Institute Honors

This program exists to enrich the academic experience of VMI’s outstanding cadets through activities that encourage an affinity for intellectual inquiry and develop the capacity for sophisticated engagement of issues and problems, whether ethical, civic, or professional. In all of its elements, the program stresses peer leadership, strong oral and written communication skills, and the highest standards of academic integrity and excellence.

The Institute Honors Program recognizes a broader range of achievement than honors earned in any particular major. Attainment of Institute Honors is viewed as the highest academic achievement at VMI.

The program is open by application to any cadet with a 3.5 or higher GPA. Admission to the program is guaranteed for Institute Scholars. Other cadets with outstanding records, including rats, may apply for admission. In order to graduate with Institute Honors, a cadet must 1) maintain the minimum GPA; 2) enroll in the Honors Forum (HN 100) each semester that the cadet is in residence at VMI after having been admitted to the program; 3) complete at least two honors courses, one in Engineering/Science and one in Liberal Arts/Leadership; and 4) complete and present a senior honors project or thesis under the close supervision of a faculty mentor, on whose recommendation the candidate may be awarded Institute Honors at graduation.

Honors Program Application


HN 100 Honors Forum 

The forum provides an occasion for students enrolled in the Institute HN 100 Honors Forum 

The forum provides an occasion for students enrolled in the Institute Honors Program to meet weekly to discuss issues of current national and international interest. Requirements include regular readings in a major national newspaper and serious periodicals (e.g., The Atlantic). Enrollment is restricted to cadets who have been admitted to the Institute Honors Program. Please see Col. McDonald in the Dean's Office for more information.

Honors Seminars 

Candidates for Institute Honors must take two honors courses, preferably during the third and second class years. To provide broad exposure to the disciplines, one course is required in each of two academic groups: Engineering/Science and Liberal Arts/Leadership. These courses are taught as seminars, with enrollment limited to cadets who have been admitted to the program (or who have received special written permission from the professor).

Senior Honors Project/Thesis 

The crowning achievement of the Institute Honors candidate is the completion of a senior honors project or thesis, supervised by a faculty mentor, who evaluates the degree to which the project meets implicit disciplinary standards for Institute Honors. The Senior Honors Project/Thesis concludes with a "public" presentation by the cadet, open to faculty and other cadets as well as interested members of the VMI community. A written copy of the final document is bound and shelved in a special section at Preston Library for recognizing those who have attained Institute Honors.

Mini-Grants for Special Projects/Activities 

Funding is available on a competitive basis to encourage honors cadets to expand their intellectual horizons. Individuals or groups of cadets in the program are encouraged to plan and request funding for special projects, trips, and guest speakers.

Senior Project/Thesis Research Grants

Funds to support research for the senior project or thesis are available by application to the Undergraduate Research Committee, upon recommendation by the Institute Honors Review Committee. Applications are due in early spring of second class for funding in summer and/or the first class year. Summer stipends averaging $3000 are available for both cadets and faculty supervisors.

Special Events

Several times each semester, cadets in the program are invited to participate in events organized especially for them, including meetings with distinguished guests on Post and trips to sites of interest.


Institute Honors cadets are viewed as prime candidates and receive a regular flow of information, encouragement, and assistance in applying for prestigious national awards such as the Marshall, Rhodes, Gates Cambridge, Truman, and Goldwater scholarships. In addition, VMI nominates the best honors thesis each year for the National Collegiate Honors Council's Portz Scholar award. Locally, several awards are being planned to recognize outstanding honors coursework each year, including prizes from the Writing Across the Curriculum Committee for outstanding papers produced in honors courses.


Cadets who complete the program process at the head of the line at Commencement and are designated as Distinguished Graduates with Institute Honors in the program.  Their official VMI transcripts bear this distinction as well.  After being displayed during Finals Week, their senior theses are bound by class and added to the permanent collection of Preston Library.