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Director, Honors Track in Legal Studies

Legal Studies Majors are invited to consider applying for the Departmental Honors track. This provides students with the opportunity to extend and deepen their learning through Honors Colloquia and by conducting independent research culminating in a Capstone thesis or project while working closely with a Legal Studies faculty member. 

Requirements for graduating with Legal Studies Honors

  • Successful completion (B or higher) of two 300 level or above Legal Studies courses designated as Honors Colloquium (see below)
  • Completion of Legal Studies Major degree requirements
  • Maintenance of good standing in the Commonwealth Honors College (CHC)

Honors Independent Studies

While not a requirement, students can also work with Legal Studies faculty to design a one semester Honors Independent Study on a specialized topic. The proposal for the Honors Independent Study typically is due for submission via PATHS prior to the end of the semester before it is to be undertaken.

Courses Designated as Honors Colloquia

In order to complete the requirement of two 300 level or higher Legal Studies Honors courses, a student should approach a faculty member to set up an Honors Colloquium for a course the faculty member is already offering that they student wishes to explore in further depth. This 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 facilitate this through a submission through PATHS for approval by CHC. The result is the creation and listing of the course as an Honors Colloquium on SPIRE for the students enrolled.

Legal Studies faculty welcome and expect to be approached by students interested in undertaking an honors thesis or project or wishing to establish Honors Colloquia or Honors Independent Studies. 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. 

1. If you are already a member of CHC, below is the procedure for signing up for 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);

  • It is expected that students will not have outstanding incompletes from previous courses entering Legal Studies Honors; speak with the Legal Studies Honors Director to request an exception;

  • Students must meet with the Departmental Honors Director to discuss requirements, opportunities, procedures, and deadlines;

  • Students must submit a request to be accepted into Legal Studies Honors track. This is undertaken electronically via PATHS​;

  • Legal Studies Honors Director signs via PATHS if the student is eligible and accepted by the Legal Studies Program and the Commonwealth College Office then finalizes admission to the track.

2. 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 the 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 according to its guidelines and indicate an interest in “Departmental Honors in Legal Studies”.

Sample Research Topics

Legal Studies has proudly graduated dozens of honors students who have conducted independent research on topics as varied as:

  • Deprivation of rights of un-accompanied children in federal custody
  • Public opinion and the Supreme Court
  • Alternative dispute resolution in Major League Baseball
  • Durability of ceasefire agreements
  • LGBT foster care youth and legal activism
  • Natural disasters and rural community and state government relations
  • Adolescent crime and alternative punishments
  • Societal perceptions of the efficacy of truth commissions in Argentina and Chile
  • Environmental decision making and public participation
  • Jural personhood for nonhuman great apes
  • Why Americans still support the death penalty
  • Impact of the Office of The Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland on the peace process
  • The right to privacy and government surveillance
  • Critical race theory and mediation
  • Limiting collateral sentencing to facilitate re-entry
  • Strategies to prevent the transmission of HIV though Breast-milk in South Africa
  • Parole, probation and recidivism
  • The construction of and responses to illegal immigration
  • Juvenile participation in legal proceedings and divorce mediation
  • The digital law office: resistance and reception
  • New Bedford raids
  • Expert witnesses
  • The right to privacy and same sex marriage
  • History and role of ombudspersons in Europe, Canada, and the United States
  • The death penalty and deterrence
  • Alternative dispute resolution in professional sports
  • Commercial legal strategy vis-a-vis unions
  • Burden of proof standards and toxic torts
  • Digitization of legal professional practices and its impact on efficacy and justice
  • Expert witness reform in tort cases
  • The role of power imbalances in mediation theory and practice
  • Determinations of the best interests of the children with same-sex parents
  • The right to privacy post-9/11
  • Same-sex marriage as a fundamental right
  • Global warming and the ski industry
  • Same-sex adoption
  • The role of arbitration in sports labor management relations



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.




Commonwealth Honors College 
504 Goodell Building: Monday - Friday 9:00am-5:00pm

Leah Wing, Legal Studies Honors Director
430 Thompson Hall          
Click here for Prof Wing's office hours.