Welcome from the Honors Institute Director

Welcome to the Honors Institute at Belmont Abbey College! As both a scholarship program and a course of study, the Honors Institute occupies a special place on campus. Rooted in the “Great Books” programs founded at the universities of Oxford, Columbia, Chicago, and Notre Dame, our curriculum is inspired by a pursuit of what Matthew Arnold called “the best that has been thought and said in the world.” In doing so, we study a diverse range of authors and works, from Confucius and Aristotle to Dante and Shakespeare, and from Kant and Dickinson to Freud and Morrison. In this way, we strive in our seminars to listen to the many voices that have shaped and that continue to influence our shared present.

Such listening, however, isn’t reserveIMG_5180d solely for the classroom. To enrich our experiences there, we frequently visit the nearby city of Charlotte and its surrounding area, which offers a wealth of cultural, professional, and community service opportunities. In addition to these, we travel annually to Hilton Head, South Carolina, for an academic retreat designed on the model of an Oxford “reading party,” and to Europe for six weeks every summer for a study abroad program. The range of activities, in fact, is as varied as the interests of our students. While all enrolled in the Honors Institute excel academically, many are also athletes, actors, artists, musicians, activists, and parish volunteers.

In The Rule of St. Benedict, the novice is encouraged to listen with what is called “the ear of your heart.” As the metaphor implies, the aspiring monk must attend upon the truth in a way that involves his whole being, not simply learning “by heart,” but by a heartfelt pursuit. Although we in the Honors Institute are not tasked with the training of monks, we are equally passionate about the pursuit of learning. If you, too, are inspired by similar pursuits, I encourage you to consider joining us here at Belmont Abbey College.

Dr. Joseph Pizza
Director of the Honors Institute
Assistant Professor of English
Belmont Abbey College

Joining the Honors Institute

High school seniors with a grade point average of 3.7 or higher and an SAT score (math and verbal) of at least 1200 (including a minimum verbal score of 600) will be considered for admission to the Honors Institute.

Students admitted to the Honors Institute are generally awarded an Honors Fellowship. Recipients of this prestigious award receive significant financial assistance annually.

In order to apply for admission to the Honors Institute and for an Honors Fellowship you must complete an online application. The online application will be available on or before November 15 of the year prior to your freshman enrollment at Belmont Abbey College. Return to this page for a link to the application. The applications for the Honors Institute and Honors Fellowship are due by January 31st.

As part of the application process, students will need to take part in a Scholarship Interview. Ordinarily, the Scholarship Interview takes place during our Scholarship Weekend which will be held February 19-20, 2015.  If a student is unable to attend the Scholarship Weekend, he or she should contact the Honors Institute Director prior to January 31st in order to arrange for a scholarship interview on another occasion.

The Honors Fellowship is a four-year award. Renewal for each academic year is contingent upon a student’s maintaining a 3.5 grade point average and his/her continued participation in the Honors Institute by taking Honors courses and by taking part in required Honors Institute activities (attendance at occasional dinners, Honors Paper presentations, lectures by visiting professors, etc.).

Honors Fellowship students participate in a one-month study-abroad program between the junior and senior years. Participating students are awarded a $3,500 stipend to help defray expenses for this program.

At the end of the sophomore year, Honors Institute students are invited to take part in two-day academic retreat on Hilton Head Island in South Carolina.

Click here for program application and additional information.

Honors Curriculum

The graduation requirement for Honors Institute students is 120 credits. These credits include required Honors Institute courses (48 credits), additional required College Core Curriculum courses (20 credits), and courses from the student’s major. Honors Institute students may also complete a minor if they wish to do so. AP credits are applicable to the College’s graduation requirement and can help to fulfill some of the College’s core curriculum for Honors Institute students.

Required Honors Institute Curriculum Courses (48 credits)

 Freshman Year
(15 credits)
Sophomore Year
(12 credits)
Junior Year
(12 credits)
Senior Year
(9 credits)
FallHO 101: Rhetoric IHO 272: American LiteratureHO 310: Plato’s
Republic & Aristotle’s
HO 450: Theology Seminar
HO 288: History of Ideas IHO 240: Classics of Christian
HO 340-344: Selected writings by one of the
following authors: Homer, Dante, Shakespeare,
Milton, Joyce or Dostoyevsky
HO 490: The
Honors Paper
SpringHO102: Rhetoric IIHO 272: Textual AnalysisHO 350: Philosophy
HO 455: Honors Institute Seminar: Contemporary
Questions or Non-western Authors and/or LatinAmerican
HO 289: History of
Ideas II

HO 281: Special Topics-PsychologyHO 399: Honors Tutorial
HO 264: The American

Additional College Core Curriculum Requirements for Honors Institute Students (20 credits)

All freshman students are required to take FS 101: First Year Symposium (3 credits).

One of the Following Social Science Courses (3 credits):

  • CJ 201 – Introduction to Criminal Justice
  • EC 201 – Introductory Economics I
  • PC 201 – Introduction to Psychology
  • SO 201 – Principles of Sociology
  • Another Psychology or Sociology Course (Instructor’s Permission Required)

One of the Following Fine Arts Courses (3 credits):

  • AR 101 – Introduction to Art in Western Civilization I
  • AR 102 – Introduction to Art in Western Civilization II
  • EN 104 – Creative Writing
  • EN 216 – Introduction to Film Criticism
  • TA 108 – Introduction to Theatre Arts
  • TA 110 – Introduction to Stage Craft
  • TA 150 – Acting I
  • TA 112 – Theatre Appreciation
  • Mu 101 Music Appreciation
  • Three credit hours in any one of the following: Chorus (1 credit), Voice (1 credit), Piano (1 credit), Organ (1 credit)

One of the Following Biology Lab Courses (4 credits):

  • BI 101 – General Biology
  • BI 201 – Cell Biology (Instructor’s permission required)
  • BI 231 – Organismal Diversity (Instructor’s permission required)

One of the Following Science Lab Courses (4 credits):

  • SC 110 – Physical World
  • CH 105 – General Chemistry
  • PY 101 – General Physics 1

One of the Following Mathematics Courses (Appropriate to the Student’s Major) (3 credits):

  • MA 135 – Mathematics for the Liberal Arts
  • MA 151 – College Algebra
  • MA 152 – Trigonometry
  • Any 200-level Mathematics course
  • Any Statistics Course
  • Any Calculus Course


Honors Institute Activities


Cultural Events

TimeEvent Place
October 4 Lorraine Hansberry's "A Raisin in the SunDuke Energy Theater at Spirit Square
October 25 Guided TourThe Mint Museum Randolph
November 14 The Charlotte Symphony’s performance of Johannes Brahms’ A German Requiem Belk Theater at the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center
January 31 Guided Tour The Bechtler Museum of Modern Art
February 27Smithsonian Jazz MasterworksHalton Theater
April 25 The Charlotte Symphony’s performance of Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 2 and
Bizet’s Carmen Suite No.1

Belk Theater at the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center

Academic Retreat

Honors Sophomores: May 11-14, 2015, Hilton Head, South Carolina


Study Abroad

Honors Juniors: May-June 2015, Bishop Pilla Summer Program in Italy

Banner in St. Peter's Square Cathedral 2

Scholarship Weekend for Prospective Students

February 19-20, 2016


An Honors Institute Tradition: Rome


An Abbey Honors Tradition

The Bishop Pilla Summer Institute is a program that many Honors students eagerly await from the beginning of their academic journey at the Abbey. After six semesters of hearing about the grand European adventures from the previous Honors Institute classes, the anticipation of this exciting voyage finally became a reality. Having experienced this five and a half week program for ourselves, we can join the classes before us in attesting to the camaraderie, cultural learning, and deepened faith that ensues when traveling as an Honors class.

A few days before our departure, Dr. Eugene Thuot set up a video chat with our Bishop Pilla program guides. Amidst the pressing responsibilities of finals week, there was much on everyone’s academically frenzied minds; but, when we heard Dr. Luigi Ferri’s Italian accent over the video chat, our nervous concentration on exams was, for a moment, replaced by enthusiasm for our European expedition.

On the Road to Dublin

With final exams finished and final papers trailing behind, we all met at the Charlotte airport to begin a journey that still seemed surreal. In Canada, we met our enthusiastic Italian language professor, Dr. Casciani, as we waited for the flight that would take us to Dublin, Ireland. When we arrived in Dublin, we met our Italian Literature professor, Dr. Ferri, and the John Carroll University students with whom we would take classes, go on tours and socialize in our free time.

Because the Irish professor who was initially going to introduce us to Ireland was not able to join us, a John Carroll philosophy professor, Dr. Wirkus, generously agreed to come last minute and introduce us to James Joyce’s Dubliners. We had many involved class discussions regarding the themes of identity and exile, which would be applied to everything we would read in class thereafter as well as everything we would see on our tours.

Honors students gather for one last picture together before leaving Dublin, Ireland.

I-rish I Was in Dublin…

Dublin presented much in the way of culture, as we took group excursions through the city in the daytime, visiting the places that inspired Joyce in his stories, and passing through Trinity College, which houses sections of the renowned Book of Kells. The students, occasionally accompanied by Dr. Ferri, would frequent the local pubs in the evening, fulfilling the important cultural tradition of tasting Guinness, as we took in the lively scenery of exceptional Irish dancing and Irish music performances.

We were given a day to explore on our own, in which some went to visit a castle, others familiarized themselves more with Dublin city, and the small group I joined took a bus to Glen de Lough, where we hiked for about five hours in the chilly, yet breath-taking Irish mountains. In the famed song “Molly Malone,” Dublin is described as “fair”; however, if I had to portray my impression of Dublin in three descriptions, I would say Dublin is: rainy, infused with hidden beauties and historically rich.

Manila 2

A Luxurious Stay in Milan

Following our introductory week in Dublin, we departed for many new adventures in Italy, beginning in Milan. Our stay in Milan was quite luxurious. We shared hotel “rooms” which in some cases were more like little apartments.

Every morning, we were offered a buffet of gourmet foods in the hotel’s fancy restaurant before beginning our morning classes. We were given some free time between morning and afternoon classes, in which we could eat lunch and relax. In the evening, after more free time, we would gather again for a bountiful dinner of several courses.

During our stay in Milan, we took several day trips to other places, as well. We followed James Joyce’s life to Trieste, where Joyce and Svevo became friends. Our guide took us on a tour from the Svevo museum to sections of Trieste that were relevant to Joyce’s life.

One of the most interesting sites was an opera house that Joyce went to thirty nights in a row in order to gain a more detailed sense of humanity for the realistic qualities of his writings. We also took a boat ride on Lake Como, where we were surrounded by vast mountains, encountering some movie history as we passed by the place in which the original 007 series was filmed. Of course, we could not leave Milan without having seen Leonardo Davinci’s famous painting, “The Last Supper.”

Milan was a place of unity for the Honors students because amidst the excitement of traveling to new places, we strove to keep in mind the message of our college, “That in all things God may be glorified.” Almost every evening, we would join together, either in the hotel or sitting by the pond with turtles and black swans, to pray and reflect on the psalms. As we studied about exile and identity, we were traveling in a place where the language and culture was unfamiliar to us. At the end of the day we were still able to find that element which joins all people – that we are all children of God.

Inside an Italian Basilica

The Adventures of Arezzo

Leaving the black swans of Milan, we moved on to the adventures of Arezzo. Arezzo was the first place where the students were able to put what they had learned of the Italian language course to use. We stayed in a more modern part of Arezzo, but a short walk from our hotel took us under the arches that revealed an older section which harbored many churches, shops and sculptures. Apart from old architecture and delicious gelato shops, the old section of Arezzo harbored an awe-inspiring overlook of far-off mountains, which seemed to be common to nearly every place we visited in Italy.

Similar to Milan, our stay at Arezzo was sprinkled with adventures to other places. We took a bus to Siena where we were given five hours to explore in our own little groups. Siena was a lot more tourist-oriented than I had anticipated, but there were so many hidden away places, like the aqueduct we found and the museum of St. Catherine of Siena’s home.

The city had a very artistic and lively feel, with street musicians playing jazz music and a sidewalk artist who reminded me of the sidewalk artist/chimney sweep, Bert, in the movie “Mary Poppins.” There was also an opportunity for peaceful reflection, as there seemed to be a church at nearly every other corner, including a massive cathedral that displayed some of the most intricate of Siena’s architecture.

Dante and David in Florence

San Pelegrino Hermitage
The day following our trip to Siena, we caught a train to Florence, where we were overwhelmed by the beautiful architecture. We hiked up a large set of stairs as a group to get a view of Florence. We could see Il Duomo on the horizon, where we would later visit. We were given time to explore for ourselves before we met again on a tour. Some went straight to the market and others wandered through the city.

My friends and I went into the church that Dante frequented, which was incredible because we had just taken an Honors course entirely on the subject of Dante’s Divine Comedy. We went inside the museum that held Michelangelo’s “David” and spent a long time taking everything in. Arezzo, Siena and Florence were all very different places, which contributed to our reflection on the meaning of identity.

Florence 1

“I felt the most free in Abruzzo”

The next series of adventures was to be experienced in the countryside of Abruzzo, where we stayed for two weeks. Looking back, it is very difficult to say which place was my absolute favorite, but I can say that I felt the most free in Abruzzo.

Because of our more lengthy stay, we shared bungalows, which instigated a deep sense of camaraderie through cooking, running, game nights of Charades and Catch Phrase, star gazing and adventuring through the countryside. We walked a mile every morning to class on a street lined with a menagerie of wild flowers. We frequently took that time of transit to pray together, talk, and sing.

Pescara, Italy

The highlight of Abruzzo for me was the opportunity to explore the beauty of Italy’s great outdoors. One of the most memorable group adventures was the first hike we took, to see the massive cross that Dr. Casciani and her family placed on the top of the mountain when she was ten years old. Provided with sandwiches and water bottles, all the students piled into the back of a big van, as we were driven part of the way up the mountain.

The travel to the cross was steep, but so beautiful. At the top, we ate and silently appreciated our surroundings for a while, until it was time to descend the slope. Not only was the mountain’s view pleasing, but the fragrance of wild thyme also awakened our sense of smell.

We later traveled to L’Aquila where Dr. Casciani took us on a tour around her home city. The destruction from the 2009 earthquake forced many people out of their homes, but we saw the persevering spirit of the city still present. A Renaissance fair was taking place, with flag throwing and drum-beating. We could hear the instruments playing as we waited inside a church to have Mass with an Archbishop, an old friend of Dr. Casciani’s. At Dr. Casciani’s request, the students provided music for the Mass.

Banner in St. Peter's Square

Cooking, Culture, and Castles

Over the following days of our stay in Abruzzo we made gnocchi and tiramisu with the teachers and embarked on several traveling expeditions. First, we visited Pietrantonj’s Winery in Pescina, where we were able to experience Europe in a particularly sophisticated setting. We were given a tour through the winery, and given a chance to learn about different wines in a wine tasting.

We experienced more culture the next day when we visited Benedictine churches in Bominaco. We also walked to the castle in Bominaco, at the top of which we relaxed while eating bread and salami. We encountered many beautiful mountain views throughout our journey, but just as I encounter a sunrise every morning and never tire of it, these views never ceased to amaze me.

Making the most of the time we had in Italy, we took another hike the next day to the hermitage of San Bartolomeo. Instead of seeing the mountains from a distance, we were literally in the midst of the mountains. After the hike, we celebrated by eating a carton of cherries, having a cherry pit spitting contest. After driving in the bus a little more, we stopped for gelato to celebrate again.

After all the mountains we had encountered, we changed scenery, traveling to a beach in Pescara. We made a sand fortress, ate gelato, and some people even kicked a soccer ball back and forth. We enjoyed our day of recreation.

Gelato 1

A Roman Holiday

Saying good bye to Abruzzo, we arrived in Rome for the most intense part of our trip. In this last week, we adventured as much as we could, despite frequent rainstorms. On one of our tours in particular, when we set out to walk to a Jewish museum and synagogue nearby a particularly powerful deluge spilled down. Even in “La Tempesta di Roma,” as we named it, no amount of rain could dampen our joy, for the rain provided yet another occasion to vocalize “Singing in the Rain” and other tunes.

Amidst tours to the Coliseum, the Pantheon, and other places, we woke up early one morning to get front row seats in the Papal audience. Later, some of the students even got the chance to go to a Papal Mass.

One of my favorite moments in the trip to Rome came when a student in our group set up a Mass for us in the crypt of St. Peter’s. Once again, we were asked to provide the music of the Mass, but this time, The Belmont Abbey Honors students were the only ones in the small room. This particular Mass felt like the epitome of our spiritual union during our voyage.

At the end of the trip, we were permitted three days during which people could pursue their own interests. Some made pilgrimages to specific churches, others traveled in small groups to Assisi, and still others leisurely went through shops in Rome, finding last minute souvenirs for themselves and their loved ones. Rome was an amazing place to end our adventure, not only because it reemphasized to us our faith, which is the center of our lives, but Rome left us hungry to continue our journey in other places, seeking the Good, the True and the Beautiful.

Excellence and Virtue, Joy and Song

Because of the foundational years as Belmont Abbey Honors Students, we were prepared to experience the Bishop Pilla program with the mindset to strive for and draw others to that excellence and virtue which is the heart and purpose of our college. What the Bishop Pilla Program offered to us, besides an amazing opportunity to learn about other cultures first-hand, was that we were able to further develop our identity as a class.

Through camaraderie, we learned we are a group of individuals who are thoughtful, faith-filled, and human, with an ever-present sense of joy in our hearts, displayed particularly through song.

Mary Margaret Gallaher is an Honors Institute Student of the Belmont Abbey College class of 2015. She wrote these memoirs after participating in the 2014 Honors Study Abroad program.

Have class, will travel.

A Summer Well Spent

Honors Testimonials

Honors Institute Graduates Go Places 

Honors graduates have gone on to careers in journalism, medicine, law, scientific research, NASA, business, high finance, and higher education. Others have been called to the priesthood or to life as members of religious orders. Among the graduate schools attended by Honors graduates have been the following:

  • The University of Chicago
  • The University of Notre Dame
  • Georgetown School of Foreign Service
  • The University of Michigan Law School
  • William and Mary Law School
  • Bowman Gray School of Medicine
  • Baylor University
  • The University of Dallas
  • Loyola University of Chicago

Current Students of the Honors Institute


Emma Piazza ’18

Belmont Abbey College’s motto inspires us to search for “Excellence and Virtue,” and the education I am receiving through the Honors Institute truly gives me the tools to strive towards these ideals. Under the guidance of our professors, my friends and I grapple with beautiful words and great ideas, leading us to an understanding of God and humanity. Classmates build each other up across the years, creating an invigorating community and an engaging environment. Friendships are lasting and deep and culminate in numerous activities, from discussing Aristotle at the dinner-table to visiting the Charlotte symphony. We are future doctors, journalists, priests, musicians, and teachers, yet we are all united through the desire to pursue Truth.


Jessica Camano ’18

Although this is only my first year at Belmont Abbey, the Honors Institute has already made a positive impact on my development as both a student and a person. Focused on a study of the great philosophers and classic literary works throughout the ages, this Honors program has given my peers and me the opportunity to scrutinize the works of great thinkers from Aristotle to Machiavelli, as we seek to fully understand their teachings through engaging in-class discussions and casual conversations that at times continue long into the night. These courses have challenged me to think for myself and form my own opinions on the works that we have studied and have helped me to determine what I truly value in life. Aside from growth in the academic sphere, I have formed a stronger identity as a person who values wisdom, faith, and constant striving towards excellence and virtue. This continued personal formation has been enhanced by a myriad of cultural events and by surrounding myself with peers who share in my interests. I highly recommend the Honors Institute for anyone who seeks a richer, deeper experience in life.


Vincent Ginski ’17

I love the rich classroom experience that the Honors Institute offers. The philosophically oriented core curriculum, the devoted doctors and professors who reinforce and feed our passion to learn the Truth, and the ambitious students in the program all collaborate to make my time here truly worthwhile. All of these parts comes together to form an Institute that symbiotically thrives off of everyone’s participation.


Robyn Hatcher ’16

I always strove to do well in high school, but it wasn’t till I joined the Honors Institute that I gained an appreciation for a love of learning through classical philosophy, modern philosophy, literature, and theology. In addition to playing soccer and studying Biology, Honors has shaped my thoughts and enhanced my person through close reading, professors’ guidance, high standards in written work, cultural events, travel to Italy, and friendships that I know will last a lifetime. The intimate academic experience provided by Honors enables the student to be confident in the search for truth.


Paige Duren ’15

Even though Belmont Abbey is a long way from home for me, I would not trade my experience here as an Honors student for any other college experience. The Honors Institute has exposed me to and challenged me with great texts and has satisfied my desire for adventure and curiosity by trips to Ireland, Italy, and Charlotte’s finest symphonies and art museums. All of my experiences in and out of the classroom helped me to make many close friends on campus ˗ friends who I now consider to be family. Largely because of Honors, I will always be thankful for my education, travels, and friendships formed during college, which I will cherish fondly for my entire life.


Kevin LoTruglio ’15

While studying in the Honors Institute, I discovered the following quotation from the magnanimous Harry V. Jaffa: “Never since Socrates,” Jaffa writes, “has philosophy so certainly descended from the heavens into the affairs of mortal men…[Abraham Lincoln] is, we are tempted to say, the eternal political science professor addressing the eternal class.” Drawing inspiration from Jaffa’s thought, the Honors Institute, I am tempted to say, has prepared me not only to be a student of the “eternal political science professor” but also of all those who possess knowledge and wisdom. Both Aristotelian intellectual virtues, knowledge and wisdom, are plentiful amongst the students of the Honors Institute. Many of the professors who have taught Honors Institute courses would be included amongst my most important mentors. In short, the persons I have encountered through the Honors Institute have facilitated my own intellectual and moral development.

Alumni of the Honors Institute


Annemarie Maimone ’12

“As a student in the Honors Institute, I have become part of a unique and engaging academic community. From classes and cultural events to professors and students, the Honors Institute has been my ideal college experience. In my History of Ideas course, I gained a profound appreciation for and greater understanding of philosophic texts. The artistic performances we attended were exciting and entertaining. I was able to build closer friendships through the shared experience of these events.”


Alexis Hess ’12

“Being part of the Honors Institute has been the highlight of my experience at Belmont Abbey College. In addition to a challenging curriculum, the Honors Institute involves studying with other students who share an enthusiasm and excitement for what they learn and how it applies to life and the world around them.”


Tom Varacalli ’11

“What I love about the Honors Institute is that it has focused not merely on knowledge, but on something higher: the awesome quest for truth, meaning, and happiness. It integrates the mind with the soul, logos with arête, Athens with Jerusalem. The result has been a life-changing experience. Even at dinner with my friends, conversation can easily turn to passionate discussions on the difference between rights and duties, the shrewdness of Machiavelli, which Greek philosopher is the better one. I have also been fortunate in having been able to attend performances of Baroque music, Verdi’s Aida, the music of an African Gospel choir. My Honors Institute friends and I have friends throughout the College, participate in a range of college activities – go to movies together, listen to concerts, and make occasional pilgrimages to Steak’n’Shake.”


Christine Basil ’11

“When I was offered an Honors Fellowship a few years ago, I could not have imagined the way that participating in the Honors Institute would broaden my perspectives both in and out of the classroom. Friendships, laughter, stimulating classes have contributed to an experience that sets not only the Honors Institute but this school apart from any other college. My education has been a blessing and an experience that I will treasure throughout my life.”