United States Air Force Academy

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Integrated Community, Disciplinary Expertise, Innovative Research

Martinson Honors Program

Image of a cadet studying on a computer.


Mission: To develop a cadre of superior Air and Space Force officers and academic leaders who are prepared for challenging command positions and continued academic work.

The Martinson Honors Program (MHP) at the United States Air Force Academy helps academically talented cadets to reach their full potential by offering a unique and challenging path through the curriculum, thereby providing the Air Force and our Nation with a pool of intellectually talented and well-rounded leaders. The curriculum consists primarily of special Core course sections that deepen and broaden Scholars’ intellectual development. This intellectual excellence program complements existing leadership and excellence opportunities at the Academy in military training and athletics. Academically eligible cadets are invited to apply to complete MHP requirements, in a sequence of courses over four academic years. Participating cadets must complete 10 courses, most of them MHP sections of Core courses. Courses beyond the current Core curriculum include among others an independent study course to produce a senior thesis in the cadet’s chosen major or the capstone course in that major, and a senior seminar in statesmanship as an MHP capstone. Interested and eligible cadets will apply for entry in the program based on their performance in their first semester and enter upon program acceptance. Cadets can also apply for entry during their third-class year.


In completing the Martinson Honors Program, Cadets will enroll in the scholar’s section of many courses that contribute to the Core. Like all other Core courses, these scholar’s courses are directly aligned with one or more of the nine institutional learning outcomes. In addition, the mission of the MHP (to produce superior officers and academic leaders) requires the development of additional learning outcomes unique to the scholars program. Officers who graduate having completed the Martinson Honors Program will possess unique skills in the following areas:

  1. Intellectual curiosity for lifelong learning: Demonstrate the intellectual skills and attitudes necessary to pursue formal and informal learning across a range of disciplines and contexts.
  2. Advanced moral and character development: Demonstrate the attitudes and moral reasoning skills associated with an exceptional leader of character.
  3. Conceptual thinking: Synthesize and integrate information from multiple disciplines and contexts to develop theoretical and abstract conceptualizations of complex situations.
  4. Strategic thinking: Apply systems-level, global analyses of future contexts to make proactive decisions in the service of specific organizational goals.
  5. Advanced communication skills: Demonstrate high level communication skills appropriate to graduate level academic work.

In association with the Core, the MHP curriculum provides a strong, liberal arts background for cadet scholars. As a complement to existing Academy strengths, the MHP curriculum emphasizes deeper cognitive engagement across disciplines, and the development of strong verbal and written expression capabilities. In addition, the MHP supports the development of statesmanship and leadership, investigating enduring questions about ambition, command, and the aims of human life in order to provide cadet scholars with the opportunity to develop strong moral and intellectual principles and skills to enhance their leadership potential.

The Academic Scholars Program is built on three foundational concepts that serve to enhance learning and intellectual development.

  1. Intellectual Community. The ASP creates a learning community—a group of learners (cadets and instructors) dedicated to sharing a coherent academic experience. Students begin the program together, study in the same ASP courses, and participate in the same academic extracurricular activities. Having students share such experiences for a portion of their Academy coursework reinforces learning in and out of the classroom, helping cadet scholars to challenge each other to higher levels of intellectual development.
  2. Primary and Influential Sources. There are many perspectives about which works of science, architecture, mathematics, sculpture, performing arts, philosophy, literature, and history among other domains have a claim on greatness; there is no one canon. Each ASP course addresses its disciplinary tradition through original works, broadly conceived.
  3. Interdisciplinary Perspectives. Scholars faculty bring multiple perspectives to the ASP. Many coordinate and design courses that include interdisciplinary perspectives and connections with other ASP courses.


The MHP includes extracurricular intellectual opportunities that expose participating cadets to academic perspectives outside a military context, encourage dialogue with those not normally involved with the profession of arms, and foster interaction with students in similar programs at other institutions. Representative opportunities include participation with the Aspen Institute, St John’s College, the National Collegiate Honors Council, the Western Regional Honors Council, the Rocky Mountain Honors Council, the U.S. Scholars Program Administrators Association, the Mellon Foundation, the State Department Critical Language Scholarship Program, the United States Air Force Academy Diversity Fellowship Program, the National Character and Leadership Symposium, the Dean’s Summer Research Program, the Cadet Summer Research Program (CSRP), the Academy Assembly, the Institute for National Security Studies, language immersion programs, service-learning projects, and program colloquia. Many MHP graduates have gone on to win national and international scholarships, such as the Rhodes, Marshall, Fulbright, and Truman scholarships.

Contact Us

Director: Dr. Diana H. Polley

Humanities: Dr. Douglas Leonard

Social Sciences: Lt. Col. Matthew Van Hook

Basic Sciences: Dr. David Westmoreland

Engineering: Dr. Steven Brandt

The MHP is a truly life-changing experience as it fosters an inclusive and enriching academic community among some of the best students and faculty at the Air Force Academy."

2d Lt Jeremy Jacobellis, ASP Graduate, Holaday Scholar, Stamps Scholar

MHP has allowed me to pursue all of my passions, from mathematics to the humanities, and to explore the fascinating ways these seemingly divergent disciplines interact together in our world."

C1C Maddy Tung, ASP Member, Truman Scholar, Stamps Scholar