Special Academic Programs

Holy Cross offers a range of experiential learning and other academic opportunities through the J.D. Power Center for Liberal Arts in the World, the Ciocca Center for Business, Ethics, and Society, the Office of Study Abroad, and the various programs listed below:

Scholar Programs

The College Honors Program

The College Honors Program is one of the oldest programs providing special educational opportunities at Holy Cross. These special opportunities include honors seminars, ambitious independent projects culminating in the senior honors thesis, and the intellectual excitement of a multidisciplinary classroom where students from a wide variety of majors address significant matters with faculty members who are expert in integrative teaching and scholarship. Students enter the Honors Program as second-semester sophomores, after a rigorous selection process. A common course for sophomores, consisting of plenary and seminar sessions, is taught by College faculty. Students take a second seminar in their junior year, although students who study abroad as juniors can complete this second seminar requirement upon returning. In the senior year, all honors students register for thesis credit equivalent to one course each semester. The senior thesis is an advanced independent project, which can be either in or out of a student’s major and which, in its ambition and scope, represents the finest work of some of the best students of the College. The senior year culminates with the members of the honors program presenting their research to the College community at the Academic Conference.

The topic and faculty vary from year to year. Specific course information can be found in the schedule of classes.

HNRS 294 —  Second Year Honors Colloquium Course count: 0 

GPA units: 0.5

HNRS 295 —  Third Year Honors Colloquium Course count: 0 

GPA units: 0.5

HNRS 296 —  Fourth Year Honors Colloquium Course count: 0 

GPA units: 0.5

HNRS 299 —  Honors Seminar Course count: 1 

Required seminar for sophomore honors students. Three faculty members from three different disciplines together engage the newly-selected honors students from majors across the curriculum in a multidisciplinary approach to the metaphysical, cultural, spiritual, and material aspects of human nature. More generally, this course hopes to model integrative thinking and study. One unit.

GPA units: 1

HNRS 395 —  Honors Seminar Course count: 1 

GPA units: 1

HNRS 494 —  Honors Thesis Course count: 1 

Honors seniors take one unit's worth of thesis credit each semester, which is graded at the end of the second semester by the student's advisor, with input from readers. The thesis is a substantial independent project either in or out of a student's major, which means that it may count for major credit or not. Two units.

GPA units: 0

HNRS 495 —  Honors Thesis Course count: 1 

Honors seniors take one unit's worth of thesis credit each semester, which is graded at the end of the second semester by the student's advisor, with input from readers. The thesis is a substantial independent project either in or out of a student's major, which means that it may count for major credit or not. Two units.

GPA units: 2

The Fenwick Scholar Program

The Fenwick Scholar Program continues to provide the highest academic honors the College bestows. From among third-year students nominated by their major departments, the Fenwick Selection Committee selects the student(s) most worthy of this unique academic opportunity. The Scholar designs, with one or more advisors, a program of independent research or a project that will be his or her entire curriculum for the senior year. Projects are expected to complete the Fenwick Scholar’s undergraduate education in the most challenging, creative, and meaningful way. At the end of the fourth year, the Fenwick Scholar is required to give a public presentation to the College community, and to present an appropriate record of this achievement to the College library. Recent Fenwick scholars have pursued projects such as:

  • Using Organometallic Chemistry to Develop Imaging Agents
  • Blood Pressure Waveform Measurement with a Laser Doppler Vibrometer
  • Debussy in Context: Continuity and Change in Fin-de-Siecle France
  • Changing Perspectives on Insanity in Early America, 1750-1844
  • Convention, Invention, and the Ingenue: Theatre’s Young Women
  • The Dark Night at Manresa: Edith Stein and the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola
  • Exploring the Interface between Chemistry and Education
  • InConspicuous Consumption: Understanding the Role of Indian Chintz in Shaping British Fabric Design

Distinguished Fellowships and Graduate Studies

More than half of Holy Cross students begin some form of graduate or professional study within two years of graduation. Many pursue degrees in medicine, law, and business, while some enter academic programs leading to Masters and Ph.D.s. Advanced degree holders enter careers in academia, scientific research, public policy, and many other fields. The Office of Distinguished Fellowships and Graduate Studies assists students who pursue major international and national awards, such as the Rhodes, the Fulbright, the Beinecke, and the Truman, to help fund their post-baccalaureate plans. The director coordinates the Graduate Studies Advisors in the academic departments; maintains a web page and a library of information about graduate and professional studies; informs students about the Graduate Record Examination; consults with applicants on their personal statements and project proposals; and conducts practice interviews to prepare finalists for their competitions. The director also chairs the Graduate Studies Committee, which nominates Holy Cross’ representatives in those competitions that restrict the number of applicants per school. In recent years, Holy Cross students have won grants from all of the major foundations, including the Rhodes, Marshall, Fulbright, Truman, and the Beinecke.

Concurrent Registration in the Higher Education Consortium of Central Massachusetts

Admission to Holy Cross means access to the colleges and universities participating in the Higher Education Consortium of Central Massachusetts. Normally, a Holy Cross student may enroll in one course per semester at a participating institution provided the course has been approved by the appropriate Department Chair, the student’s Class Dean, and the Registrar. In special circumstances, a student may be permitted to enroll in two courses in one semester provided that approval has been granted. Application for this approval is through the Office of the Class Dean.

Evening and summer courses at participating institutions are not part of the concurrent registration program and will be accepted in transfer only if they satisfy degree or college-sponsored program requirements (see Transfer Courses).

A course taken at a participating institution must grant a minimum of three semester credits in order to be counted as one of the 32 semester courses required for graduation. Grades from courses taken through participating institutions are calculated into a student’s GPA.

The College reserves the right to withhold permission to attend a participating institution if the calendar of the institution differs substantially from the calendar of Holy Cross, thus making it impossible for a student to complete graduation and/or course requirements by the date stipulated by the College.

For Students Interested in the Health Professions

The College of the Holy Cross offers support for students who wish to apply to graduate health professional schools, including medical school, dental school, veterinary school, physician assistant programs, nurse practitioner programs, and other allied health professional programs. Starting with the class of 2016, students register with the Health Professions office to obtain advising and access to critical information; there is no application process. Students may request advising from the Health Professions Advisor or Associate Health Professions Advisor at any time by contacting the Health Professions office. Students considering applying to a graduate program will be assigned an advisor from the Health Professions Advisory Committee to provide guidance during the application period. Students are expected to reflect on their academic and extracurricular activities when considering application.

Health Professions (formerly known as “Premed”) is not a program, major or concentration. It is an advising support network to help students craft a program of study to meet specific needs, as entry requirements for graduate programs vary between and within health professions. However, there are important deadlines that students must meet throughout the year so it is critical to carefully read email from the Health Professions office.

Starting in 2015, students sitting for the MCAT entrance exam for medical school will be expected to have taken:

  • two semesters each of general chemistry, organic chemistry, physics, and biology with lab
  • a semester of biochemistry
  • two semesters of college mathematics (including statistics)
  • two semesters of English or literature
  • a semester of psychology
  • a semester of sociology

Students benefit from additional coursework in philosophy, ethics, social sciences, and biology. The College also offers a variety of internship and research programs related to health professions.

For Students Interested in Law

More than 1,000 students from Holy Cross have matriculated to ABA-accredited law schools in the past decade. Students thinking about a career in law are encouraged to choose a major at the College that suits their talents and interests. Lawyers come from a wide range of backgrounds. In choosing courses, students are encouraged to include those that develop the following skills: oral and written expression, reading comprehension, and creative and critical thinking. Courses that require students to observe accurately and to think objectively and logically are also invaluable.

Holy Cross is a member of the American Mock Trial Association and the American Moot Court Association. Prelaw students produce the Holy Cross Journal of Law and Public Policy. Published every year in January and currently in its eleventh edition, the Journal has more than 60 law schools as paid subscribers, in addition to many alumni lawyers and libraries. Our students work primarily with law school student authors by editing and condensing articles selected for publication, as well as performing cite checks and learning to use LEXIS and Westlaw, research tools of practicing lawyers. The Journal staff also does all journal layout work using state of the art desktop publishing software.

For Students Interested in Military Science

Holy Cross offers a program in Naval Science. Students interested in this program should consult the appropriate section of this Catalog. Holy Cross students who are enrolled in Army ROTC Military Science Program or Air Force ROTC Military Science Program do so through the Higher Education Consortium of Central Massachusetts. Courses for these programs are offered through WPI and appear on a student’s transcript although they do not count toward the thirty-two courses required for graduation.

For additional information, visit the website for:

For Students Interested in Teacher Education

Holy Cross has a program to earn a Massachusetts state licensure as a secondary or middle school teacher in the subject areas of biology, chemistry, English, French, history, Latin, mathematics, physics, Spanish and visual arts, when completing a liberal arts degree and taking courses within a major in the same academic area as they wish to teach. A program for the teaching of religion at the secondary level is available for religious studies majors, although this program does not lead to Massachusetts state licensure. The Holy Cross Teacher Education Program has a special focus on urban education. The program requires a specified sequence of courses in education prior to a semester in the fourth year which is devoted to a practicum (student teaching). These courses are Educational Psychology, Schooling in the United States, a course in urban issues, a course in human development, and Methods of Teaching (for students preparing to teach at the secondary level), or the Middle School (for students preparing to teach at that level). Students are required to complete at least 80 hours of pre-practicum prior to the fourth-year practicum. Both the pre-practicum and practicum occur on site in Worcester-area schools. Students should contact the Director of the Teacher Education Program for further information.

For Students Interested in Business and Management

A rigorous liberal arts program is an excellent preparation for a business career in the long-term. The student may major in virtually any field, but it is strongly recommended that a liberal arts student take, in addition to courses in the major, at least one course in the following disciplines: accounting, finance, and economics — courses which may be taken either at Holy Cross or through the Higher Education Consortium of Central Massachusetts. The student should also develop an in-depth ability to use the English language in its written and spoken forms, and take an active role in campus activities that involve working with other people. Many of the premier graduate schools of business require applicants to have several years of work experience prior to pursuing an MBA degree. The College has a Prebusiness Advisor who assists students with their academic and career plans.

In addition, the Ciocca Office of Entrepreneurial Studies is responsible for administering such programs as:

  • Executive Leadership Workshop
  • Summer Business Program
  • Women in Business Network
  • Finance Boot Camp
  • Numerous business workshops
  • Student clubs in entrepreneurship, marketing communications, sales, and finance

The Office of Entrepreneurial Studies also seeks to provide new and expanded business programs for all students. The Director of Entrepreneurial Studies also serves as the Prebusiness Advisor. For more information, please go to https://www.holycross.edu/academics/ciocca-center-business-ethics-and-society. The Ciocca Office of Entrepreneurial Studies (COES) was established through a generous endowment by Arthur A. Ciocca ’59. COES is responsible for coordinating programs that help students gain an understanding of business and to prepare for a career in business. Such coordination and advising is handled through the COES Professional Programs in which students complete five program milestones before graduation to receive a recognition of achievement. Examples of program milestones include COES cocurricular workshops, student club leadership, Holy Cross courses and internships. The Director of Entrepreneurial Studies also serves as the advisor of the College’s prebusiness program.

The 3-2 Program in Engineering

Holy Cross offers a cooperative, five-year program for students who are interested in combining the liberal arts and sciences with engineering. Students enrolled in this program spend their first three years as full-time students at Holy Cross and the following two years as full-time students at the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science at Columbia University in New York City. Upon completion of the five years, students can participate in the Holy Cross commencement ceremony. In addition, students can enroll in a similar six-year program at Columbia’s Fu School. This program combines four years at Holy Cross with two years at Columbia leading to bachelor’s degrees from each school. At the conclusion of this program, students receive both a Bachelor of Arts degree from Holy Cross and a bachelor’s degree in engineering from Columbia University. Students interested in this program are advised to major in mathematics or physics at Holy Cross since they must complete at least one year of physics, one semester of chemistry, and two years of mathematics before transferring to the engineering program. They must also demonstrate proficiency in one computer language in order to prepare for the engineering courses.

With careful planning, students can qualify for guaranteed admission to the engineering program at Columbia if they complete all of the course requirements with an overall and pre-engineering grade point average of 3.30 or above.

Students pay tuition to Holy Cross for the first three years of enrollment and to Columbia University for the last two years. Students are eligible for financial aid in accordance with the financial aid policy of the institution at which the student is currently paying tuition. Columbia University has a financial aid policy similar to Holy Cross. Students who wish to pursue this program should contact the 3-2 Program Advisor as early as possible in their college career in order to properly plan their courses. Additional information such as course requirements and sample schedule can be found on the Holy Cross 3-2 Program website.