Skip to main content

Foster Honors

Foster Honors is designed to enrich the experience of Foster’s highest achieving students. The goal of the program is to allow students to deepen and intensify their knowledge of business practice and theory. The honors program offers opportunities for research and class-based projects, honors sections of two business classes, and greater access and contact with researchers and practitioners. This access includes access to seminar-style presentations and networking events, to lunches with faculty members to discuss research and new business practice, and to lunches and dinners with practitioners.

Students in Foster Honors will demonstrate greater initiative and purpose and will be rewarded with additional recognition, skills, and knowledge. Honors students graduate from the Foster School “With Distinction.” Employers and graduate schools will factor into their decisions that such students have a high GPA and voluntarily chose to pursue a more difficult pathway.


All admitted Foster School students meeting the following criteria are eligible to apply to the Foster Honors Program:

  • Completion of at least 60 credits with a cumulative GPA of 3.7 or higher (3.5 for students in the UW College Honors Program)
  • A minimum of 24 graded credits in residence at the UW

Once admitted, students must maintain a cumulative and Business GPA of 3.5 to graduate “With Distinction” from the Foster School of Business. Students are invited to apply yearly in October.


The honors program consists of 14 credits, of which only two are incremental and 12 replace existing work. There are no additional tuitions or fees. The requirements are:

  • BA 390, 2 credits, winter quarter. Introduction to working with other honors students at an advanced level.
  • Two ad hocs or multiple independent research studies (499), totaling eight credits. Replaces or enhances existing credit hours.
  • MGMT 430 Honors, 4 credits, spring quarter. Replaces regular section of MGMT 430.

The program is designed to be completed during junior and senior year, although that timing is not strictly required. Students should take BA 390 during winter quarter of their junior year and MGMT 430H during spring quarter of their senior year. The ad hocs or 499s are best placed during the three quarters between 390 and 430.

Students who complete the Foster Honors Program will graduate from the Foster School “With Distinction” if they complete the honors credit requirement and maintain a cumulative GPA of at least 3.5 in Business and a cumulative GPA of at least 3.5 at the UW. College Honors students who complete the Foster Honors Program will graduate “With College Honors.”

In addition to the requirements stated above, you must schedule an appointment with the Foster Honors adviser at least once each academic year. During the appointment you will review progress toward completion of honors requirements. To schedule an appointment call 206.685.3400.

Ad Hoc and 499 Undergraduate Research Guidelines

The ad hoc process transforms a business elective into an honors designated course by enabling you to work with your instructor on creating a special project or paper in addition to the regular requirements of the course. Underlying ad hoc and 499 undergraduate research credit is the assumption that the Honors student who exercises this option is interested in pursuing the subject to greater depth and more intensity than that of the regular class and is prepared to undertake the extra work and expend the extra energy to do so. Honors credit reflects qualities of scholarly effort beyond the ordinary.

NOTE:The majority of Upper Division Business Core courses cannot be used for ad hoc credit. An exception is occasionally made for students with a serious interest in ethics who may request to ad hoc MGMT 320. Approval is at the discretion of the Foster Honors faculty adviser.

Ad Hoc and 499 Undergraduate Research Information

Click on each heading to learn more.

An ad hoc is a project with a deliverable that grows out of an upper-division elective. Students construct a project with their professor by which they extend and demonstrate their knowledge. The requirements include:

  1. An agreement at the beginning of the quarter between student and professor that
    • outlines the project and how it will be accomplished
    • describes how the work will differ from the standard coursework
    • explains the motivation and goals of the student in pursuing the topic
  2. A deliverable at the end of the quarter that fulfills the goals in the agreement.

An ad hoc project is roughly equal to the effort involved in a 30-page research paper. The deliverable can be a paper, a presentation, etc. as long as it demonstrates that a student has achieved the goals of the project. Any 400-level course can be selected, in principle, for an ad hoc provided the student and instructor agree on a project.
An ad hoc project will contain, as part of the initial agreement:

  • A series of meetings between the student and professor.
  • A set of well thought out criteria for success. The goal is to demonstrate an extension of knowledge. This applies just as much to projects that are theoretical in nature as those that are practical in nature.

Successful completion of an ad hoc is indicated by an “H” on a transcript next to the course grade the student receives.

The project guidelines for an ad hoc and an honors 499 are the same. The key difference is in credits awarded and independence.

An honors 499 undergraduate research project is independent of other coursework. The possibilities include assisting a faculty member with his or her research or working under faculty supervision on something if interest to the student. The work receives from 1-6 credits depending on the amount of work required for successful completion of the 499 and an “H” on the transcript. The credit will not count toward option electives.

There are two important differences between an ad hoc and an honors 499: credits and independence. An ad hoc does not generate additional credits, and it adds to an upper-division elective without replacing existing course material. In contrast, a 499 is a 1-6 credit course that stands independent of other course material. Students should consider both of these factors when choosing how to pursue and honors designation.
The UW Honors Ad Hoc website contains a schedule and a great deal of other useful information. For University purposes, “Foster Honors” is “Department Honors” as opposed to “Interdisciplinary Honors.”

  1. Contact the instructor before the start of the quarter to discuss the concept of ad hoc honors along with your ideas for a project. It is important to have at least one idea you would like to pursue. If you are unsure, ask the instructor for a copy of the syllabus beforehand and read his or her bio.
  2. Complete and submit the proposal online through the UW Honors Ad Hoc website. This should be done as soon as possible, and must be done before 5 p.m. on the first Friday of the quarter (with some variation in fall quarter; check the website to confirm the deadline). Use the Foster Honors adviser’s name and email in the honors proposal submission, even if you regularly work with another adviser. The same website is used for submitting research proposals.
  3. You will receive an email from the UW Honors Program after your adviser has reviewed your application and then again after your instructor has reviewed the application. It is your responsibility to ensure your adviser and instructor submit their approval via the online system no later than the second Friday of the quarter. If your adviser or instructor does not approve your submission, you will receive an email to revise the original application.
  4. Once approved, complete your ad hoc project as described.
  5. At the end of the quarter, your instructor will receive an email asking him or her to submit final confirmation of completion of your project. You will receive a final confirmation email once your instructor has submitted the approval. It is your responsibility to ensure your instructor provides this final confirmation via the online system. Without this confirmation, Honors credit will not be awarded.
  6. At the end of the quarter, you must email a copy of your final project to the Foster Honors adviser.

You will notice that there are several places in the process where it is your responsibility to make sure your instructor or adviser does something by a deadline. These are University rules (not Foster rules), and the University interprets them rigidly. It is a good idea to follow up with professors to make sure they are aware of what they are supposed to be doing.

It is expected that any ad hoc or undergraduate research project pursued by a Foster Honors student will require greater depth and more intensity than that required within the framework of the regular class. Possible honors options include writing a paper that expands on a topic discussed in class; giving a special presentation to the class; conducting independent research on a topic covered in class; or reading current journal articles about a topic covered in class and providing an annotated bibliography at the end of the quarter. Honors projects should reflect researching, reading, analyzing, and summarizing material not covered in the course.

This section provides some examples of good ad hoc projects. The descriptions are modified from actual, recent project proposals.

FIN 460: “Investment Strategies and Institutional Form: The Low-Volatility Anomaly”
The goal of this project is to assess the risk and return of exploiting a known stock market anomaly (called the low volatility anomaly) and to determine the best asset management vehicle for the strategy. To assess the risk and return of the strategy, the student will replicate the strategy using data from the Harvard case “Martingale Asset Management”, and combine that with factor returns from Ken French’s Data Library to implement factor regressions. The analysis will include robustness and sensitivity analysis to understand the extent to which the trading limitations placed on different investment vehicles (e.g. long/short funds versus long only funds) impact the ability to exploit the anomaly. The analysis will focus on the following points:

  • Describe and replicate the strategy, back-testing it over 60 years of data.
  • How are the risks and returns of the low volatility anomaly related to other known anomalies and risks? What specifically is the source of any alpha?
  • How robust and stable is the alpha in time, with respect to trading limitations, and with respect to portfolio formation?
  • Describe the different possible investment vehicles (e.g. mutual funds, hedge funds, etc.), and explain the fit of the vehicle with the stability of the strategy.

The deliverable is a research paper.

QMETH 450: “Benchmarking with US News at Seattle Children’s”
The goal of this project is to reverse engineer the algorithm the US News and World Report uses to rank hospitals and then to assess the most cost-effective way that Seattle Children’s can improve its ranking. The project will involve extensive consultation with Seattle Children’s Research Institute, the use of publicly available data from and about US News rankings, and other public sources of information about outcomes at other hospitals. The first step is to gather all the available data to make sure that the analysis con be completed as desired. Then:

  • Use all the methods discussed in QMETH 450 to determine which one has the best fit to US News rankings and is consistent with the publicly available partial data. The rankings method should work at the department level in addition to the hospital level.
  • Determine the most cost effective way of increasing rankings. First, tabulate how resource inputs can be used to affect algorithm inputs, and then determine the minimum cost way of increasing department and hospital rankings.

The deliverable is a research paper.

OPMGT 443: “Six Sigma and Healthcare”
The goal of this project is to understand the history and usage of the six sigma process. The project will use the Foster library database and reference materials, including academic journals and case studies on six sigma implementation. The first part of the analysis will examine the history, process and application of six sigma in general. The second part of the analysis will describe how six sigma was implemented at four different hospitals, with an emphasis on the how those hospitals managed team interactions. The deliverable is a research paper.

IBUS 440: “Amazon in Korea”
This project is a case study on Amazon’s expansion into South Korea. The project will use publically available data, including media in the US and South Korea. The case study will take the form of a detailed SWOT analysis, a 3C analysis, and a five forces analysis, building on what the student has learned in class an applying it to a single company/market match. At the end, the report will present detailed recommendations for how Amazon can implement their expansion plans. The deliverable is a research paper.

Q: I am considering doing my first ad hoc next quarter and have no idea where to begin. Where should I go for help?
A: Talk with other Foster Honors students who have experience with ad hocs. They will be at the kickoff events. Visit one or more of your professors during office hours to learn more about their research and the undergraduate classes they are teaching in the next quarter. The Foster Honors adviser can also provide suggestions, so be sure to schedule an appointment at least a month before you register for your next classes.

Q: What happens if I do not complete or fail an ad hoc?
A: Nothing. Your transcript records an “H” if you succeed in your ad hoc project, and you receive a course grade and course credit no matter what happens with the ad hoc. This combination means that there is a record of successes on your transcript but no record of incompletions or failures.

Q: What do I do if an instructor is not willing to work with me on an ad hoc?
A: This usually happens because a faculty member has exhausted the spin-off projects for a given class in that quarter. To prevent being surprised by this, make sure you begin the process early, including talking to professors before finalizing registration.

Q: Can I work together with another student on an ad hoc or honors 499?
A: Yes, if the instructor agrees and if the project demonstrates twice the ambition and learning of individual work.

Q: Can I change my project midway through the quarter?
A: Yes, if the instructor agrees. If the change is major (e.g. the first project wasn’t going to work and now you want to do something completely different), then the Foster Honors faculty director has to approve as well.

Faculty/Student Partnership

No student should take on and no instructor should accept either an ad hoc or honors undergraduate research project unless s/he is able to give the time and effort necessary. Both the student and instructor are committing themselves to extra effort and to the principle that the additional work is a more demanding and more penetrating pursuit of the subject.

Faculty Sponsor

Instructor supervision of ad hoc or undergraduate research honors is restricted to instructors who have previous experience teaching the course (in the case of ad hoc) or expertise in the research area (for 499 undergraduate research). The role of the faculty member is to work with the Foster Honors student throughout the project, assist in developing goals, meet with the student regularly to discuss the project, and assess achievements at the conclusion of the quarter.