Hidden Gems are honors programs, major degree programs, minor degree programs, and certificate programs that guide students through a high-quality and coherent interdisciplinary education across the liberal arts. Philosophy, literature, politics, history, and the Great Books of Western Civilization are topics that are often a focal point. Particularly valued are programs that encourage connections between the liberal arts and STEM, business, medicine, and other nontraditional liberal arts subjects. These programs are focused on classroom instruction. Some of them may offer fellowships or scholarship programs, but they all emphasize building community around dialogue and learning. 

Explore this page to learn more about these programs. 

If your academic program is interested in becoming a Hidden Gem, contact ACTA’s What Will They Learn?® team.

Ashbrook Scholar Program

Ashland University

The Ashbrook Scholar Program says, “The purpose of the program is to assist students in acquiring the intellectual and moral virtues required for thoughtful citizenship. We do this through sustained reflection on the writings of those who have thought most deeply and comprehensively about human nature and political organization, and the opinions, character, and actions of those who have most remarkably practiced the political art. Ashbrook Scholars study the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, as well as everything from Homer and Aristotle to the Federalist Papers and the speeches and deeds of America’s greatest statesmen, and develop a deep understanding of America’s founding principles.”

The Honors College at Azusa Pacific University

Azusa Pacific University

The APU Honors College says, “The purpose of the Honors College is to liberally educate the next generation of intellectually-gifted Christian leaders. The curriculum starts with the premise that good leadership requires the cultivation of moral and intellectual virtue—the habits of the heart and of the mind that enable one to determine what ought to be done and how best to do it. Students learn from authors such as Aristotle, St. Augustine, Shakespeare, and C.S. Lewis.”

The Honors College at Belmont Abbey College

Belmont Abbey College

The Belmont Abbey Honors College says, “The Honors College at Belmont Abbey invites students to explore the Great Books in Western History, Science, Literature, Philosophy, and Theology which have profoundly affected contemporary life. Students experience playful camaraderie and high friendship in an atmosphere conducive to piety and principled living, grow in awareness of the foundational impacts of Classical, Christian, and Modern thought, and enter into the far-reaching disputes and controversies among some of history’s greatest minds.”

Great Books Program

Benedictine College

The Great Books Program says, “The Great Books Program at Benedictine College is an option for students who want to fulfill general education requirements (which all students must take) in a more traditional Liberal Arts format. Great Books scholars at Benedictine College study the foundational works of Western thought. By entering the conversation with great thinkers about the fundamental problems facing mankind, Great Books students will be able thoughtfully to consider perennial truths, timelessly expressed, embodied in the classics of our civilization.”

Torrey Honors College

Biola University

Torrey Honors College is the undergraduate college honors program at Biola University. We bring together students with different backgrounds from all over the world in pursuit of the Good, the True and the Beautiful. At Torrey Honors College, students read deeply from some of the best books ever written. They gather with close friends to spend hundreds of hours in discussion, searching out answers to big questions together — all while guided by a faculty mentor. And when they graduate, students enter a community dedicated to lifelong learning and pursuing Christ both personally and vocationally.

Great Books Honors Program

Faulkner University

An uncommon honors program requires an uncommon welcome. Honors programs typically aim at telling about all their bells and whistles. At Faulkner University, the Great Books Honors program was established with deep Christian conviction that academic excellence and service should always go together. The Honors program serves students in each academic department at Faulkner by offering an honors track for each discipline.

Online Bachelor of Arts in Humanities

Faulkner University

The primary goal of this rigorous online degree program is for students to deepen their understanding of the complex nature of societies and arts, all while gaining exceptional skills in analysis, critical thinking, and writing. This humanities degree prepares graduates to analyze social structures, understand the value of cultural diversity, and adopt effective communication and interpersonal skills.

Great Books of Western Civilization Honors Program

Franciscan University of Steubenville

The Great Books of Western Civilization Honors Program says, “The Great Books of Western Civilization Honors Program at Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio is open by invitation to qualified undergraduates. As a Franciscan honors student, you will have the exclusive opportunity to participate in the study of a curriculum comprised wholly of the great books, and through analytical reading, critical discussion, and expository writing pursue a course of study that stands as an alternative to Franciscan’s core curriculum. Readings include the great books from early Greece to modern times by thinkers such as Homer, Plato, St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Bonaventure, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Jefferson, Kant, Marx, St. John Paul II, and others.”

The Honors Program

George Fox University

The Honors Program says, “The Honors Program provides an excellent Great Books education that forms students to be Christian thinkers who will go forth into the world and strengthen the church in the 21st century. Students read the most influential works that have shaped – and continue to shape – human history and thought. Honors professors guide conversations in small Socratic seminars, as students consider the enduring imprint of human experience within the great works, ancient to modern.”

Philosophy, Politics and Economics, B.I.S. (PPE)

Georgia State University

Georgia State’s Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE) Bachelors of Interdisciplinary Studies (B.I.s.) helps students become familiar with and capable of contributing to ongoing debates about the nature of good political and economic institutions, as well as the policies and practices that are best suited for creating and sustaining them. Students will develop the intellectual skills of the social scientist, who seeks to understand how the social world operates, and the moral philosopher, who seeks to critically evaluate the social world in relation to how it ought to be.

Primary Texts Certificate Program at Kansas State University

Kansas State University

The Primary Texts Certificate Program says, “Instead of reading only a textbook in Physics, read selections from Galileo and Einstein. Instead of an American Government textbook, read James Madison and Thomas Jefferson. Obtain the intellectual flexibility to be a lifelong learner, an attribute highly valued in the workforce in today’s rapidly changing economy. Primary Texts students also go on to graduate school, law school, divinity school and other programs where analytical and communications skills are highly valued.”

Whitney Young College Honors Program

Kentucky State University

The Whitney Young College Honors Program says, “The Honors Program develops intellectual skills that will help students deal with fundamental questions of human existence and make them better able to guide their own lives. The Honors Program also encourages the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake, since that provides one of life’s purest pleasures. Students discuss the Great Books in Western and Eastern civilization, and learn to reason well and communicate effectively, to understand rather than accept assertions blindly, to listen carefully and respond appropriately to others, to use evidence, and to discuss controversial subjects courteously and with insight.”

Great Books Program

Mercer University

The Great Books Program at Mercer University says, “Mercer faculty members who teach in the Great Books Program believe that students must sufficiently engage and confront the Western tradition before they can begin imaginatively to grasp other cultural traditions or before they can critically appropriate contemporary culture and its formative texts. The Great Books Program consists of eight courses and serves as one of two general education “tracks” in the College of Liberal Arts.”

George M. Luckey, Jr. Academic Honors Program

Morehead State University

The George M. Luckey, Jr. Academic Honors Program says, “The George M. Luckey, Jr. Academic Honors Program is an enriched, challenging scholastic program. Its mission is to provide exceptional students with opportunities to accelerate and broaden their personal development so that they will be prepared to achieve success and make valuable contributions as citizens in the world of the twenty-first century. Students in the program will take specially-designed options for some of their general education requirements, will participate in service, undergraduate research, and international experiences and will have the opportunity to reflect on their experiences in the program in a substantial exit essay.”

Frederick M. Supper Honors Program

Palm Beach Atlantic University

The Frederick M. Supper Honors Program exists to passionately cultivate the Faith, Character, and Intellect necessary to lead a life well lived. What do we mean by a life well lived? While the modern world suggests that the good life is a life of luxury, power, convenience, and status the Christian Liberal Arts tradition has long held that it is something greater. It is a life that reveres faith, character, and intellect and recognizes them as primary in the pursuit of happiness.

Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE)

UNC at Chapel Hill

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE) minor program invites students to consider the relationships between social, political, and economic institutions, alongside questions of rights, liberties, and justice. Students engage with these questions in an academic community centered on rigorous interdisciplinary study, and rooted in the work of John Locke, David Hume, Adam Smith, among others.

The Honors College

Houston Christian University

Houston Christian University’s Honors College helps students to grow in their intellectual and moral lives through rigorous engagement with the great works of Western civilization. Students participate in small discussion-based classes and explore disciplines as diverse as theology, psychology, drama, philosophy, and economics. The Honors College also offers students co-curricular activities such as symposia, roundtables, and opportunities for undergraduate research.


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