Heritage, Customs, and Traditions

In recent decades many American universities have developed honor programs or colleges as a way of providing for students who demonstrate great academic promise. Middle Tennessee State University became an early leader in honors education when it launched an honors program in 1973. The University Honors College at Middle Tennessee was officially founded in 1998, following an initial period of success and growth. Two years later, a U. S. News and World Report article favorably compared the educational experience provided by MTSU's Honors College to such prestigious institutions as Duke, Georgia Tech, and Vanderbilt. While we are encouraged by such comparisons, we continue to build upon a distinctive set of strengths and a growing national reputation for academic quality and value.

The University Honors College has several unique customs and traditions including

  • Tolling of the Bells: The Thesis Defense Room is positioned directly below the bell tower on the northeast corner of the Paul W. Martin Sr. Honors Building. The tolling of the bells began in 2005 following the successful defense of each thesis or creative project.

  • Book of Town and Gown: The Book of Town and Gown is an antique, leather-bound book containing invited signatures. Signatures are invited by the dean but normally include MTSU's chief officers, benefactors of the Honors College, Buchanan Fellows, noted visitors and lecturers, government officials, and other key leaders and friends of the Honors College. The book is a valuable record and tangible reminder of the spirit of the partnership that connects the Honors College to the larger world.

  • Recognition of Graduates: Honors courses are noted in students' transcripts, and students receive a certificate of completion once they complete the lower-division requirements. Honors College graduates also receive a distinctive diploma and a beautiful bronze medallion and wear special academic regalia at graduation. Students who earn a 3.65 GPA (or above) graduate with Distinction from the University Honors College.


Each year the University Honors College hosts an awards ceremony and reception to recognize important individual accomplishments. Awards presented include those for the outstanding freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior students. The Honors faculty choose the winners. A number of competitive scholarships and special recognitions for faculty and friends of the Honors College are also presented.

Students receive a certificate upon completion of lower-division honors requirements (18 semester hours). Students graduating from the Honors College receive a bronze medallion (replica of the Honors College seal), a certificate of graduation, and recognition as an Honors College graduate on both the diploma and college transcript