a separate application available on the College's Incoming Students web page. Applicants will be notified within 5 to 6 weeks of application receipt.

Please note that admission is extremely competitive

Application Process for Current Drexel Students

Current Drexel students may apply through the end of their sophomore (2nd) year. Applications are due to the Program by the last business day of winter term to be considered for admission. The application for current Drexel students is available on the College's Current Students web page.

Application Process for Transfer Students

Transfer students may apply to the Honors Program prior to their first term at Drexel. Additionally, up to nine (9) Honors credits from any college or university may be considered by the Drexel Honors Program for transfer (these credits are solely for the use and purpose of fulfilling the Honors Program requirements, not your major requirements).

Applications from incoming students must be received by September 1. The application for transfer students is available at the College's Transfer Students web page.

Academic Opportunities

The Honors Program offers a number of academic opportunities for its students. These opportunities are designed to be intensive and challenging. They are taught by faculty members who encourage advanced learning by Honors students. They carry Honors credit.

These opportunities include:

  • Honors Colloquia: These interdisciplinary courses introduce students to topics not typically covered elsewhere. The courses are small, discussion-based, and seminar-style. Past Honors Colloquia topics include: Theory of Special Relativity; The Graphic Novel; Torture and Terrorism; Poker, Probability, and Decision; The History of Evolutionary Thought; and many others on topics such as writing and journalism, history and politics, geography and travel, as well as music, dance, and film.
  • Honors-Section Courses: These courses fulfill traditional major requirements but offer Honors credit. While the subject remains the same, the classes are taught on an advanced level that encourages discussion and practical application. Honors-section courses include, among other subjects, physics, business, general psychology, chemistry, and biology.
  • Honors Options: With permission from course instructors and approval from the Honors Program, Honors students may elect to enhance non-honors 300 & 400 level courses to yield honors credit. The student and faculty member agree on the specific requirements at the beginning of the term and jointly submit a proposal to the Honors Program for approval.

In addition, students may earn Honors credits from the Great Works Symposium (UNIV 241) or Honors Travel-Integrated courses, described under the Center for Interdisciplinary Inquiry, below.

Co-Curricular Opportunities                                                                                                    

The Honors Program organizes an array of social and cultural activities, events, and trips each term. Students have the opportunity to attend special events and receive a limited number of free tickets to a variety of concerts, exhibits, locally featured Broadway shows, as well as other professional theater and dance performances. Often a select group of Honors students are invited to a private lunch or dinner with a campus guest, who may be an entrepreneur, politician, writer, director or other notable figure. 

Honors Graduation                                                                                                        

Graduating students are recognized for their achievements in the Honors Program at the Honors Graduation Ceremony held each June. Students are acknowledged with Honors cords, medals, certificates, and awards for graduating with “Honors” or “Honors with Distinction” from the Pennoni Honors College. Graduation with Distinction, the highest honors awarded by the College, recognizes our most accomplished students.

Students graduating with ‘Honors’ or ‘Honors with Distinction’ will have the achievement noted on their official university transcript. These students are also acknowledged during the formal Drexel University Commencement Ceremony and in the official Commencement Program. 

 Requirements for Graduating with Honors:

  • Cumulative GPA of 3.2 or higher
  • 16 Honors credits minimum (with at least 3 credits from Honors Colloquia)

Requirements for Graduating with Distinction:

  • Cumulative GPA of 3.5 or higher
  • 32 Honors credit minimum (with at least 6 credits from Honors Colloquia)
  • Honors worthy completion of a senior project, design, seminar, or capstone in the students major

The Center for Interdisciplinary Inquiry

Dedicated to furthering interdisciplinary study at Drexel, the Center for Interdisciplinary Inquiry offers three types of interdisciplinary programs and assists in the development of interdisciplinary courses both within the Honors College and with other Colleges at Drexel.

The three academic programs administered by the Center are the Great Works Symposium, the Custom-Designed Major, and Honors-based travel-integrated courses. 

Great Works Symposium

The Great Works Symposium is a year-long, 4-term sequence of courses focused on a particular broad societal issue. Each course in the sequence approaches the issue from a different perspective. Each course typically has at least three instructors, representing three different academic disciplines, and typically there is a series of about ten guest lecturers, recognized experts on the topic, also representing a wide variety of disciplines and points of view. Each course is broader in its content than what could be covered by any one academic discipline or any single textbook, but each has a concrete center of focus. Each topic is broad and important enough that it is relevant to the education of any student.

Each year’s topic is chosen for its relevance to contemporary social, political, and economic concerns. Topics of past Great Works Symposia include, among others, Health and Society, The City, Democracy, and Energy. Students may take as few as one of the fours courses or all of them. Although it carries Honors credit, the Symposium is open to all Drexel students.

Custom-Designed Major

The Custom-Designed Major enables students to pursue an individualized course of study at Drexel University not readily available through an existing major, or a combination of existing majors and/or minors. The program is designed for highly motivated students whose interdisciplinary curiosity and career ambitions cannot be satisfied by a traditional major. Students are assigned a faculty mentor and receive extensive guidance in pursuing their individualized course of study. 

Travel-integrated Courses

Travel-integrated courses are typically offered during term breaks in conjunction with the Honors Program. They are based on specific topics related to the travel destination, normally involve from 8-12 days of travel, require the completion of a paper or report, and typically carry 1 academic credit. 

The Office of Undergraduate Research

The Office of Undergraduate Research seeks, creates, and develops opportunities for Drexel undergraduate students to conduct faculty-mentored research beyond normal course requirements. The Office administers three main programs:

STAR (Students Tackling Advanced Research):

STAR is a special program for a limited number of academically talented first-year students to conduct paid mentored research, scholarship or creative work during the summer following their freshman year. Approximately 30-40% of each year’s cadre of STAR Scholars is selected prior to their entrance to college; the remainder are chosen by application following their first term in college. Students enrolled in any department within the university are eligible to participate. In order to be considered for participation, students must achieve a 3.2 cumulative GPA in Fall Term (with preference given to students with a 3.6 cumulative GPA or higher) and submit a letter of application and a recommendation from a faculty member. The summer research project lasts ten weeks and results in a published abstract and a poster that students present at the STAR Scholars Summer Showcase. The STAR Scholars Program provides participants with a stipend of $4000, and includes housing. The STAR Scholars Program provides a means for students to explore a major course of study early in their undergraduate career, gain valuable research or creative experience as well as practical skills, and benefit from a close mentoring relationship with faculty.

iSTAR:  The International STAR Scholars Program:

iSTAR provides a limited number of STAR-eligible students the opportunity to conduct professionally or faculty-mentored research in an international setting. In addition to gaining valuable research and/or creative experience, students are provided cultural enrichment experiences. By participating in iSTAR, students are able to immerse themselves in a foreign culture and prepare themselves for life in a global work environment. All iSTAR students receive round-trip travel to the research site, paid summer housing and a summer stipend. At the present time, iSTAR opportunities are located in Costa Rica, Germany and Finland and are offered primarily to students in STEM disciplines. The program is being expanded to include additional countries and academic disciplines.

The Discover database of faculty-sponsored research and creative opportunities allows currently-enrolled students seeking research opportunities a chance to connect with faculty seeking research experience. The site also records student research activity, thus presenting a record and a picture of undergraduate research activity at Drexel. The site also allows faculty to research projects within the University, enabling inter-disciplinary and collaborative work.

The Office of Undergraduate Research also offers, upon application, financial assistance for travel to academic conferences for students who have had posters or papers accepted for presentation. The office also takes groups of students to conferences administered by organizations dedicated to undergraduate research, such as the National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR), the National Collegiate Research Conference at Harvard University, and the Colonial Academic Alliance for Undergraduate Research Conference. 

Fellowships Office 

The Drexel Fellowships Office fosters students’ broad vision and intellectual ambition by encouraging and supporting applications to a wide range of nationally competitive, highly prestigious student awards such as Fulbright, Gates-Cambridge, Rhodes, Goldwater, Truman, and others. These awards and others like them support high-achieving students from all fields of study with financial support and recognition at the highest level. 

Through intensive one-on-one advising and writing support, as well as outreach and education, the Office works with students across the University, at all degree levels and in all Colleges, throughout these rigorous application processes. Numerous Drexel faculty from across campus volunteer their time to offer additional assistance to fellowship-seeking students. Through the process of applying, students clarify their goals and articulate a vision for their future path that can later be used to help craft strong graduate school and job applications. 

Students who are interested in applying for highly competitive awards should begin the process early in their academic career by discussing their interest with faculty mentors and with the Fellowships Office staff.  

The Center for Cultural Outreach

The Center for Cultural Outreach publishes several publications, ranging from online magazines that reach an international audience to publications specifically serving the Drexel community. The Center’s name reflects its mission of creating innovating publishing initiatives and developing new forms of cultural engagement for students, as well as connection with audiences beyond Drexel. The Center’s publications include: 

The Smart Set is Drexel University's online arts & culture journal, which has won national and international acclaim for its essays, reporting, and criticism. The journal is regularly linked by such high-profile publications as The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The Economist, and Arts & Letters Daily. Enjoying readership all over the world, The Smart Set logged around 1.5 million pageviews in 2013. Besides a stable of award-winning professional writers and some of Drexel's top faculty as contributors, The Smart Set also hires talented students to help with editing, writing, photography, and design.

Table Matters is an online journal exploring the intersection of food and culture. It is published in affiliation with Drexel’s Center for Hospitality & Sport Management program. It offers students and faculty opportunities to write and edit content on a topic that has grown in popularity and importance in recent years. 

Art Attack, funded by a grant from the Knight Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, was created torejuvenate arts journalism in Philadelphia by providing in-depth critical coverage of the vibrant Philadelphia arts scene.In partnership with local media outlets and on a standalone website, we work with student writers, faculty, professional writers and critics, and photographers to produce content discussing everything from visual art to theater, dance, and literature.

The Center also manages Open Arts Philly, which replaces Drexel’s former Cultural Passport. Starting in 2005, the University provided freshman with a Cultural Passport booklet allowing free or discounted admission to many museums and venues. Beginning in 2013, the CCO has partnered with Campus Philly to participate in Open Arts, a citywide, digital program that allows students to access free or discounted tickets and special events from more than 30 partner institutions. 

The Drexel InterView

The Drexel InterView is a lively and award-winning television series hosted by Drexel Distinguished Professor of English, Paula Marantz Cohen. The show features conversations with nationally known talents in the arts, culture, science, and society. Now in its ninth season, the show currently airs on over 345 Public Broadcasting Stations, American Public Television, community access stations, and university and college stations across the United States and in Canada. Guests have included Nora Ephron, David Denby, Christopher Hitchens, Molly Ivens, Robert Venturi, E.O. Wilson, John Waters, Gail Shister, and many others. The Drexel InterView has also produced institution-based interviews/tours of The Academy of Natural Sciences at Drexel, the Barnes Museum, and the Museum of American Jewish History. 

The High School Scholars Program

The High School Scholars Program provides the opportunity for academically talented high school students to take Drexel courses for credit on a space-available basis at Drexel University's University City Campus. Students attend regular University courses with upper-class Drexel students and must meet the same requirements as other Drexel students in the class. High School Scholars receive full college credit and a Drexel University transcript.

Once their application is submitted and approved, students may be enrolled in courses designated with no pre-requisites that have space available following enrollment by Drexel University undergraduates. To apply for the High School Scholars Program, students must have completed freshman year and must submit two letters of recommendation from a teacher and guidance counselor, a high school transcript and recent test scores; the students' applications must show evidence of both academic ability and maturity. Guidelines for the High School Scholars program and an application form may be found on the Office of Undergraduate Research website. A $75 application fee is required.

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