Students in the Honors Program must:
- take at least FOUR honors seminars to complete the program. (Students can choose to take more than four seminars.)
- All seminars fulfill general education courses within specific categories.
- To complete the general education program, courses in all categories must be met.
Fall 2017 Honors Seminars
Video Games: Their Evolution and Impact (HONR 224: Arts)
Dr. Bond Benton (Communications)
The growth of videogames as an entertainment medium has been substantial, with Americans spending nearly $12 billion annually on gaming platforms and software. The industry is more profitable than many other media including television, newspapers, and motion pictures. Beyond economics, videogames are having a meaningful cultural impact in terms of how we think and communicate. From impacting how mediated messages are constructed to driving electronic and information system development to profoundly interacting with cultural issues of gender, race, and class, the impact of videogames deserves and requires the kind of evaluative study applied to other areas of communication.
In this class, we explore all of these dynamics, studying the history of videogames and the impact games have had culturally. Modes of instruction will include historical readings, literature on the impacts of videogames, and online discussion. As games represent a personal textual experience, students will be required to play video games from different historical eras and keep an online journal detailing their playing experiences. Links to websites hosting these historically significant games will provided in class (i.e. Zork, Pong, Pac-Man, Pitfall, the Mario games, etc.). Students will also be expected to submit a paper at the end of the course exploring some aspect of the history and cultural impact of videogames.
Hamilton's America (HONR 225: Humanities)
Dr. Mary Beth Sievens (History)
Using Lin Manuel Miranda's award-winning musical, Hamilton, as a framework, students will explore the life and times of Alexander Hamilton. Students will also investigate the processes of historical inquiry that brought the musical to life. Indeed, in creating Hamilton, Lin Manuel Miranda examined, analyzed, and adapted Hamilton's own writing about democracy, freedom, trade, and individual rights to tell a story for 21st century audiences. Throughout this class, students will also have the opportunity to consider how the humanities provide a framework for understanding our complex world in very tangible and meaningful ways.
Science of Decision Making: An Interdiscplinary Perspective (HONR 226: Social Science)
Dr. Joseph McFall (Psychology)
A popular notion is that we should be judged by our actions, not our words. Yet, choosing a particular behavior means that we must constrain the infinite possibilities for each moment of our lives to a particular chosen point along life’s path. Some people seem to handle these forks in the road seemingly effortlessly, freely flowing through life and its most important dilemmas. Some people making risky decisions with grave consequences. And some of us struggle to choose a course of action even for the most insignificant of daily life’s minutia, such as what to have for breakfast or which clothes to wear that day. How do we do we really make decisions, why do we differ from one another in how we do it, and is there a best method?
Scholars have been trying to answer these questions for millennia. In this course, we will explore the many attempts to answer these questions from within several disciplinary perspectives, such as philosophy, economics, behavioral economics, political science, sociology, psychology, and behavioral neuroscience. Each field’s understanding of decision making is constrained to the methods of that field and the types of theories that it’s scholars accept. We will also contrast key theories of decision making, including those established by Nobel Laureates Herbert Simon and Daniel Kahneman. Finally, we will have an applied focus of how these theories of decision making can help you to succeed in everyday life, or at least feel better about the choices you make.
The Beauty of Math (HONR 227: Natural Science)
Dr. Bob Rogers (Mathematical Sciences)
This is an appreciation of mathematics course which will explore various ideas of mathematics without trying to impart technical proficiency. As such, the emphasis will be on mathematical ideas and the construction of arguments to substantiate intuition. Many of the mathematical ideas will directly relate to real world applications in science, technology, and engineering (the STE in STEM). Some will also relate to art (perspective in drawing, origami, sound synthesis). The emphasis will be on the precise communication of mathematical ideas. The course will also present some of the evolution of mathematical ideas to illustrate that mathematics is a human endeavor.
Objectives: This course will meet the goals of the Natural Sciences Section of the CCC in the following ways:
- Students will employ mathematical analysis to study both mathematical concepts and natural phenomena. This analysis will explore the mathematics behind applications. The topics could include mathematical applications to medicine, chemistry, internet security, telescope design, global positioning systems, ecological systems, error detection codes, sound synthesis, and other physical phenomena.
- Mathematical modeling of phenomena will be core to the course. Discussions of modeling will also address the limitations of a model.
- Students will justify their ideas using precise arguments.
Voices of the Voiceless: Literary Animal Advocacy in the US (HONR 228, sec 1: American History)
Dr. Emily VanDette (English)
Like so many reform movements to take shape in the tumultuous nineteenth century, the animal welfare campaign relied heavily on literary writing to promote an ethic of kindness towards animals. From famous anti-slavery author Harriet Beecher Stowe to satirist Mark Twain and naturalist Jack London, the literary voices of the early era of animal advocacy in the U.S. were diverse. This course introduces students to the formative era of the animal protection movement through literature. The historical period of the course spans from around 1866, the year the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was founded, to 1918, when the Massachusetts SPCA launched the “Jack London Club,” in recognition of that author’s legacy animal advocacy legacy. The literature included in the course will range from polemical essays and speeches to poetry, short stories, and novels, addressing a range of animal protection issues, from the treatment of pets and farm animals, to the use of animals for fashion, scientific testing, and entertainment. The course will include short analytical essays, a research-based class presentation, and a final research-based essay.
Women in Leadership and Public Service (HONR 228, sec 2: American History)
Dr. Angela McGowan (Communications)
This course will examine women’s political leadership and public service in the United States. In particular, we will discuss how women use communication to achieve key leadership positions, the barriers that women face as they fight to achieve these positions, and how women influence policy debates.
First, issues pertaining to women and leadership are embedded in America’s past; therefore, we will begin by placing the subject of women and leadership in a historical context. To accomplish this objective, the class will study women’s roles within historical social movements, including the suffrage and abolitionist movements.
Second, students will identify gender differences in communication styles and specific barriers women face in attaining and retaining leadership positions. Students will accomplish this task by analyzing the role of women within mid-twentieth century America, including the Women’s Liberation Movement and the Equal Rights Amendment.
Finally, women have made great strides in the last 25 years; consequently, we will conclude the course by investigating topics pertaining to the study of women and politics, such as issues related to women’s participation on the Supreme Court, how women have influenced policy debates by obtaining key political positions, such as being governors and legislators, and how their work has changed perceptions of women in political leadership positions.
The Middle Ages in Popular Culture (HONR 229: Western Civilization)
Dr. John Arnold (History)
The Middle Ages currently inspires a variety of expressions within contemporary popular culture. Lately, the “medieval” seems everywhere, whether it be movies (The Knight’s Tale or Kingdom of Heaven), television series (Vikings or The Last Empire) , children’s literature and adult fantasy (the Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings franchises), re-enactment societies (Society for Creative Anachronism), or even video games (Wars of the Roses and Chivalry: Medieval Warfare in 2016). Our current fascination with the “medieval” mirrors past cultural movements that focused on “medievalism”, or the use of themes, images, and concepts associated with the Middle Ages that were reimagined and repurposed to address then current societal concerns and needs. Since the sixteenth century, Western civilizations have constantly used the “Middle” or “Dark” Ages as an “Other” against which to create and define themselves. This Western Civilization course explores this process within contemporary popular culture. This approach shows us how Euro-American (and to a large extent, global) culture now draws upon the medieval past as a means to shape and discover itself through a dialogue with this distant period of Europe’s past. Concurrently, pop culture themes and practices will serve as windows to comprehend historical realities of medieval life, lives, and events.
The Flying Dutchman: The Dutch East India Company, 1602-1799 (HONR 230: World Cultures)
Dr. Markus Vink
This course deals with the topic of cross-cultural contacts or encounters between representatives of the Dutch East India Company (or VOC after its Dutch initials), one of the great northern European chartered companies, and indigenous cultures and societies across the Indian Ocean world, the ‘cradle of globalization’, in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
Historians have identified the Dutch Republic as the ‘first modern state’, the ‘first modern economy’, a ‘lead country’, and the ‘first true world entrepôt’, while the Dutch East India Company, one of the great northern European chartered companies of the age of mercantilism, has, deservedly or not, received the designation of being the ‘world’s largest trade organization of the 17th and 18th centuries’, the ‘world’s first multinational’ or ‘first modern corporation’, ‘Europe’s first effective joint-stock company’, and the ‘Dutch Republic’s most original commercial institution’. Founded in 1602, the Dutch East India Company was a typical early modern transitional institution, straddling the divide between the collective and the individual, the affective and the impersonal, the traditional and the innovative; in brief, an institution that bridged the medieval and modern worlds, combining profit and power, and a perfect example of the spirit of the age of mercantilism.