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.

IMPORTANT: If you encounter out-of-date or missing information, contact Dr. Kelly Tu (HDFS Honors Coordinator) for help.

How can I become a James Scholar?

Incoming first-year students: Qualified incoming students are invited to the James Scholar program by Anna Ball (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 first-year and transfer students with a 3.50 or greater cumulative GPA are eligible to participate.

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

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. Kelly Tu (HDFS Honors Coordinator).
  • Complete a Capstone Experiential Learning Project under the supervision of a faculty member. Registration in HDFS 294 is strongly encouraged but not required. In HDFS, capstone projects involve an independent research project.
  • Present a poster based on the Capstone Experiential Learning Project at the Provost’s Undergraduate Research Symposium (in late April) or a professional conference approved in advance by the ACES Honors Dean. A copy of the presentation must also be submitted electronically to the ACES Honors Program to satisfy the presentation requirement.

Sophomore James Scholars are strongly encouraged to meet with Dr. Kelly Tu (HDFS Honors Coordinator) to plan ahead for any of the following:

  • Starting a Capstone Experiential Learning Project
  • Applying to study abroad
  • Interning off-campus during an upcoming semester
  • Pursing early or late graduation

Sophomore James Scholars are required to prepare an Honors Completion Plan (HCP) in cooperation with Dr. Kelly Tu (HDFS Honors Coordinator) during their spring 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 the ACES Honors Program by the last Friday in April of their Sophomore year. HCPs may be modified with the HDFS Honors Coordinator’s approval.

See the ACES Visual Timelime for a proposed year-by-year plan for completing the James Scholar requirements. Note that the timeline for individual students may vary. 

How do I earn honors credit for a course?

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

  • An Honors Credit Learning Agreement (HCLA) in a regular course. Here are the steps to take to designate a course as honors credit:
    • Consult with your instructor early in the semester about opportunities. You can inquire about opportunities in any course that interests you in any department on campus. If the instructor is unfamiliar with HCLAs, you can provide them with this helpful HCLA Factsheet (found here).
    • Once an instructor agrees to offer honors credit for a course, work with them to agree on the expectations (e.g., an additional project) for satisfying the requirements to receive honors credit.
    • Fill out and submit the electronic HCLA application by the last Friday in October (fall semester), the last Friday in March (spring semester), or the last Friday in June (summer session).
  • An honors section of a regular course, if offered
  • A Campus Honors Program (CHP) course
  • ACES 396: Honors Study Abroad Retrospective
  • ACES 399: James Scholar Honors Seminar
  • A special honors activity approved by Anna Ball (College of ACES Honors Dean) and requiring effort beyond normal academic requirements (e.g., Illinois Leadership Certificate Program)

James Scholars are encouraged to complete their honors credit coursework as early in their academic career as possible to free up 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 Almanac.

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 graduate-level courses (subject to change). You can also ask for recommendations from Dr. Kelly Tu (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 – the instructor 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.
Course (credit hours) Semester Typically Offered

Prerequisites and Other Recommendations

(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; Recommended only for students planning to go to grad school
HDFS 503: Social-Emotional Development (2) Spring  
HDFS 505: Advanced Adolescence (2) Fall  
HDFS 521: Family Theories (4) Spring  
HDFS 526: Intimate Partner Violence (2) Fall  
HDFS 527: Family Resiliency (4) Spring  
HDFS 528: Parenting (2) Spring  
HDFS 540: Gender and Sexuality (2) Fall HDFS 340 (or other gender course)
HDFS 586: Health and Leisure in Recreation, Sport and Tourism (4) Spring Recommended that students have familiarity with reading empirical research articles. Note: This is an RST course cross-listed under HDFS.
HDFS 595: Developmental Issues and Child Health (2) Spring  
HDFS 595: Development of Romantic Relationships (2) Fall  


How do I conduct a Capstone Experiential Learning Project and present a poster?

In HDFS, the Capstone Experiential Learning Project is designed to develop and foster student interest in research aimed at solving critical problems. To get started on a independent research project, students will need to identify a faculty research lab to become involved in and a faculty (or graduate student) mentor. 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. Kelly Tu (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 mentor, you will work toward completing an agreed upon project. For additional information about completing your project, see The ACES Honors Almanac.

Presenting your research. James Scholars are required to present their completed projects as a poster display at the Provost’s Undergraduate Research Symposium in late April or a professional conference approved in advance by Anna Ball (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. See Dr. Kelly Tu or your instructor for example posters from past James Scholars.

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.

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

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 (typically due in November). Scholars who enter the competition write an essay on “The Most Valuable Things That I Learned During My First Year of College.” The winner receives a scholarship prize, a certificate of achievement, and a special book prize.

Leander J. M. Haynes Humanities Book Prize

The Leander J. M. Haynes Humanities Book Prize encourages scholars to build intellectual bridges between the humanities and their own scientific areas of study and is awarded during the spring semester (typically due in April). Scholars who enter the competition 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 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 the ACES Honors Program 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 the ACES Honors Program.

To learn more about any of these opportunities, contact the ACES Honors Program.


Need More Information?

Visit the College of ACES James Scholar website or contact Dr. Kelly Tu (HDFS Honors Coordinator) or the ACES Honors Program.