Addressing Real-World Professional Challenges through HNRS 361: Industry Challenges


Internships are a major part of a student’s career development during their undergraduate experience. George Mason University’s prime location grants students access to work opportunities in a range of fields across the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. With 77% of graduates reporting having held an undergraduate internship, Honors College students are highly successful in scoping out and securing opportunities in the region. While many of the remaining students also successfully pursue on-campus projects, some students need to prioritize the jobs that help finance their education over these pre-professional experiences. In response, Honors College faculty sought out a way for students to pursue similar professional development opportunities without having to compromise their financial responsibilities. The solution? HNRS 361: Industry Challenges, a for-credit course built into the Honors College curriculum which brings high impact experiential learning opportunities to all students.  

Industry Challenges is a unique section of the 300-level Multi-Disciplinary Challenges Honors College curriculum requirement restricted to students who have completed at least one year at Mason. As the practicum option (an alternative to the research focused HNRS 360), HNRS 361 is an experiential-learning course inviting students to take a hands-on approach to complex challenges. Industry Challenges, in particular, connects students with businesses that partner with the Honors College to investigate a challenge and present a usable deliverable for the partner. Past partners have included Peraton, Transurban Group, and Virginia Small Business Development Centers; during Spring 2022, students worked with Northrop Grumman Corp. and MITRE. 

HNRS 361

The course groups students from a variety of academic backgrounds into project teams designed to encourage multidisciplinary collaboration. With the support and mentorship of Honors College faculty and industry partner representatives, teams leverage their respective knowledge and experiences to develop methods of tackling a designated industry challenge. 

As the highest-level course of the Honors curriculum, Industry Challenges provides a space for students to exercise key skills and competencies accrued during their Honors College experience. HNRS 361 challenges students to transfer discipline-specific skills to problem-solving outside of their specialty areas. Past students have enjoyed expanding their skillset through the group project and recognized the applicability of their newly acquired knowledge beyond HNRS 361. The course’s environment encourages students to build their capacity for multidisciplinary exchange, a critical skill for postgraduate collaborations.  

One prior team partnered with Northrop Grumman, proposing ways of evaluating the efficacy of IT services used by the corporation to determine what constitutes a successful digital transformation. Student members of the Northrop Grumman team valued working with a corporate partner on an issue outside of their typical academic focuses. “Even though we aren’t STEM majors,” one past student recounted, “it was refreshing to work on a project that will be beneficial for our partner and increase our skillset.” 

If you're looking for Honors courses for next semester, the Spring 2023 Schedule of Classes is now available to view on Patriot Web. Information on Spring 2023 registration dates and times is forthcoming, but you can expect Industry Challenges to be listed as an HNRS 360 option. Be sure to register to boost your career readiness while supporting a local partner!