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University of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignCollege of ACES
Department of Human Development and Family Studies
Give to Human Development and Family Studies

James Scholar Honors Program

The James Scholar Honors Program empowers exceptional undergraduates to enhance their academic experiences through a broad array of activities. Participation is open to all qualified students enrolled in any degree program (including HDFS) within the College of ACES.

I. How can I become a James Scholar?

Incoming freshmen: Qualified incoming students are invited to the James Scholar program by Dean Soo Lee (College of ACES Honors Dean) following review of their admission application and prior to their arrival on campus. Typically the top 10-15% of incoming freshmen and transfer students with a 3.50 or greater cumulative GPA are eligible to participate.

Continuing students: Second-semester freshmen, sophomores, and first-semester juniors, including transfer students, may apply for acceptance if they have achieved a minimum GPA of 3.50.

II. What is required of James Scholars?

Over the course of the degree program, James Scholars are expected to meet the following requirements (more details described in separate sections below):

  • Maintain a minimum overall GPA of 3.40 each academic year
  • Make satisfactory progress toward degree completion each academic year
  • Successfully complete 4 courses at the 400-level with a grade of at least B- before graduation
  • Successfully complete 4 courses with honors credit (at least 1 a year) with a grade of at least B- before graduation
  • Successfully complete a 500-level or departmentally designated graduate-level course during the senior year with a grade of at least B-. In rare circumstances, a 400-level course that carries graduate credit may be substituted for a 500-level course but only with approval from Dr. Jennifer Hardesty (HDFS Honors Coordinator).
  • Complete an Undergraduate Research Project (e.g., research lab project, bachelor’s thesis) under the supervision of a faculty member. Registration in HDFS 294 or 494 is strongly encouraged but not required.
  • Present a poster based on the Undergraduate Research Project at the annual Explore ACES (in March), the Provost’s Undergraduate Research Symposium (in April), or a professional conference approved in advance by Dean Soo Lee (College of ACES Honors Dean). A copy of the presentation must also be submitted electronically to Dean Lee and Rob Chappell (Assistant to Dean Lee).

Sophomore James Scholars are strongly encouraged to meet with Dr. Jennifer Hardesty (HDFS Honors Coordinator) to plan ahead for any of the following in their Junior and/or Senior year:

  • Starting an Undergraduate Research Project
  • Applying to study abroad
  • Interning off-campus during an upcoming semester
  • Pursing a minor, a dual degree, or early or late graduation

Junior James Scholars are required to prepare an Honors Completion Plan (HCP) in cooperation with Dr. Jennifer Hardesty (HDFS Honors Coordinator) during their fall semester. The HCP is a roadmap for successfully completing the Honors requirements. The HCP is signed by the James Scholar and the HDFS Honors Coordinator and must be submitted to Rob Chappell in 128 Mumford by the second Monday in November of the junior year. HCPs may be modified with the HDFS Honors Coordinator’s approval.

III. How do I earn honors credit for a course?

Honors credit may be earned by completing any of the following:

James Scholars are encouraged to complete their honors credit coursework as early in their academic career as possible to free up more time to devote to their Undergraduate Research Project in their junior and/or senior year. For additional information about earning honors credit, see The ACES Honors Handbook.

IV. How do I take a 500-level or departmentally designated graduate-level course?

This requirement should be fulfilled during the senior year. To identify a graduate-level course, start by:

  • Identifying graduate courses that are interesting to you. See the table below for recommended HDFS/HCD graduate-level courses (subject to change). You can also ask for recommendations from Dr. Jennifer Hardesty (HDFS Honors Coordinator) or current senior James Scholars. You may also consider graduate-level courses outside of HDFS.
  • Once you identify a course, contact the instructor requesting permission to enroll. Explain that you are a James Scholar Honors student seeking to fulfill your requirements and indicate whether you have taken any prerequisites (see table below). Don’t be discouraged if the instructor does not give approval – he or she will make decisions on a case-by-case basis depending on class size, the individual student’s preparation for a particular course, and other factors. Thus, it is best to plan ahead and consider more than one course in case your first choice does not work out.
  • Once you have received instructor approval to enroll in a graduate-level course, you must send an email to Barbara Anderson (HDFS Academic Advisor) with the instructor copied on the message requesting permission to register. It is very important that you copy the instructor on the message, as this serves as documentation of the instructor’s approval.
Course (credit hours)
Semester Typically Offered
Prerequisites (all require senior standing and instructor approval)
HDFS 501: Human Development Theories (4) Fall At least 2 advanced developmental courses: HDFS 301, 305, 310, 401, 405
HDFS 503: Social-Emotional Development (2) Fall HDFS 401
HDFS 505: Advanced Adolescence (2) Spring HDFS 405
HDFS 521: Family Theories (4) Spring  
HDFS 523: Ethnic Families (4) Fall  
HDFS 526: Intimate Partner Violence (2) Fall  
HDFS 527: Family Resiliency (4) Fall Credit may not be earned for both HDFS 527 and HDFS 427
HDFS 528: Parenting (2) Fall  
HDFS 529: Youth and Family Acculturation (2) Fall HDFS 220 preferred
HDFS 533: Community in American Society (4) Fall  
HDFS 539: Youth, Culture, and Society (4) Spring  
HDFS 540: Gender and Sexuality (2) Fall HDFS 340 (or other gender course)
HDFS 561: Child and Family Program Development (4) Fall Credit may not be earned for both HDFS 561 and HDFS 461
HDFS 595: Developmental Issues and Child Health (2) Spring  
HDFS 595: Development of Romantic Relationships (2) Fall  
AFRO 502: Researching Black Families, Communities, and Neighborhoods (4) Fall  

V. How do I conduct an undergraduate research project and present a poster?

The Undergraduate Research Project is designed to develop and foster student interest in research aimed at solving critical problems. To get started on a research project, students will need an original idea, a helpful faculty member, and a sound proposal. There are several ways to take the first step:

  • Go to Research Opportunities for Undergraduates to see current listings of opportunities in HDFS.
  • Look at HDFS faculty profiles to learn about faculty research interests. Write an email message to a faculty member or stop by during their office hours to discuss possible opportunities.
  • Talk to Dr. Jennifer Hardesty (HDFS Honors Coordinator) and/or Barbara Anderson (HDFS Academic Advisor) and ask about faculty researchers who might be a good match for your interests.
  • Talk with other James Scholars. Ask them about their research projects and how they got started.
  • Talk with HDFS graduate students about research they are doing in their labs and ask about opportunities to become involved in their faculty supervised projects.

Once you have identified a faculty supervisor, you will work toward completing an agreed upon project. For additional information about completing your project, see The ACES Honors Handbook.

Presenting your research. James Scholars are required to present their completed projects as a poster display at Explore ACES in March, the Provost’s Undergraduate Research Symposium in April, or a professional conference approved in advance by Dean Soo Lee (College of ACES Honors Dean). Generally, posters should include a summary of the research project, including the subject of your inquiry, how the research was conducted, what results were produced, interpretations of the results, and a summarizing conclusion. You can see example posters from past James Scholars and other HDFS undergraduate students here.

Publishing your research. Students also have the opportunity to submit a manuscript of their results for publication consideration in I-ACES (Inquiry-ACES), an undergraduate research journal sponsored by the College of ACES Academy of Teaching Excellence. Interested students should consult their faculty supervisor.

VI. What funding is available to support James Scholar research projects?

Undergraduate students, including James Scholars, are eligible but not required to apply for financial support for their research projects through the ACES Undergraduate Research Scholarship Program as long as they are officially enrolled as a full-time student with a major in the College of ACES, maintain an overall GPA of at least 3.0, and will have earned 15 or more credit hours in their degree program by the time they begin their research project. Approved projects can be funded up to $1500 and students with an approved project are awarded a $500 merit scholarship. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis.

VII. What other award and leadership opportunities are available to James Scholars?

Orville G. Bentley Award

ACES James Scholars conducting their Undergraduate Research Projects are encouraged to enter the Orville G. Bentley Award competition each spring, which identifies and rewards the best poster displays presented at Explore ACES in March. Several awards are presented each year and include a scholarship prize, a certificate of achievement, and recognition at the ACES Student Awards Reception in April. See The James Scholar Honors Handbook for more details.

Leander J. M. Haynes Humanities Book Prize

The Leander J. M. Haynes Humanities Book Prize is awarded to one ACES James Scholar each spring. Scholars who enter the competition (due the second Monday in March) write an original essay on "The Most Influential Book That I Read During My Formative Years and How It Has Impacted My Life." The formative years include elementary school, middle school, or high school. The winner receives a $150 scholarship prize, a certificate of achievement, and a special book prize.

Carol Andreae Haynes Sophomore Achievement Award

The Carol A. Haynes Sophomore Achievement Award celebrates the academic achievements of women in higher education and is awarded during the fall semester. Scholars who enter the competition (due the second Monday in October) write an essay on “The Most Valuable Things That I Learned During My Freshman Year of College.” The winner receives a $150 scholarship prize, a certificate of achievement, and a special book prize.

Additional Funding Related to Undergraduate Research Projects

James Scholars may request up to $800 in supplemental funds for travel to present their research at a professional conference. Requests for travel support should be made to Dean Soo Lee (College of ACES Honors Dean) BEFORE travel.

Projects that lead to publication in a peer-reviewed scientific journal may qualify for up to $500 toward publication expenses. To qualify, the paper must list the James Scholar as an author or contributor and acknowledge the support of the ACES Undergraduate Research Scholarship Program. Requests for publication support should be made to Dean Soo Lee (College of ACES Honors Dean).

James Scholar Activities and Communications Team (JS-ACT)

JS-ACT is a student organization whose mission is to actively engage James Scholars through electronic media, organizing special events, and advising the Honors program on new initiatives and opportunities for student development and growth. Membership is open to all ACES James Scholars who have an interest in supporting the mission of the Honors Program.

Need More Information?

See The James Scholar Honors Handbook, visit the College of ACES James Scholar website, or contact Dr. Jennifer Hardesty (HDFS Honors Coordinator), Rob Chappell (Assistant to the College of ACES Honors Dean), or Dean Soo Lee (College of ACES Honors Dean).

For important dates, see the College of ACES Honors Calendar.