Environmental Studies Honors Thesis

With all of the incredibly interesting material you interact with as an undergraduate student, you may find yourself with a tremendous interest in a topic that you encounter in class or through extracurricular activities. While CU Boulder has an almost endless amount of resources for you to learn about such a topic — professors, the CU library, the seemingly infinite number of scholarly journals students have access to, etc… — students sometimes find themselves wanting even further interaction with a particular subject. If you find yourself in this situation, you may want to consider pursuing an undergraduate honors thesis.

An honors thesis is a two-semester independent project where an undergraduate student conducts research and writes an in-depth report on a topic of his or her choosing. Students work with a lead advisor and two other thesis committee members for independent research, which is later turned into a formal thesis paper, usually spanning 50 or more pages. When the project is completed, the lead researcher (the student) will present their thesis and defend it in front of their honors committee. The committee will then judge whether or not the defense was successful, and decide what level of Latin honors the student should receive. Unlike some institutions, CU Boulder does not award Latin honors (cum laude, magna cum laude and summa cum laude) simply on the basis of grade point average alone. While this might seem like a lot of work (and it most certainly is), the honors thesis process is an amazing experience for many reasons.


First, an honors thesis is an awesome resume booster, especially if you are considering graduate school. Not only do Latin honors look great on a transcript, but the thesis process also provides students great experience conducting independent research similar to what one might do for a Master’s thesis or Doctoral dissertation. According to the Environmental Studies honors representative Dale Miller, about 90 percent of students who successfully defended honors theses at CU Boulder continue on to graduate school. Some students even work with their advisor to condense their honors thesis into an article, which they submit for publication in a scholarly journal. However, my favorite part of the honors thesis is being able to personally explore a topic you sincerely care about.

My undergraduate Environmental Studies honors thesis seeks to examine the relationship between outdoor environmental education and a traditional undergraduate environmental studies education. For my project, I am conducting interviews with staff and administrators from the National Outdoor Leadership School and CU Boulder, and sending out online surveys to current and former CU Boulder ENVS students (which some of you might be receiving), but this is only one example. Students pursuing an honors thesis within Environmental Studies or in other disciplines can conduct field research, human subject research, policy reviews and many other forms of independent research in order to answer their research question.

Whatever your interest, an honors thesis is an amazing opportunity to work with experts in your field, on a project in which you are genuinely interested, while gaining useful experience and boosting your resume. If you want to pursue a senior honors thesis, or are just curious about the honors process, visit this link http://www.colorado.edu/honors/graduation, set up an advising appointment, or just come by the ACE Peer Advising office, and I would be happy to answer any and all questions.