Completing Honors as a Legal Studies Major provides additional enriching and rigorous academic opportunities for students to delve deeper into topics of their interest. Beyond honors coursework, each student conducts independent research culminating in a thesis or project with the chance to work closely with a Legal Studies faculty member.
Below you will find detailed overviews of:
- Requirements for graduating with Legal Studies Honors
- Honors-affiliated courses and how to access them
- How to fulfill Legal Studies Honors requirements
- How to join Legal Studies Honors
- How to select chair (advisor) and 2nd committee member for your honors thesis/project
- List of Legal Studies faculty you can work with
- Examples of past Legal Studies Honors Thesis/Project titles and topics Requirements for graduating with Legal Studies Honors
- Successful completion (B or higher) of two 300 level or above Legal Studies courses that carry Honors-affiliated designations (important: see below)
- Completion of Legal Studies Major degree requirements
- Maintenance of good standing in the Commonwealth Honors College (CHC)
Contact Professor Leah Wing, the Legal Studies Honors Director with any questions.
Honors-affiliated Legal Studies Courses
There are several types of honors-affiliated courses. Three of these (#1-3, see visual below) can assist you in fulfilling the requirement to take a 300 level or above Legal Studies course with honors-affiliation. The other two (#4 and #5) are required to complete the honors thesis/project.
How to fulfill the requirement for 2 Legal Studies honors-affiliated courses (300 level or above)
Below in visuals and text are descriptions of the three options for fulfilling the requirement:
#1. In order to complete the requirement of two 300 level or higher Legal Studies honors-affiliated courses, a student should approach a faculty member to see if they have already set up an Honors Colloquium (1 credit “seminar”) affiliated with the course the student wishes to take. Often, although not always these are already listed on SPIRE for the upcoming semester. Therefore, students should feel free to reach out to faculty to see if a 1 credit Honors Colloquium will be available affiliated with a course they will be teaching.
#2. Students can also approach faculty to request the creation of a 1-2 credit Honors Independent Study (HI) affiliated with a course they will be taking with that faculty member in order for the student to explore topics related to the course further.
Requests to faculty for the creation of an Honors Colloquium or Honors Independent Study that will be affiliated with a particular course should be done prior to the semester in which the class is to be held. If the faculty member is able to accommodate this request, they will work with the student to facilitate this through a submission through PATHS for approval by CHC.
- For an Independent Study affiliated with a particular class, the student initiates the submission for approval of the faculty member and CHC via PATHS. Importantly, prior to the student making the submission, they should agree to all the details with the faculty member. See PATHS for the requirements for the submission.
- For a Colloquium, the faculty member initiates this and then Colloquium will be listed on SPIRE for the students to enroll in.
#3. While not a requirement, students have the option to work with Legal Studies faculty to design a 3-6 credit stand alone Honors Independent Study (ISH) on a specialized topic that is not affiliated with a class. If the student wishes this Honors Independent Study to count as one of their 300 level or above Legal Studies honors-affiliated courses, they need to request and receive approval from their faculty sponsor and the Legal Studies Honors Director. Importantly, prior to the student making the submission in PATHS, they should agree to all the details with the faculty member. See PATHS for the requirements necessary for the submission. The student then initiates the submission for the formal approval by the faculty member and CHC via PATHS. This should be completed prior to the end of the semester before it is to be undertaken.
Legal Studies faculty (see listed below) welcome and expect to be approached by students interested in establishing an Honors Colloquia or Honors Independent Studies.
Honors Thesis or Project (#4 and #5):
All Honors students must complete undertake independent research that results in a thesis or a project. If a student wishes to work one-on-one with a faculty member on their thesis/project it is called an Individually Contracted Honors Thesis (499Y/T/P). Or a student can choose to join a class with a shared theme in which one faculty member guides all the students in conducting their own independent research--this is called an Honors Thesis Seminar (499XX). At this time, the Legal Studies Program does not offer an Honors Thesis Seminar. However, students are welcome to enroll in an Honors Thesis Seminar in CHC or another Department. If a student chooses to do so, their thesis will be administratively categorized as a “multidisciplinary” thesis. Students can find Honors Thesis Seminar course descriptions on the CHC website.
Typically, students undertake their independently contracted or seminar for their honors thesis/project during their final two semesters:
- #4. Honors Research 499Y Part I (3–6 credits) or a 499 Seminar (typically fall senior year)
- #5. Honors Thesis/Project 499P/T Part II (3–6 credits) or a 499 Seminar (typically spring senior year)
It is expected that students who wish to have an independently contracted thesis/project each find an advisor (formally referred to as the “chair” of the honors thesis/project committee). It is important to arrangements to have a chair for your thesis/project prior to the end of the semester before they will begin their research (typically this means finding a chair before the end of spring semester of their junior year). Legal Studies faculty welcome and expect to be approached by students interested in undertaking an honors thesis or project under their guidance.
Please see the Legal Studies Honors Director with any questions about procedures or next steps in applying and undertaking Legal Studies Honors.
Joining Legal Studies Honors
To join Legal Studies Honors, acceptance into both the Commonwealth Honors College (CHC) and the Legal Studies Honors track is required.
If you are already a member of CHC, below are details about completing the Departmental Honors Track in Legal Studies:
- Students must be members in good standing of Commonwealth College with the ability to complete 45 graded (not pass/fail) credits in residence (registered at UMass Amherst, not transferred);
- Students in CHC who become Legal Studies majors must complete the Legal Studies requirements listed above to receive Honors in Legal Studies.
- Students should meet with the Departmental Honors Director  to discuss requirements, opportunities, procedures, and deadlines.
If you are a UMASS student but not yet a member of CHC, you will need to apply to join CHC and simultaneously apply for the Departmental Honors Track in Legal Studies.
- Criteria, deadlines, and process for applying to join CHC.
- Criteria for applying for Legal Studies Honors: The Legal Studies Program welcomes applications from undergraduate students for entrance into the Legal Studies Honors track. A Grade Point Average of 3.4 at the time of application is required. To apply, you must complete the application for the Commonwealth Honors College and in that process indicate an interest in “Departmental Honors in Legal Studies”.
It is expected that students will not have outstanding incompletes from previous courses when entering Legal Studies Honors. Complete any incompletes prior to applying to CHC or communicate with CHC admissions and the Legal Studies Honors Director  to explain any extenuating circumstances prior to or as part of applying to CHC.
Selecting an Honors Thesis/Project Chair (Advisor) and 2nd Committee Member
Every Legal Studies Honors student will need to complete an honors thesis/project. If you undertake an individually-contracted thesis/project with a faculty member, please see the list below and feel free to contact any Legal Studies Program faculty member to explore the possibility of having them serve as the chair (advisor) of their thesis committee and/or as a second committee member whom will be added for the second semester of research.
If you decide to have as your chair be a faculty member from outside of Legal Studies (ie: if you have a double major) and wish have a Legal Studies faculty member as your second committee member, then your thesis/project will administratively be listed as a Multidisciplinary Thesis/Project. This is the same if you choose to take an honors thesis seminar (see above) to complete your thesis/project. In any event, you will still graduate as a member of the Legal Studies major with honors.
Legal Studies Faculty Members:
- Paul M. Collins
- Marissa Carrere
- Diane Curtis
- Tania Lopez DoCarmo
- Alan Gaitenby
- Rebecca Hamlin
- Lauren McCarthy
- Sindiso MnisiWeeks
- Doug Rice
- Jamie Rowen
- Leah Wing
There are a variety of scholarships for which all UMass Amherst undergraduate students can apply, including those offering support for honors research and those based on merit for graduate school.
For more information on honors-related scholarships visit the Commonwealth College's scholarship page . For other scholarship information contact the Office for National Scholarship Advisement  in 408 Goodell Building.
Sample Legal Studies Honors Thesis/Project Research Titles
Legal Studies has proudly graduated hundreds of honors students who have conducted independent research on topics as varied as the following:
- Breaking the Wall of Silence: Using FOIA to Investigate Sexual Violence in U.S. Immigration Custody
- The Flaws in the Massachusetts Foster Care Model: How Children from BIPOC Communities and Impoverished Families Suffer From the Permanency of the Termination of Parental Rights
- An Analysis of the Bifurcation of Curtilage Protections: Why the Curtilage of Multi Family Homes is Less Protected Under the Fourth Amendment
- The Color of Law
- Public Attitudes Towards Police Use of Facial Recognition Technology
- Have We Changed? A Historical Overview and Comparison of the Sexual Allegations Against Clarence Thomas and Brett Kavanaugh
- From Hawk to Dove: The Political and Moral Transformation of Daniel Ellsberg
- Disinformation and Issue Attention in COVID-19 Related Discourse on Social Media
- Green Roof Mandate in New York City: A Policy Proposal
- Inequalities Embedded in the United States Legal System Through the Lens of Tribal Governments
- Conflict and Refugee Populations: Syrians and Palestinians in the Middle East
- Eating the Pomegranate: Collected Writings
- The Empowerment of Women Through the Installation of Common Water Management Systems in Sub-Saharan Africa
- Going Paperless: The Paperless Movement in Law Firms
- Predicting Supreme Court Voting Behavior From Oral Argument and Past Behavior: The Case of McCullen v. Coakley
- Societal Perceptions of the Efficacy of Truth Commissions In Argentina and Chile
- Bridging the Gap: Perpetuating the Cycle of Achievement, One Student At A Time
- Jurisdictional Laws in Indian Country: The Negative Effects on the Menominee and Blackfeet Indian Tribes
- Does Public Opinion Affect the Supreme Court?
- Environmental Decision Making and Public Participation: The Case of a Solid Waste Transfer Station in Holyoke, MA.
- Speak to His Heart: An Exploration for South Africa's Racial Inequality in Educational Opportunity
- Ending World War II: A Story of American Heroism, or Terrorism?
- Public Policy and Civic Engagement: A Plan for Public Higher Education
- The Freedmen: The Disputed Cherokee Citizens and Their Fight to Maintain Identity
- Asian Indian Americans: Problems of Assimilation in the U.S. As Affected by the Model Minority Myth, White Citizenship, and Multiculturalism
- The Use of Humanitarian Rhetoric in the Iraq War: A Portrayal of the "Other"
- How European Integration Policies Affect the Legal Consciousness of Muslim Immigrants
- The Gay Rights Movement: Sixty Years of Legal Battles
- Advocating for Public Higher Education: My Work in the Citizen Scholars Program
- Manipulating Justice: An Analysis of the War on Drugs
- Tube Socks and Padded Bras
- Parents Influence On Their Student's Educational Decisions
- How to Rehabilitate the Juvenile Justice System: A Study of Adolescent Crime and Alternative Punishments
- Effect of Divorce on the Consumption and Interpretation of Romantic Media and the Idealization of Marriage
- A Terrorism Expose
- A Grant Framework for Big Brothers Big Sistersof Hampshire County
- A Comprehensive, One Stop Reintegration Program: Alleviating the Impediments Created By An Incarceration Culture
- State Wrongs and the Meaning of Rights: A Case Study of New Orleans in the Wake of Hurricane Katrina
- Expressions of Common Identity Within the African Diaspora
- America in the Wake of 9/11: One Nation…With Denial of Liberty and Justice For All
- Incorporating Islamic Family Law Into a Common Law System
- The Integration of Alternative Dispute Resolution Methods Within American Indian Tribal Justice Systems
- Talking Past Each Other in the Debate on Undocumented Immigration: A Paradigmatic Analysis of Perspectives Across Government Agencies, Labor Unions, and Human Rights Organizations
- Development of Feminism Through Revolutionary Movements A Study of Cuba, El Salvador, and Chile
- More Than Just An Art Class
- Why Science Can Help but Not Fix the Gun Crisis: A Simulation-Based Analysis of Predicting Mass Casualty Events
- Co-Leader Manual for Interfaith Community Service Learning Program
- Studying Terror: Examining the Sources of Controversy Surrounding Bacillus Anthracis Research
- Fallen Women: Unchaste, Updated, and Uprising: Laws That Stigmatize Female Sexuality Through the Guise of Female Protection
- Where have we come from? Where are we going? Emergency Powers in the United States with Examples from History and a Discussion of the Present Day
- Caribbean Syncretic Religions
- Help Us or Leave Us Alone: The Story of How, and Why, a Small Rural Community Ended Up Being Tyrannized by an Urban State Government in the Aftermath of a Major Natural Disaster
- Black Families Amidst Insecurity: Men's Perception on Breadwinning, Masculinity, and Negotiating Balance
- An Examination of Causation and Burden of Proof Standards and Their Ability to Act As Barriers to Veterans in Toxic Torts Litigation
- Motivation for a College Education: Why Are Students Here and How Do They Value Their Experience and Their Degree?
- The Experience of Space: Examining Open Space Through a Case Study Analysis of the Glen Echo Purchase in Stoughton, Massachusetts
- Chili Peppers and BDSM: An Exploration of Pain and Pleasure
- Chili Peppers and BDSM: An Exploration of Pain and Pleasure
- The Political, Social, and Historical Contexts that have led to the Health Care Plans of The United States and Canada
- Decriminalizing Domestic Violence in Russia: Contradictions, Activism, and Contestation
- Why Bother: The Dehumanizing Consequences of Bureuacracy in America
- Nowhere to Call Home: Why LGBT Foster Care Youth Need to be Brought to the Forefront of LGBT Legal Activism
- Law and Society: How Moral Belief Has Influenced Law in Ancient Rome and Contemporary America
- Gender Politics of Representation
- "Death by Education": Systemic Racial Oppression and the School-to-Prison Pipeline
- Intelligent Design Theory and the Law
- "The Others": Ethnic Discrimination and the National Origins Quotas
- However Bad It May Seem, It Shall Indeed the Best
- Do Seconds Really Count? Why Faster Responses to Mass Shootings Fail to Save Lives
- The Tension Between Rights and Democracy: Waldron, Dworkin, and Rawls
- Domestic Drones and the Changing Nature of Privacy
- The Constitution and Boxing
- Social and Health Implications of HIV Criminalization
- Call 617-SAD-DADS: Studying the Fathers' Rights Movement in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts
- Visualizations, Narratives, and Reimaginings: Subverting Understandings of the Asian American Diaspora Through Art
- Consequences A La Carte: A Case for Limiting Collateral Sentencing Consequences to Facilitate Reentry
- Stop Being Poor: The Vilification of Black Single Mothers and 1996 Welfare Reform
- Online Dispute Resolution in Higher Education
- Conflict Within: Terrorists or Freedom Fighters? The Case of Great Britain and Northern Ireland Versus Israel and Palestine
- !Ya Vote!: the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination's Role in the Fight for Multilingual Ballots
- Fairness in Anti-Discrimination Law: Analyzing Ban the Box Outcomes
- Hot-Tubbing the Expert: An Alternative Method for Reinforcing Expert Testimony in Civil Litigation
- The Language of Law: A Media Analysis on the Destruction of Cultural Heritage in Iraq and Syria
- Mass Incarceration of the Marginalized: The Disparate, Negative Effects
- Las Dos Caras de la Moneda: Assimilation Experienced by Mexican Immigrants in the United States
- Constructing a Sales Organization for a Fast Growing Startup
- Dominance Critical Race Feminism: a New Breed of Feminism Tackles the War on Drugs and Examines Poor Black Women's New Challenges and the Start of State Sanctioned Slavery
- Parole and Probation: Current Research Focuses on Statistical-Quantitative Data, As More People Return to Prison.
- Saving Face: The Privacy Architecture of Facebook
- A Green Crusade: The Ski Industry Takes on Climate Change
- What Is a Patient to Do? The Systemic Failure of Ethics to Prevent Drug Company and Physician Misconduct
- Divorce Mediation: The Psychological Capacities and Legal Rights of Children and Adolescents to Participate
- Legal Language of Race
- Shaping Statelessness: A Comparative Analysis of Citizenship Law in Germany and the Domincan Republic
- The Eyes of Society: Prison Systems in America and Finding an Escape Toward Individualism
- The Relationship Between Parental Involvement and Child Academic Achievement
- Tearing Down the Walls: Cultural and Structural Violence Against the Indigenous Peoples of the Americas and the Federation of Kalpulliz
- Deprivation of Rights of Unaccompanied Children in Federal Custody
- The Ethics of Human Experimentation
- A 21st Century Labor and Management Relationship; A Case Study in a Kingman, Arizona Wal-mart
- The Elimination of the Extraordinary Classificaiton on Financial Statements
- "Political Representation in the City of Boston, 1822 – 2022" TICK TOCK
- Interventions For Child Maltreatment
- THE DIGITAL "YOU": The Loss of Practical Obscurity in the Digital Age
- From the Stage to the Screen: an Exploration of Scenic Design
- Exploring the mental color representations that guide attention in a complex visual search task
- Net Neutrality: Should We Regulate?
- The Commonalities and Dissimilarities Between Humans and Baboons
- Worlds Apart—An American Childhood in Nazi Germany
- Information Technology for El Arco Iris
- Infants and AIDS: Strategies to Prevent the Transmission of HIV Through Breast Milk in South Africa
- Football Is Not A Fag's Forte: Heteronormativity and Homophobia in American Sports
- The Camisea Oil Project: Law, Neoliberalism, and Violence in Matziguenka Indigineous Lands
- Populism in Politics Under Financial Distress
- A Complicated Melody: My Daddy and the Civil Rights Movement
- Homelessness in the Valley
- The Power of Place: New York City and Its People at the Intersection of Architecture, Design and Emotion
- Female Identity and Transition: A Case for Intersectionality in Northern Ireland/The North
- Jural Personhood for Nonhuman Great Apes
- Land & Property Based Approach to Revitalizing Detroit
- Effect of positive partner interaction on cardiovascular reactivity during exercise
- The U.S. Death Penalty: Will Costs Break the Executioner's Back?