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Honors Program

The Mercyhurst University Honors Program offers students an enriched intellectual experience, both in and out of the classroom. The program confers the prestige of graduating with Mercyhurst Honors on those who satisfy the requirements of this designation. Students are expected to be intellectual and creative resources for the wider college and regional communities using their talents and skills to bring classmates and neighbors into the cultural community where they thrive.

The Mercyhurst University Honors Program director invites qualified high school seniors to apply to participate in the Honors Preparation Year (HPY) during their freshman year at Mercyhurst. Selection of students for the Mercyhurst University Honors Program occurs in the spring of the HPY. Students already studying at the university and students transferring from other institutions are welcome to discuss participation with the director, Dr. Justin Ross.

The Mercyhurst University Honors Program offers the Mercyhurst Honors students several attractive features. They include:

  • A large and interesting selection of courses. Each year the Mercyhurst University Honors Program offers 12 to 15 courses arranged in response to Honors student and faculty scholarly interests. All courses offered in the Honors Program meet Core requirements. Honors courses are limited to 18 students and average 16.
  • Superb faculty. At Mercyhurst University we take great pride in our excellent teaching faculty. From among these outstanding teachers the Honors Faculty are selected each year.
  • A community of scholars. A sense of belonging to an intellectual community is soon cultivated through interaction in Honors courses, social events organized by the student Honors Council, and the opportunity to live in Honors housing.
  • The Mercyhurst University Honors Program privileges. Early course registration and special living arrangements are available to The Mercyhurst University Honors Program students.
  • Flexibility. In order to meet graduation requirements MUHP students may “honorize” certain courses. Informational meetings are generally held once a term or as needed. Credit is given for activities and extracurricular activities that The Mercyhurst University Honors Program students may have pursued regardless of their honors status.
  • Graduation distinction. The Mercyhurst University Honors Program courses are clearly marked on all Honors students’ transcripts and diplomas are specially sealed.


All applicants to Mercyhurst University who feel they would benefit from the Honors Program are encouraged to apply. We look at a number of factors when we consider students for the Honors Program. 

A candidate should have a record demonstrating at least two of the criteria appearing in the bulleted list below. Successful candidates are usually able to demonstrate three or more.

  • High-school GPA of at least 3.5 or 90%
  • 1200 SAT (reading & writing score combined with math score
  • 25 ACT
  • Successful participation in AP or IB courses
  • Class ranking in the top 10%
  • Recommendation from the Director of International Admissions (for international applicants)
  • We also look favorably upon a record of active participation in extracurricular activities.

In addition to an introductory statement, all applicants must submit a two page (approximate) writing sample as part of their application. This writing sample should be different than the essay submitted as part of the application to the school. Applications to the Honors Program may be sent in any time after application to the university. Please contact Justin Ross, director of the Honors Program, for information regarding the Honors Program application for the Fall of 2018.


The Mercyhurst University Honors Program serves as a model of and laboratory for excellence in Mercy education through exploring new course offerings and innovative pedagogies. Inspired by the example of the Sisters of Mercy and consistent with the mission of the University, the Honors Program endeavors to create a learning environment both in- and outside of the classroom that engages the whole student, for the value of an education is more than developing the skills necessary for the workplace but is more profoundly about contributing to building stronger communities and cross-cultural understanding. Accordingly, grounded in the multi-disciplinary tradition of the liberal arts, the Mercyhurst University Honors Program fosters creative, independent, and critical thinking; facilitates a community of scholars among students; supports opportunities to connect theoretical ideas to real world applications; and nurtures students' understanding of the value of service. These aims are supported by the program's pillars of student-directed research, service to the community, leadership development, interdisciplinary learning, and intercultural awareness.


  • Experience in and the ability to create independent research; be deeply knowledgeable about major discipline, advance a recognizable perspective, thesis, or hypothesis, communicate essential details of discipline to non-specialists, and think critically and creatively about the significance of their research for the advancement of their discipline and the real world. In this respect, the curricular design of the program demonstrates:
    • An emphasis on independent research (scholarship)
    • Engagement activities demonstrate an intentional integration of independent research
    • A significant independent research opportunity is built into the curriculum
  • The ability to actively contribute to discussions and projects in courses and take ownership of his/her education; actively contributing to the on- and off-campus community. In this respect, the curricular design of the program demonstrates:
    • An emphasis on the theory and practice of leadership
    • The extracurricular activities demonstrate an intentional integration of the practice of leadership
    • A significant leadership opportunity in research, creative, or service activity is built into the curriculum
  • The ability to be conversant in subjects outside of her/his major discipline and to make connections between other disciplines and his/her own. In this respect, the program's curricular design demonstrates:
    • An intentional structure that integrates diverse knowledge, methods, perspectives, and/or skills
    • Engagement activities demonstrate an intentional structure that exposes students to diverse knowledge, methods, perspectives, and/or skills
  • Knowledge about cultures other than his/her own as well as ethnic and economic diversity on campus and in the local community. In this respect, the program's curricular design demonstrates:
    • A pervasive emphasis on intercultural knowledge and competence
    • Engagement activities demonstrate an intentional enhancement of global learning
  • A search for knowledge not as an end in itself but as the means to making a positive contribution to the world: he/she understands and can articulate the value of service and empathy. In this respect, the curricular design demonstrates:
    • A pervasive emphasis on service
    • Extra-curricular activities demonstrate an intentional understanding of the value of service and empathy


  • Apply discipline-based and/or cross-discipline-based knowledge to design a problem-solving strategy. Conceive, plans, and execute a high-quality research аnd/оr creative capstone project in the appropriate disciplinary or multi-disciplinary context. Demonstrate the ability to select evidence to investigate a point of view or form a conclusion. Demonstrate the ability to explore issues fully and deeply
  • Make substantial contributions to course discussion and/or group work. Demonstrate ownership of his/her educational process. Facilitate the discussion of a topic individually and/or as a member of a group
  • Integrate diverse knowledge, perspectives, and/or skills from different disciplines or research traditions into arguments and/or strategies. Design and produce a research and/or creative project in the appropriate interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary context
  • Express and evaluate his/her own cultural awareness. Synthesize and internalize intercultural experiences from the perspectives of own and other world-views. Articulate an understanding of cultural differences in verbal and nonverbal communication. Actively explore and answer complex questions about other cultures
  • Articulate a personal view of the value of serving others. Explain how service experiences have expanded their understanding and increased their sensitivity to issues like injustice, responsibility, community, and empathy


Alumni Testimonials

mcguirk“I graduated with my MA in Counseling: Art Therapy from the Adler School of Professional Psychology in Chicago, now Adler University in 2009. I thought the Honors Program helped most with graduate school, I felt well prepared and while I won't say it was easy, I did not notice a drastic change in workload or expectations that some of my peers did.  It felt like a natural progression. I thought I received pretty good benefits, such as having my thesis published in a professional journal, and I did really enjoy the Honors Program. I'm glad I did it!”

Emily McGuirk, MA, Honors Program Graduate 2007



Schmalzried“The Honors Program at Mercyhurst University was an enriching experience that encouraged me to broaden my boundaries and explore areas of study outside my major. I believe the additional requirements of the program helped me to be more successful in my job search after graduation and prepared me to be a well-rounded employee. I am grateful for the experiences and opportunities afforded to me as a result of my participation in the program.”

Eric Schmalzried, BS, ACSM-HFS, WSI, LGI, Honors Program Graduate 2010





Justin Ross, director of Honors Program

Dr. Justin Ross joined the Mercyhurst University Honors Program in January, 2016. Justin earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English and Education before completing his Ph.D. in Organizational Learning and Leadership in 2013. His research interests include college student retention and persistence, institutional action, and student leadership development during college. Justin also serves as the Director of the Tutoring Center at Mercyhurst and is an adjunct instructor in the English department. Originally from Virginia, Justin has called Erie, Pennsylvania, home for the past 15 years.




For questions regarding the application process please contact Rebekah O'Connor in the admissions department.

The application is for incoming students only. Current and transfer students please contact director, Justin Ross