Seminars are small, highly-interactive, and research-oriented. Each semester the Honors Program offers a new group of seminars in which timely special topics cover a wide range of disciplines. When you see one that interests you—take it! It may not come around again.
Seminars are based on collaboration and intellectual community. Students in the Honors Program should aim to take at least one seminar their first year to build their own community of learners.
Examples of Honors Seminars
Environment, Technology, and Society
CLAS 540A - Environment, Technology and Ancient Society: Sustaining Ancient Rome Ecology and Empire
DS 444 - Meaning of Entrepreneurship
ESCI 444A - Philosophy of Earth Science
GEOG 405 - There is No Planet B
PHIL 424 - The Future of Humanity: Science, Technology, and Society
PHIL 435 - Human Nature and Evolution
SOC 444A - Society in the Arctic
Fine & Performing Arts
AMST 444 - Picturing America: The Arts & Social Change
ARTH 444 - Mona Lisa to Much Ado About Nothing: An Introduction to Renaissance Culture
HIST 444H - From Beijing to Baghdad: Objects Along the Silk Road
MUSI 444 - Music and Social Change
THDA 440A - Theater and Social Justice
THDA 444A - Famous Dancers of the 20th Century
CLAS 444D - Athens, Rome, and the Birth of the United States
HIST 437 - The Mad Among Us: A Global History of Mental Disorder
HIST 440A - Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Struggle for Racial Justice
HIST 440G - Revolutions in Science
HIST 444J - Global Citizenship: In Pursuit of Liberty
HIST 532 - Modern Latin America
POLT 403 - United States in World Affairs
WS 444A - Race Matters
ENGL 440A - On Race and Culture in Society
ENGL 440B - Seeing is Believing: How the Copernican Revolution Changed the Way We See Ourselves
HUMA 440A - Hooked: Narratives of Addiction, Recovery, and Redemption
HUMA 444E - What is a Criminal?
HUMA 526 - Humanities and Science
HUMA 527 - Humanities and Religion
LLC 444H - US Latinx Cities: Urban Culture, Society and Space
PHIL 401 - Introduction to Philosophy
ADMN 444 - BUSINESS FOR PEOPLE, PLANET, AND PROFITS
Many experts and practitioners have realized that the traditional approaches of government and the non-profit sector are necessary but not sufficient to solve the myriad of social and environmental challenges facing the world. Rather than seeing big business as part of the problem, many are considering how the immense power of the private sector can contribute to addressing social and environmental issues. This course will allow students to explore the growing phenomenon of socially and environmentally conscious capitalism, a more considered type of capitalism with the potential to be a platform for social and environmental change.
AMST 444 - PICTURING AMERICA: THE ARTS & SOCIAL CHANGE
How has the camera shaped the way we see ourselves, and the world around us? How are photographers and writers--sometimes self-consciously and sometimes unwittingly affected by the definitions of what it means to be an American? What does something American look like? In this class, we'll try to answer that question in all its complexity by looking at both photographic and written documents, from the late nineteenth century, when photography was a relatively new technology, to the present. How can we "read" a photograph? What kinds of ethical and aesthetic concerns are involved in recording "reality?" What is the relationship between art and social concerns? How do photographs tell stories, and with what consequences?
ANTH 411 - GLOBAL PERSPECTIVES ON THE HUMAN CONDITION: AN INTRODUCTION TO ANTHROPOLOGY
By providing a global perspective on the human experience, this course helps us think about the issues that confront students as citizens of the world. Gleaning lessons from cultures past and present this course examines what it means to be human. Whether humans are violent or peace-loving, egalitarian or hierarchical is linked to specific ways of life, rather than reflecting a fixed human nature. The course examines the economic, political, and social forces that shape human behavior and the global forces that people around the world currently confront. From an anthropological perspective it addresses pressing social issues such as sustainable development, hunger and poverty, population growth, religion and changing world views, racism, urbanization, co modification, and movements for social co modification, and movements for social justice.
ARTH 444 - MONA LISA TO MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING: AN INTRODUCTION TO RENAISSANCE CULTURE
What did Michelangelo and Shakespeare have in common? This course will read primary sources about the period called the Renaissance, which looked back to Greek and Roman paganism but which also launched Europe toward modernity due to its new emphasis on individual ambition and civic pride.
BIOL 444B - CURRENT CONTROVERSIAL ISSUES IN BIOLOGY
An inquiry into current controversial issues in biology and their scientific and technical bases, but with an emphasis on exploring the various perspectives or beliefs related to each topic and their social and environmental implications.
CLAS 444D - ATHENS, ROME, AND THE BIRTH OF THE UNITED STATES
What did Washington, Jefferson, Adams (John and Abigail), Madison and Paine have in common? They were all instrumental in shaping the US political system, but they were also educated in the classics. When building the framework of our democratic republic, they continually looked to Athens and Rome as models, inspirations and warnings. The course examines ancient political systems and how they helped fashion our founder's notion of the ideal government and continue to do so.
CLAS 540A - ENVIRONMENT, TECHNOLOGY AND ANCIENT SOCIETY: SUSTAINING ANCIENT ROME ECOLOGY AND EMPIRE
This course examines the interplay between the ancient Roman environment, Roman technological innovations, and the values of Roman imperial society. Examining Roman innovations in water supply, building technology, mining, and more, this course explores the ethical questions that arise through the use of ancient Roman technology, evaluates the effects of these technologies on the environment and Roman society, and determines whether Roman values encouraged or discouraged a responsible approach to technology and the environment.
CMN 440A - COMMUNICATION, IDENTITY AND ADDICTION
Exploration of how diverse ways of talking about addiction contribute to our understanding – and ultimate approach toward – addictive behaviors. Focus will be on a relational approach to understanding the complex lives of human in their social contexts; it is an approach that challenges the dominant individualistic and scientific models of a person. Examination of the ways in which the moral, disease, and psychosocial models of addiction invite us to ignore larger social, cultural, and global issues that contribute to addiction.
DS 444 - MEANING OF ENTREPRENEURSHIP
This course explores the idea and ideals of entrepreneurship, the creating of value through individual initiative, creativity and innovation. The idea of entrepreneurship is of significant relevance in the highly dynamic and competitive 21st century global economy. It is an idea that is important for students to understand and to critically consider and apply. Encourages the development of multiple views of entrepreneurship, and uses a broad, not just business, approach to the study as it engages students in the subject matter. Open to all majors. (Also offered as MGT 444.) Writing intensive.
ENGL 440B - SEEING IS BELIEVING: HOW THE COPERINCAN REVOUTION CHANGED THE WAY WE SEE OURSELVES
This course explores the various ways that scientists, philosophers, poets, novelists, and literary theorists have tried to reconcile what we see (or think we see) with what we know (or think we know), from the ancient past to the 21st century. Our special focus will be on how the Copernican Revolution prompted a wholesale reevaluation of perception and knowledge. We will explore how writers, artists musicians, and philosophers embraced or lamented the enormous cultural and psychological changes that the Copernican evolution helped to introduce. We also will investigate how these changes continue to shape our worldview in the 21st-century.
ESCI 444A - PHILOSOPHY OF EARTH SCIENCE
Course provides an introduction to the discipline of Philosophy of Science, but from an Earth Science perspective. Considers various philosophical perspectives on the nature of science and scientific progress, drawing from works by thinkers such as Aristotle, Popper, Kuhn and Lakatos. Particular attention is given to the following questions: What is scientific knowledge? Is the acquisition of scientific knowledge a rational process? And, what makes some scientific discoveries "revolutionary"? These questions are considered using examples from the history of scientific progress in the Earth Sciences, focusing on groundbreaking discoveries such as the age of the earth, the evolution of organisms as observed in the fossil record, sea-floor spreading, and modern-day global warming.
GEOG 405 - THERE IS NO PLANET B
Introduces human-environment relations as a central focus of geography, spanning social and environmental sciences. Considers mapping, natural resource use, commons and markets, hazards, political ecology, and land use change. Case studies link core concepts with examples from local to international scales.
HIST 437 - THE MAD AMONG US: A GLOBAL HISTORY OF MENTAL DISORDER
Mental disorder is a universal and persistent condition in human history. Every society has struggled to make sense of it; every society has struggled to address it. But, what is mental disorder? Is it a disease? If so, of what? The body? The brain? The soul? Is it a chemical imbalance? Genetic destiny? Is it the wage of sin? The mark of the devil? The curse of a god? Or is it a social label or cultural construct - a name slapped on thought, feeling, or behavior that defies a society's definition of "normal?" This course seeks to answer these questions by exploring the great range of beliefs human societies, ancient to modern and from across the globe, have developed to identify and define mental disorder as well as the methods they have employed to treat or contain it.
HIST 440A - MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR., AND THE STRUGGLE FOR RACIAL JUSTICE
This course examines Martin Luther King's life, philosophy, and career on the front lines of the civil rights movement. In our study of King as well as the larger black freedom struggle, we seek an understanding of how certain questions related to racial justice played out in American history. We focus on issues of civil disobedience, just and unjust laws, love and hate, violence and non-violence. Students will read many of King's famous writings such as the Letter from Birmingham Jail, as well as his lesser-known speeches - among them king's 1967 address denouncing the Vietnam War. More generally, this seminar introduces students to the rudiments of historical thinking and asks broader questions about the role of individuals in history and how social change happens. Course meets the History major requirement for Group I.
HIST 440E - DRUGS AND ADDICTION IN WORLD HISTORY
As drug addiction rates in the US are reaching epidemic proportions, new solutions and perspectives are becoming increasingly important. This course teaches students how a variety of cultures, including the Aztecs, Maya, Vedic India, China, and Greco-Roman antiquity, confronted the problems of drug use and addiction in their own societies. By examining these phenomena through the lens of other culture's values, students will gain a valuable perspective by which to address these problems today.
HIST 440G - REVOLUTIONS IN SCIENCE
In this course, we study several examples of scientific revolutions, and consider whether a general model applies to them all. How have ideas about the universe and human beings' place in it changed dramatically at certain points in history? Do scientific revolutions have a common structure? Do they have any connection to political or social revolutions? Are we living through a scientific or technological revolution? These are among the questions we will examine.
HIST 444H - FROM BEIJING TO BAGHDAD: OBJECTS ALONG THE SILK ROAD
The Silk Road, often characterized as the world's first great superhighway, played a vital role in spreading forms of art and in developing new technologies for their production. The peoples along the Silk Road traded luxury goods such as silk and jade as well as culinary and musical traditions. Through lectures, readings, films, and podcasts we will explore the trade links between East and West and the material objects traded along the way.
HIST 444J - GLOBAL CITIZENSHIP: IN PURSUIT OF LIBERTY
What does it mean to be a global citizen? Are we? What are human rights? Are they universal? This honors discovery course will explore with the men and women who traveled and thought beyond the borders of their locality and their moment of time and who imagined themselves citizens of the world. We will start with early revolutions that traversed oceans and national borders. We'll read utopias that saw their world differently. In the end, we will investigate major global challenges of our own world. We will move backwards, but also forwards in history. We will read novels, and perform plays. We will listen to Beethoven and Berlioz, in class and discuss larger questions of our international community, from sustainability to diversity, as they echo through different disciplines. Course meets History major requirement for Group I or II.
HIST 532 - MODERN LATIN AMERICA
Provides a broad overview of Latin America from the 18th century to the present. It examines the breakdown of colonial rules, the establishment of independent countries, the formation of viable nation states, the importance of geography, the roles of the different elements of society. Social, political, and economic changes and continuities emphasized to give a sense of the ambiguities of the historical process. Cultural differences illustrated with slides and music. The effects of elite rule and of United States interventions studied. Writing intensive. Course meets the History major requirements for Group III.
HUMA 440A - HOOKED: NARRATIVE OF ADDICTION, RECOVERY, AND REDEMPTION
This course explores literature about addiction through both literary an psychological lenses. It focuses on the redemption narrative that structures the understanding of addiction for writers and readers alike. Readings include stories of religious redemption, short fiction, memoirs, self-help texts, and narrative and psychological theory. This course is part of the Honors Symposium "Engaging Addiction". The courses in the Symposium join several times during the semester for common meetings where perspectives can be compared and explored.
HUMA 444E - WHAT IS A CRIMINAL?
Criminals are people who break the law -- In theory. How do people become criminals (with regard to biological, cultural, and economic influences)? What happens to them in the criminal justice system, and how does the system shape the definition of "criminal"? We will also discuss "criminals of conscience" from Thoreau and Gandhi to Edward Snowden. The course will emphasize reading but will also engage with other media, including films, podcasts, and visual art.
HUMA 526 - HUMANITIES AND SCIENCE
In this interdisciplinary course, students examine the ways in which scientific and technological understanding affects the development of cultural expression. Scientific, technological and environmental factors are sometimes discussed as if they are separate from human beings, but in this course we will consider the myriad direct, complex, and surprising ways that they drive cultural shifts and are then understood in evolving ways by cultures. Topics vary with instructor. May be repeated once if topics is different.
HUMA 527 - HUMANITIES AND RELIGION
This course examines the role of religion, religious ideas and religious practice in world cultures using a combination of methodologies drawn from different humanities disciplines, with a particular emphasis on comparative approaches and investigating how religion is used to create and express cultural identity around the globe.
LLC 444H - US LATINX CITIES: URBAN CULTURE, SOCIETY AND SPACE
This course will explore urbanism of four US Latinx Cities: Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami, and New York. We will examine how Hispanics have historically shaped and changed the landscape of each of these cities in the United States through various forms of cultural production such as literature, music, film and television as well as discuss the social issues that these cities and communities face such as social inequality, gentrification, race relations, sexuality/gender, and transportation.
MUSI 444 - MUSIC AND SOCIAL CHANGE
The connections between music and social change with a twofold goal: 1) to heighten critical listening skills so as to become more aware of ways in which music can express social attitudes; and 2) to introduce the social, cultural, and political issues surrounding the music being studied. Course work consists of listening to selected repertoires, reading scholarly and popular essays about those repertories, and extensive in-class (and on-line) discussion about issues raised by the listening and reading. This course does not fulfill a music major program requirement nor does it satisfy the Fine and Performing Arts Discovery requirement for any music major program. Writing intensive.
PHIL 401 - INTRODUCTION TO PHILOSOPHY
This course gives a basic grounding in Philosophy. We explore enduring questions that we have all grappled with: Does God exist? Do we have free will? How can we lead fulfilling lives? No background in philosophy is needed, only an open and inquiring mind.
PHIL 424 - THE FUTURE OF HUMANITY: SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, AND SOCIETY
Consideration of the impacts of science and technology on humanity from a philosophical perspective. Topics often include genetic engineering, automated labor, advanced weaponry, artificial intelligence, social media and data extraction, space exploration, alien contact, virtual realities, transhumanism, and the future of humanity as an interplanetary species.
PHIL 435 - HUMAN NATURE AND EVOLUTION
Philosophy of biology and the evolutionary process. Readings of scientists and philosophers' commentary on scientists. Examination of the differences between scientific debate and philosophic debate. Philosophical study of scientific theory stressing humans' place in the natural world and the ethical implication of humans as natural beings in the evolutionary process.
PHIL 436 - SOCIAL AND POLTICAL PHILOSOPHY
Examines social and political thought that may include texts from ancient through contemporary times, addressing topics such as natural rights, revolution, law, freedom, justice, power. Questions may include: What is a community, and how are individuals related to communities? Can any particular form of government be morally justified, and if so, what kind of government? Can anarchism work? Is there something wrong with a society in which there is private ownership of property? What is oppressive? What is freedom, and are we free? What roles should different forms of power play in a society? Could and should there be a genderless society? Is ethnic diversity valuable? Writing intensive.
PHIL 440C - THE COPERNICAN LENS: FINDING A PLACE FOR HUMANITY
How do humans fit into the cosmos? Once, we thought we were central players; most human societies believed they played a starring role, second only to the gods. Developments in the sciences have led modern humanity to a far more modest view: our existence is full of contingency and without cosmic significance. Humanity's self-conception is now recognized to be deeply culturally conditioned: is an objective view of humanity's place even possible?
PHYS 440A - SEARCH FOR OUR PLACE IN THE UNIVERSE: FOUNDATION AND LIMITS OF CERTAINTY IN PHYSICAL SCIENCE
We explore models of the universe and our place in it. We discuss the foundation of ideas about motion on Earth and in space, as well as the history of modern physics and astronomy, which have changed how we understand space and time. We consider the sources and limitations of human knowledge concerning the origin of the universe, the mystery of the origin of life and evidence that our description of reality is incomplete.
POLT 403 - UNITED STATES IN WORLD AFFAIRS
Introduces students to key concepts, actors, and events in U.S. foreign policy. After examining the early foundations of American foreign policy, this course concentrates on the United States' international engagement from the Cold War to the present. Students develop the analytical skills they need to form their own opinions on contemporary issues in U.S. foreign policy, and defend these opinions articulately based on a solid knowledge of historic and current events.
SOC 444A - SOCIETY IN THE ARCTIC
Introduction to societies of the far North today, from Alaska and Canada through Greenland, Iceland, northern Scandinavia and Russia. Reviews interconnected issues of social change, environment, sustainable development, local control, and modernization vs. traditions. Arctic dilemmas highlight some basic questions facing all societies in the 21st century. Writing intensive.
THDA 440A - Theater and Social Justice
This course that will examine to what degree dramatic literature and theatre art has effected socio-political change in the past, and in the present, through an in-depth exploration of texts, artistic methods and theatrical techniques. Students will create theatrical art related to various sociopolitical issues. Absolutely no experience in theatre is necessary, as this course is built around the premise that we all have the ability to create art and affect politics and society.
THDA 444A - Famous Dancers of the 20th Century
The purpose of this course is to provide an introduction to the dancers of the twentieth century whose contributions to the art form have made dance an important cultural necessity. This includes examining how their style of dance and unique personalities has had a major influence on our perceptions of dance and how they have had an effect on society. Writing intensive.
WS 444A - RACE MATTERS
Class examines race categories in the United States and how these historically changing categories shape our diverse realities across racial, ethnic, gendered, classed, and national identities. Students examine race as a category of difference and explore the multiple ways that individuals claim racial identities. Specific attention focuses on how diverse women have made history in their own lives and in the lives of others by resisting the interlocking systems of oppression.
ZOOL 406 - Evolution of Human Behavior
Have you ever wondered why women and men often have different criteria when looking for sexual partners? Why do we feel compelled to help people in some situations, but not others? This course explores the evolutionary effects on our most basic impulses, abilities, and failings, and illuminates the social and ecological pressures that made us who we are. Fair warning: this course may forever change how you think about your friends, your dates, and yourself!