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College and Departmental Honors, Awards, and Prizes

Honors, awards, and prizes at Columbia College include those for academic achievement in a specific department or discipline including departmental honors, valedictorian and salutatorian, College (Latin) honors, and Phi Beta Kappa. The College faculty Committee on Honors, Awards, and Prizes oversees the selection process for most of these awards. As the Director of Undergraduate Studies in March and April, you will be asked to contribute your recommendations, as well as those of your departmental colleagues, about students in your department who are being considered for certain types of honors.

Academic Awards and Prizes

There are currently approximately 60 academic awards, prizes, and research and teaching fellowships offered by the College. We encourage you to alert your majors and concentrators to relevant awards as early as possible in the academic year, including, where relevant, application, deadline and guideline information. As Director of Undergraduate Studies, you will coordinate your departmental selection process and provide the names of award and prize winners to Academic Planning and Administration in April. Recipients of these awards are honored at the annual Academic Awards and Prizes Ceremony and Reception, which is held each year in the week of Commencement. Please contact Ariella Lang, associate dean of Academic Affairs, for more information.

Valedictorian and Salutatorian

Valedictorian and Salutatorian are two of the highest distinctions our students may be awarded upon graduation. The College faculty Committee on Instruction and the College faculty Committee on Honors, Awards, and Prizes (COHAP) have agreed that the selection of these two honors, in keeping with the criteria used in awarding all other academic honors, be based not just upon GPA but upon strength, breadth, depth, and rigor of the student's academic achievements as well as on evidence of the student's intellectual promise, character, and achievement outside the classroom.

Those departments who have students eligible for these awards will receive early in the spring semester an email requesting your recommendations. The cohort identified as eligible for these awards is usually no more that fifteen students, each of which must have a GPA of 4.00 or better. The faculty COHAP will ask that you consult with other appropriate faculty in your department and then submit to the Committee, via Ariella Lang, associate dean of Academic Affairs, a written evaluation for each eligible student in your department.

College Honors (Latin Honors)

Early in the Spring semester, COHAP will inform you of the students in your department who are eligible for College honors (whether Oct., Feb., or May graduates) and will ask that you rank the nominees and inform the Committee which of those students that your department wishes to recommend for College honors.

As there are always more students eligible by GPA than there are allowable awards, the ranking and additional information that you and your colleagues provide is vital to the Committee in its evaluation of the nominees. Students selected for College Honors will receive a diploma noting the specific honor. Please see the Columbia College Bulletin for specific information regarding the awarding process for cum laude, magna cum laude, and summa cum laude.

For further information regarding College Honors, you should consult with Ariella Lang, associate dean of Academic Affairs.

Phi Beta Kappa

The College also requests your assistance in recommending eligible students to Phi Beta Kappa. Each year 10 per cent of the senior class is elected to membership. Two per cent (Junior Phi Beta Kappa) is elected in November on the basis of academic achievement (high GPA) and support through faculty recommendations. The other eight per cent is elected in the spring on the basis of academic achievement, as determined by GPA and the rigor of a student's academic program, as well as on evidence of intellectual promise, character, and achievements outside the classroom. Your recommendations in both instances are crucial in assisting the Columbia College Phi Beta Kappa chapter in making its deliberations. Students eligible for Phi Beta Kappa may be October, February, or May, graduates, and their election is noted on the Columbia College transcript. Ariella Lang, associate dean of Academic Affairs, staffs the Phi Beta Kappa faculty selection committee and can be contacted for more information. 

Departmental Honors

Departmental honors are established and awarded by those Columbia College departments or academic programs that have received approval for departmental honors from the College Committee on Instruction (COI). College guidelines for departmental Honors include the following three criteria:

  1. departmental honors are awarded to no more than 10 percent, or, in small departments, to one member of the graduating majors (including October, February, and May candidates);
  2. a grade point average of at least 3.6 in major courses is expected for a student to be considered for departmental honors;
  3. an honors thesis or equivalent project of high quality should be required by each department or academic program in order for a student to receive departmental honors.

While not all departments offer departmental honors, those that do should consider carefully the above criteria in making its recommendations to the Committee. Nominations and narrative recommendations should be submitted through the on-line UNIFY site.

Please consult with Ariella Lang, associate dean of Academic Affairs, for further information about using UNIFY to submit your nominations and narrative recommendations. Once COHAP has reviewed the nominations and informed individual departments of those students approved for departmental honors, the departments have the pleasure of notifying the recipients.

If your department does not award departmental honors but would like to do so, a proposal should be submitted to the Committee on Instruction (COI). For further information on this process, please consult with Ariella Lang, associate dean of Academic Affairs.