Missouri State University - West Plains

The William and Virginia Darr Honors Program

Laying the Foundation

As one of the many educational opportunities that Missouri State-West Plains offers, the Honors Program is expressly designed for the student-scholar who enjoys active learning. Interdisciplinary in nature and in focus, the Honors Program strives to foster an educational experience that lays a foundational understanding of the world's most influential ideas, stimulates creative and critical thinking, and cultivates the growth of a learning community on and off campus and in and out of the program itself.


Specifically, its mission is "to create a collegial environment that nurtures and empowers students of high academic and/or artistic potential to become educated persons." The program's goals are to:

  1. Recruit students of high academic and/or creative ability.
  2. Motivate students to academically challenge themselves and their classmates.
  3. Formulate a greater, wider and deeper understanding of their existence and of their abilities to influence the world during and through that existence.
  4. Explore new subjects and experience the world and its ideas in search of truth.
  5. Assist students in developing their various academic and vocational interests.
  6. Provide for student-to-student, student-to-faculty, and student-to-community interaction for the expressed purpose of building a community where learning can be enhanced and transmitted.
  7. Honor students of high academic ability and purpose as evidenced by their completion of the program and their degree at Missouri State-West Plains.

Impact of the Darr Honors Program

"Now, at 25, there has not been a single year of my adult life during which I have not attended school or University. To this day, I am still most impacted by the seeds of academic and intellectual insight which Dennis planted and watered through his honors program. Like the chained man emerging from the cave, these classes are essential for anyone who wants to see the light of new paradigms, new means of critical reading and reasoning, and a new understanding of the human condition and what it means to be a part of this shared story of humanity."
— Jeremy Alsup, 2005 Honors Program grad

"Honors was an experience that I have not been able to replicate in the entire four years of college I have taken. It changed my outlook on education, love, and freedom of thought. Almost every other day I am seriously using quotes or ideas from the works that we read in Honors class. Joining Honors was the wisest decision I made while attending college."
— Alex Pinnon, 2005-06 Honors class

Honors Abroad

A unique and inviting option within the Darr Honors Program is the discovery of life outside our immediate area, including the exploration of new cultures and ideas around the globe. The Honors Abroad program continues to attract participants who want a taste of international travel in a very safe and planned environment. In the past five years, the program has seen dozens of students enjoy trips to Ireland, Greece, Italy, France, Scotland, Britain and China.

Honors Grads Excel Beyond the Campus

Two former students are practicing lawyers, one in Kansas City and one in the U.S. Army working for the Judge Advocate General in Germany. One grad serves on the faculty at Ozarks Technical College in Springfield teaching communications and another is living out his dream to teach American History at his old high school, Willow Springs High School. Three grads have completed their degrees in Biblical studies, two pursuing their call to the ministry and one working toward a graduate degree in theology. One grad is a linguistics specialist for the U.S. Air Force and another grad, after completing her bachelor's degree in linguistics at Truman State University, is beginning her teaching career in a private school and many other grads are enjoying working in their chosen fields.


Students who graduate with the Honors Specialization are automatically eligible for admission into the Honors Program at Missouri State-Springfield. The AA degree also transfers to most other four-year colleges and universities.

To Apply

To enter the program, newly admitted students must have an ACT score of 25 or higher, although those who have an ACT score less than 25 can apply to enter the program following an interview with the program director. To remain in the program, students must maintain a 3.5 GPA in all classes and earn a grade of "A" or "B" in all Honors Program or Honors component courses.

For more information, contact Mr. Dennis Lancaster, Director of the Darr Honors Program, at 417-255-7965 or via email at DennisLancaster@MissouriState.edu.


  1. Identify students who possess
    1. a seriousness of academic purpose;
    2. a desire to be active, rather than passive, learners;
    3. an intellectual curiosity that supersedes an obsession with grades; and
    4. a demonstrated potential for critical thinking and excellence in oral and written expression.
  2. Communicate the mission, goals, and objectives of the Honors Program to potential and current students, the Missouri State University-West Plains campus community, and the service area.
  3. Offer a unique and innovative curriculum of small courses, offering stimulation, challenge, multidisciplinary perspectives, and constant interaction with peers of com parable abilities and outstanding instructors who are willing to learn with their students.
  4. Provide special options, opportunities, and financial incentives that enhance the under graduate experience at a two-year higher education institution.
  5. Aid students in the development of, the understanding of, and the appreciation for higher education.
  6. Encourage and/or enhance a positive learning attitude across the campus.
  7. Help clarify students’ capabilities and limitations as well as personal values, goals and needs.
  8. Develop an atmosphere open to diversity in learning, thought, culture and race.
  9. Provide personal attention to each student, including offering information and counseling as each student develops a personal academic and career plan.
  10. Coordinate efforts among faculty, staff, and community members so students can develop a network of colleagues (classmates, instructors, and community members) for personal support, intellectual interaction, and continuing growth.
  11. Encourage the creation and presentation of special projects for a public arena that enhances the student’s academic program and intellectual and/or artistic development.
  12. Establish articulation agreements with area colleges and universities to which Honors Program students are likely to transfer.
  13. Submit all program changes and additions through the faculty governance system established by the Missouri State University-West Plains Faculty Senate.
  14. Assess annually the effectiveness of the total program in meeting its mission and goals.
  15. Participate in the ongoing development of honors programs throughout higher education by maintaining membership in the National Collegiate Honors Council.
  16. Utilize the guidance of the National Collegiate Honors Council in assessment of the Missouri State University-West Plains Honors Program.

Enrolling in the Honors Program

Admission into the Honors Program is based upon successful completion (a grade of B or higher) of HNR 150, Honors I Seminar, or upon the recommendation of Missouri State University-West Plains faculty members (see below). To be eligible to enroll in the HNR 150 course, the student must meet one of the following criteria:

For First-Time Freshmen

Any first-time freshman student who has an ACT composite of 25 or above may enroll in HNR 150 during the first semester at Missouri State University-West Plains.

Registration for HNR 150 can be completed at any regularly scheduled STAR orientation.

First-time freshmen who do not have an ACT composite of 25 or above may apply to enroll in HNR 150 by

  1. the completion of an essay,
  2. the completion of a personal interview with the Honors Program chair, and
  3. approval for admission by the Honors Program chair.

For Currently Enrolled

Any currently enrolled student at Missouri State University-West Plains

Students who has a 3.5 or higher cumulative GPA after completing at least 12 credit hours at Missouri State University-West Plains may enroll in HNR 150 upon

  1. the recommendation of a full-time faculty member at Missouri State University-West Plains,
  2. the completion of an essay,
  3. the completion of a personal interview with the Honors Program chair, and
  4. approval for admission by the Honors Program Committee.

Continuing in the Program

After successfully completing the HNR 150 course with a grade of B or higher, the student is automatically eligible to enroll in any HNR course or a course that has an honors section if he/she has a cumulative GPA of 3.5 or higher on all other coursework. Note: A student cannot enroll in any other HNR course or in a course with an honors component before he/she has completed HNR 150 nor while enrolled in HNR 150.

A student who has a cumulative GPA lower than 3.5 but has completed HNR 150 with a grade of B or higher may continue in the Honors Program on a provisional basis after consideration by the Honors Program chair. Continuance in the program is contingent upon the student’s success in all honors courses and upon raising his/her cumulative GPA to or above 3.5.

In order to remain in the Honors Program, a student must maintain a 3.5 or higher cumulative grade point average. Should a student’s cumulative GPA fall below 3.5, that student shall have one semester to raise his/her GPA above the 3.5 threshold or face being dropped from the Honors Program. He/She may reapply to the program in subsequent semesters, but only after his/her cumulative GPA has risen above 3.5.

Completing the Associate of Arts Degree in General Studies/Specialization in Honors

In order to complete the Associate of Arts degree in General Studies/Specialization in Honors, the student must complete the following requirements (Items 1-3 and the requirements marked with an * and †) to total 62 credit hours:

  1. *General Education Requirements: 47 hours (see catalog for complete list and options)
  2. Required Honors Courses:
    • HNR 150, Honors I Seminar: 3 hours (a grade of A or B is required to receive Honors credit)
    • HNR 250, Honors II Seminar: 3 hours (a grade of A or B is required to receive Honors credit)
    • HNR 298, Honors Capstone: 2 hours (a grade of A or B is required to receive Honors credit)
  3. *Other electives: 7 hours 

Total required: 62 hours

* In addition to or as a part of the credit hours required in Items 1 and 3 above, six (6) hours must come from courses with an Honors Designation, and they must be completed with a grade of A or B in order to receive Honors credit.

† In addition to or as a part of the credit hours required in Items 1 and 3 above, the Honors Program student must successfully complete one of the following options to satisfy the Honors Program’s International Experience requirement:

  1. A semester of study at the Missouri State University Branch Campus in Dalian, People’s Republic of China.
  2. An international educational travel course sponsored by Missouri State University-West Plains or another institution of higher education.
  3. A course in a foreign language, or
  4. A course designated in the Missouri State University-West Plains Course Catalog as containing an "International/ Intercultural Component."

All other University policies apply.


The student completes the requirements for the Associate of Arts degree in General Studies and who completes the requirements of the Honors Program will receive the Associate of Arts degree in General Studies diploma and a certificate of completion from the Honors Program. In addition, Honors Program graduates participating in commencement ceremonies will wear the black velvet Tam O’Shanter (hat), signifying that the student is an Honors Program graduate. In addition, the commencement program will note the names of those graduates who completed the Honors Program.

A student who has fulfilled the requirements of the Honors Program must also have completed the Associate of Arts degree in General Studies in order to fully complete the Honors Program and to be recognized as having done such.

Courses Approved for Honors Credit

(Check each semester’s course schedule for availability)
AGR 100/ITC 105
Technology’s Impact on Society
BIO 102
Principles of Biological Science
CHM 105
Fundamentals of Chemistry
CHM 160
General Chemistry
COM 115
Fundamentals of Public Speaking
ENG 210
Writing II: Academic Writing
(Honors credit not given for both ENG 210 and 221)
ENG 221
Writing II: Writing for the Professions
(Honors credit not given for both ENG 210 and 221)
ENG 288
Literature of Work: Readings in the Professions
HNR 150
Honors I Seminar
HNR 250
Honors II Seminar
HNR 292
Directed Study in Honors
HNR 297
Topics in Honors
HNR 298
Honors Capstone
HST 121
Survey of the United States to 1877
HST 122
Survey of the United States Since 1877
MTH 138
Pre-Calculus Mathematics
MTH 261
Analytic Geometry and Calculus I
PHI 110
Introduction to Philosophy
PLS 101
American Democracy and Citizenship
THE 109
Performance Studies