Aquinas Scholars Program

Created to promote the habits of mind and foster the skills necessary to pursue the truth in all of its dimensions, the Aquinas Scholars Program enables highly motivated, selfdirected students in all disciplines to pursue self-designed projects as part of their college curriculum. The Program provides a unique opportunity for students to pursue their intellectual passions and exercise initiative in the context of a vibrant, supportive learning community. Students who successfully complete the Program will be uniquely qualified to undertake advanced study in their chosen fields.


The Aquinas Scholars Program is designed to enable students to work independently or in self-selected groups to achieve their academic goals.

Students may apply to enter the Program beginning in the spring semester of freshman year. Selected students meet with a designated faculty mentor to select a theme for the following semester, and register for three credits in the Program.

The Aquinas Scholars Program has proved to be one of the finest programs of which I have ever been a part of. With no scheduled class time or routine meetings the program does not overwhelm me and allows me to complete my work on my own time. Even with no routine meetings however, the program pushes the envelope of my intellectual abilities. The guidelines of the program encourage me to explore academic fields that I have yet to come across, and spark my own personal interests in ways that other courses would not be able to. Being able to choose a particular study of an exceptionally broad topic personalizes each project within the program. This personalization allows each person to actually be interested in what he or she is focusing their course work on. Those who are considering applying should definitely follow through with their cognitions. The program positively pushes your intellectual abilities as well as relieving you of the stress that would come from a traditional three credit course. Most of all, being considered an Aquinas Scholar at the time of your graduation will be an honorable accomplishment. - Alicia MacDougall, Class of 2014.

Early in the Fall term, students must submit individual or small group project proposals pertaining to the selected theme. Proposals must include the following elements:

  • Statement of proposed learning outcomes;
  • Detailed description of the proposed project, including a discussion of the relevance of the project to the selected theme;
  • Statement of the college requirement(s) for which the proposed credits are to be awarded (i.e., general education, major, and/or elective; specification of specific placement).

By the end of the second full week of the Fall term, students must secure project approval by the designated faculty mentor and by a faculty member who could offer a course which could fulfill the requirement(s) for which credit is being requested.

During the Fall term, students meet regularly as a cohort (at least once every two weeks) with their Program mentor to discuss progress on their projects and to gain input from members of the group and their mentor.

Projects must be completed by the end of the term and are assessed by the mentor. For each project, a second qualified faculty member selected by the project mentor will review the project and provide feedback to the project mentor, which will be considered when the mentor assigns a grade.

The Aquinas Scholars Program has given a handful of curious, independently-motivated students an opportunity to explore specific questions that puzzle them. Centered around the theme of water, the students I'm working with are coming up with creative topics to investigate, from the role of aqueducts and clean water in Roman civilization to the development of water color painting as an established style in early modern Europe. Rather than being provided with a set of readings and assignments by a professor, Aquinas Scholars have to find readings, set benchmarks, and design their projects in conversation with their peers and advisers. This process of designing a course on their own, and the Aquinas program in general, has allowed students the freedom to craft their own educations in ways that conventional coursework cannot, and the opportunity to work closely with faculty and their peers in investigating the intriguing topics they've chosen. - Michael Nordquist, Faculty Mentor and Assistant Professor of History and Political Science

Program Participation Criteria

To enter the program, students must:

  • Be nominated by a faculty member (students who wish to participate are encouraged to seek nomination);
  • Provide two faculty references;
  • Submit a letter addressed to the Aquinas Scholars Program Faculty Committee outlining reasons for wanting to participate in the program, academic goals, and discussion of why the candidate believes that he or she is suited for the program.

To continue in the program, students must:

  • Successfully complete their projects in the preceding term;
  • Maintain an Aquinas Scholars Program ePortfolio, and meet with a Program mentor, selected by the student, at least once each semester to discuss student progress and goals;
  • Maintain a 3.2 G.P.A.

To complete the program successfully, students must:

  • Successfully earn at least 18 Aquinas Scholars Program credits;
  • Present a completed Program ePortfolio to the Program Director;
  • Present at least one Program project at a student/faculty collaborative research symposium.