Humanities Honors Program

Background and History

Founded in 1954 by four innovative professors of history, literature, the arts, and philosophy, the Humanities Honors Program has been recognized as a highly successful path to degree completion for all majors. The Program provides a globally inclusive, collaborative four-semester program of humanities-centered study that meets the majority of general education (GE) requirements for graduation while fostering a unique learning community at San José State.

A team of faculty works with each two-year cohort of students, teaching, advising and offering guidance. This faculty-student commitment supports a cohort of students who master the ideas and skills for success with integrity. Honors Program goals incorporate:

1.       student integration into a learning community,

2.       cultivation of foundational knowledge about world cultures,

3.       honing of writing and speaking skills,

4.      development of critical and analytical thinking skills, and

5.       exploration of the deep questions of life learning and meaning

The Honors Program has a rich history at SJSU, with Honors alumni succeeding in many professional, academic, and creative fields. We hear often from past participants who remember their experiences in Humanities Honors warmly, and who provide support in the form of alumni donations of time and other resources. In fact, a continually growing number of alumni are encouraging their children and grandchildren to participate in the program as well. 

What comprises the Humanities Honors Program?

The Humanities Honors Program is a General Education four-semester, six-unit per semester survey of the Foundations of World Cultures and Society (HUM 1A/HUM 1B) and Modern Cultural and Social Institutions (HUM 2A/HUM 2B). Centered on the interdisciplinary study of world culture, the Program emphasizes the interrelationship of the arts, world literatures, philosophy, and social institutions. Throughout the four semesters, tudents develop a foundational knowledge of the stories of human history and how civilizations have arisen and transformed into the cultures of the world today. Humanities Honors curriculum spans Antiquity (1A), the Middle Ages and Renaissance (1B), Revolutionary and Modern Eras (2A), and the Contemporary Era (2B). Be sure to look at our Reading List and FAQ online for more information.

What the Program Satisfies at a Glance

Core GE Areas



Written Communication 1A A2 3
Critical Thinking and Writing A3 3
Oral Communication A1 3
Arts & Letters C1 & C2 & 3rd C 9
Comparative Systems D2 3
Social Issues D3 3
US History & Constitution US1 & US2 (3)
CA Government US3 (3)

Can I Apply?

Entering first-year students from all majors who meet the qualifications below may apply for admission to the Humanities Honors program.

3.0 overall unweighted high school GPA, and ONE of the following:

550+ score on the SAT Critical Reading section, or

24+ ACT verbal section, or    

3+ score on AP English exam, or

6+ score on an IB English (language A literature, or language & literature), or 150+ score on the SJSU English Placement Test (EPT).

Satisfying the GPA and any one of the standardized English test score options qualifies you for the program. If you have any questions about the requirements, or wish to be considered for inclusion in the program, contact Professor Cynthia Rostankowski, the Coordinator for the Humanities Honors Program, at or at 408-924-4508. Once you have contacted us and indicated your interest, we can proceed with your application process.

Why Humanities Honors?

Humanities Honors creates a scholarly community in which students learn together and in so doing form lasting friendships and memories. One of the best things about Humanities Honors is meeting other students with whom you can discuss what you are studying, and who are as interested in the ideas as you are.

Along with building knowledge and community, Humanities Honors enables students to fast track through many general education requirements. In addition to the 24 units of GE requirements the program fulfills, students also meet graduation requirements in American Institutions and and California Government.

What Can I Do To Be Successful?

First and foremost, Humanities Honors requires reading, so be prepared to spend a significant amount of time immersed in the literature you will be assigned. While challenging, this is also incredibly rewarding, because through immersion you will gain great insight and understanding into the cultures and eras being taught.

Second, take good and copious notes. Exams are based on lectures and reading, so pay particular attention to what professors say and write it down, as this will help in studying and in understanding the material. The act of writing engages you mentally in what is being discussed and will be very useful when it comes time to prepare for exams.

Third, form study groups. Cooperative learning is one of the best ways to be successful in your studies and to make friends. If you are having trouble understanding something, studying with a fellow classmate helps you to make sense of things because he or she may be able to explain it in a way that makes it clearer. Also, if you are a student who is confident in your understanding of the material, explaining the material to another person solidifies the material in your mind.

Fourth, talk to your professors. Professors in the Humanities Honors Program care about the success of their students and are a resource to help you succeed. Don't be shy. Ask for help when you need it. Your professors will be happy to work with you.

Program Faculty

Faculty members are drawn from several disciplines and are all known by their colleagues as outstanding teachers. Several have received teaching awards at SJSU or other institutions of higher learning.

Whom should I contact if I have questions?

The Coordinator for the Humanities Honors program is Professor Cynthia Rostankowski. Her office is in Clark Hall, room 441, and her office phone is 408-924-4508. You may also reach her by email at

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