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Fall 2018 honr seminars

An Honors Seminar is a small, co-created, multidisciplinary, rigorous, enriched course that leverages a captivating topic to cultivate in talented students the critical reflection proficiency, intellectual and creative courage, and ethical awareness they will require in order to become impactful and responsible leaders in their fields.

HONR 208L– Justice Matters: Law, Literature, and Film
Sara Schotland

Justice Matters is "a law and literature course" in which we discuss questions that matter: when is there a duty to disobey an unjust law? Is it ever justified to take the law into one's own hands to revenge a serious wrong? How does our criminal justice system impact minorities, the poor, and immigrants? How should we punish those guilty of infanticide? Is capital punishment ethical and viable: should we kill the death penalty or reform death penalty statutes? How should we treat the mentally ill when they are convicted and crimes? There is nothing more dramatic than a criminal trial. We will view high-quality film depictions of trial scenes in connection with our readings.

HONR 208M- Utopia and Dystopia: Reality and Relevance
Sara Schotland

This interdisciplinary course explores the concepts of Utopia and Dystopia. For many the term “utopia” conveys an ideal society, never to be realized, or impractical policy proposals. Far from describing a never never land, utopias often represent cultural protest against unjust institutions or policies and propose political or social reforms. A premise of this course is that Utopian Studies is directly relevant to contemporary social problems and important to thinking creatively about solutions. In our discussion of texts and films and in student projects, we will focus on the connection between utopian thought and contemporary challenges such as ethnic and racial conflict, economic inequality, and alternatives to traditional nuclear family relationships. How can utopian thought or utopian experiments help us address these challenges? What warnings are provided by dystopian literature, film, and art? We will read fiction and watch excerpts of films highlighting the perils of genetic engineering, the dangers of political suppression and the consequences of irreversible environmental damage. What makes us human? How do we deal with the job loss and military threats posed by increasingly sophisticated robots?  

HONR 209O- The Science of Sleep and Biological Rhythms
David Yager

Sleep is a powerful and inescapable presence. For individuals, adequate sleep is crucial for remembering, thinking clearly, maintaining health, managing emotions, fostering social relationships, succeeding in college, and simply living a happy and productive life. Societally, sleep and biological rhythms affect everything from international political negotiations to racial disparities in health care to who wins the baseball World Series. Beyond their basic characteristics, we will study intensively the ways in which the brain creates and controls sleep and other biological rhythms. Every week we will discuss scholarly papers that delve into complex personally and socially relevant subjects, e.g. the school start time debate, sleep in other cultures, changes in sleep and rhythms across the lifespan, impacts of sleep deprivation. Finally, there is the mystery and romance of sleep and dreaming, which we will visit, in part, by way of a novel filled with sleepy and confused characters. By the end of the semester, students will understand why and how living in concert with their biological rhythms and sleep patterns is essential for their health and happiness.  

HONR 217- Life, The Multiverse and Everything: Developing an Individual Cosmovision
John B. Carlson

We begin with your deepest questions, captured in the title of an 1897 painting by French post-Impressionist Paul Gauguin, “Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?” In our multidisciplinary seminar, held for more than a generation now and never the same twice, we explore together what it means to be Human, now for the most “connected” generation in history on the eve of “the Technological Singularity.” All peoples, whether from hunter-gatherer bands to state-level societies, develop some view of who and what they are and how they fit into the Universe as they perceive it. Each individual also has his own unique evolving personal world-view or cosmovision created from his or her cultural background and personal experiences. As the world around us changes and we mature, our individual “cosmovisions” develop into creative works in progress as unique as one’s own genome. The goal of our seminar is to create a unique interactive learning experience where we collectively explore the process of “Developing an Individual Cosmovision,” based on our individual strengths, and seek the wisdom to inherit the future.  

HONR 218B- Making a Difference: Lives and Words of Leaders Who Shape Our Time
Kevin Klose

Ben Bradlee, The Washington Post’s crusading editor; Andrei Sakharov, father of the Soviet hydrogen bomb who won the Nobel Peace Prize; Joan Kroc, the heiress who gave a record-shattering $200 million bequest to NPR; Vaclav Havel, Czech playwright who emerged from prison to lead his country from Communist repression to parliamentary democracy. Want to know more about the lives and words of these fascinating luminaries? Take this seminar with Kevin Klose, prize-winning journalist and international media exec who knew these historic leaders, can tell you wonderful scenes from their remarkable lives, and will introduce you to new leaders who will visit your seminar and tell you of their efforts, successes, and setbacks.  

HONR 218C- Love Me, Hate Me, Use Me, Save Me: Our Conflicting Views of Animals
Sarah Balcom

Humans share their lives with a wide range of other animal species for diverse and often conflicting reasons. Non-human animals are kept for food, fiber, work, transportation, and entertainment; they are hunted for subsistence and for pleasure; they are the subjects of paintings, literature, film, sculpture, and dance; they are demonized as vermin, predators, monsters, and pests; they live in our homes as companions, helpers, protectors, and status symbols; they are subjects of our scientific research; they provide insights into our own evolution and behavior. As humans, we worship, hate, fear, love, and ignore the other animals around us. We both anthropomorphize and objectify them. Indeed, the existence of non-human animals in these many conflicting roles has led to animals being at the center of frequent debates about their proper roles in our society. The goal of this course is to examine the evolution of modern human-animal relationships and consider some of the major social and scientific debates that have arisen in the last century as a result of our rapidly changing and diverse views about animals. Fundamentally, this is a course in anthrozoology, an interdisciplinary field encompassing sociology, anthropology, psychology, economics, philosophy, veterinary medicine, animal sciences, and public policy. As such, this course will address a variety of topics by looking at perspectives from these diverse fields with an emphasis on sociological frameworks.  

HONR 218J- Sustainability and Development: From the Individual to the Global
Dorith Grant-Wisdom

In the battle to save the environment and fight climate change, sustainability has become a major issue. However, it is hard for diverse populations worldwide to come to consensus how to best achieve sustainability. But, can we really talk about sustainability without exploring the contested nature of development? After all, the idea of development ranges from the dominant worldview of economic growth and industrialization to broader perspectives that examines human well-being, equity and justice that are situation-dependent and tied to national and global power relations. To identify all the ramifications of sustainability and development may seem like an endless task. But, this course will help students better recognize the interconnections of sustainability and development, including how they relate to the personal and the political, the individual and collective, humanity and all species, effluence and affluence, progress and destruction, indifference and responsibility. The more we understand our world and our relationship with it, the better equipped we are to know how to engage respectfully, and to respond to—“why you matter to the globe’s future and how can you make a difference?”

HONR 218L- Language and Mind
Andrea Zukowski

When Harry Potter ‘dies’, he has a conversation with Dumbledore, at the end of which he asks: “Professor, is this all real, or is it just happening inside my head?” Dumbledore responds “Of course it’s happening inside your head Harry. Why should that mean that it’s not real?” This seminar is intended to acquaint you with a very real system that only exists inside our heads: language. We will explore what this astonishing mental system looks like. From vision science, and visual illusions, we know that “what you see is what you get” is often wrong: the things that fall on your retina do not determine the visual percept that you experience. You will find that there are many parallels to this in language.

HONR 218M- Elements of Music Composition for Non-Majors
William C. Evans

Have you always wanted to write and record a hit song? Want to write an arrangement for your acapella group or instrumental group of your favorite song? Are you curious how composers and songwriters put it all together! Work with the latest computer music software to compose your own masterpiece in HONR218M. Each class is a musical laboratory featuring state of the art computer music hardware and software. Study the form and analysis of famous composers to build your own palate of musical colors.  

HONR 218P- Immigration: Personal Stories and Policy Changes
Sara Schotland

Despite the symbolism of the statue of liberty, prejudice against foreigners is embedded in our nation's history. President's Trump's initiatives curtailing immigration are nothing new. Ben Franklin labeled immigrants as "generally of the most ignorant Stupid Sort of their own Nation…Why should Pennsylvania, founded by the English, become a Colony of Aliens who will...never adopt our Language or Customs, any more than they can acquire our Complexion?" This course considers the personal stories of immigrants and the public policy debate around key issues by looking at first person accounts, fiction, and film. Are you an immigrant or do you belong to an immigrant family? What is your family's immigration story and how does it shed light on current policy debates? How is the experience of immigrants today affected by colorism or racism? What factors help refugees and other immigrants succeed in the US socially and financially? Does broad immigration help our country's economy or take jobs away from American citizens? How should immigration policy be reformed? This course will provide you an opportunity to consider and debate these questions and to share your own family's immigration story.  

HONR 218T- Political Theater: On Stage and in Washington
Nelson Pressley

Note: This seminar may have a fee of up to $40.
“Should the theater be political? Absolutely not.” That declaration from U.S. playwright David Mamet sums up much of the perplexing anti-political prejudice on the American stage – a stance that artists are now wrestling to change. How can theater effectively respond to social events? Can playwrights still attack through fiction, as Arthur Miller confronted McCarthyism via The Crucible? This seminar will examine the shifting patterns of political theater, and will study the latest practices by attending several live professional shows in Washington, where theaters are increasingly mindful of the platforms they have mere blocks from the White House and Capitol Hill. No previous experience with theater required.  

HONR 218V- Disability Culture and Life Narratives
Jessica Diaz McKechnie

Let’s talk about disability. What does it mean? How has society’s view of disability evolved? What is disability culture? This course examines these questions through the psychosocial and cultural history of disability through life narratives and real-world exploration. We will trace the history of perspectives on disability, examining disability identity and culture, issues such as race, class, gender, as well as the intersections of identities in disability. We will use a cultural lens to understand the evolution of attitudes toward disability in American society, and critically evaluate contemporary social, political, and theoretical perspectives on disability.

HONR 219L- American Idle: The Cultural Politics of Laziness
Katie Stanutz

The Puritan work ethic has guided American culture since its inception, marshalling a colony to an independent nation through grit and labor, and emphasis on hard work fills early American texts. However, there also exists an alternate discourse of laziness, perhaps best encapsulated in Washington Irving’s Rip Van Winkle, a man whose desire to escape work results a twenty-year nap. But Rip is not punished for his indolence; rather, he is rewarded as his slumber allows him to skip the prime working years of his life (and the Revolutionary War) and to settle into a leisurely retirement. As such, Irving suggests that there is gain without (working) pain. In this class, we’ll examine this tension between labor and laziness as it plays out in American culture and politics. From Walt Whitman’s desire to “lean and loafe” to Lily Bart’s journey from woman of leisure to failed laborer in The House of Mirth to Thorstein Veblen’s theory of the leisure class to Cheech and Chong’s stoner adventures in the 1970s, laziness suggests different modes of perception and even alternative structures for civic participation. We’ll also look at broad cultural archetypes – the Couch Potato, the Welfare Queen, the Bum, the Stoner, and the Slacker – to examine the American impulse to both work hard and hardly work. 

HONR 228J- The Caribbean Amidst the Global: Interrogating Issues of Pirates and Piracy
Dorith Grant-Wisdom

What is the Caribbean? Why is it called the “Crossroads of the World”? How can we use pirates/piracy as a “tool” to engender an historical, economic, political, social and cultural understanding of the region in the context of global forces and change? Who are pirates and what constitutes piracy in a given era; and to what extent do changing notions of piracy reflect major societal transformations at the national, regional and global levels? Do the legends and myths surrounding infamous pirates represent the realities and relationships of early and new forms of piracy in the Caribbean (and globally)? Could piracy be conceived as a form of counterculture? Overall, this course attempts a general but intensive examination of the Caribbean as an integral part of major global processes, and seeks to separate myth from reality by investigating why piracy emerged and flourished in the region from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century. It will also critically explore alternative ways in which one can (re)configure who is a pirate and what constitutes piracy across time and space, especially within the unfolding dynamics of neo-liberalism and globalization in today’s world.  

HONR 228N- Alleviating Poverty in Developing Countries: The Economics and Challenges of Development Programs
Taryn Devereux

What does it mean to be poor? What are the systemic causes of poverty? And what, if anything, can rich countries do to assist poor people in the developing world? Well-known and respected economists come to wildly different conclusions on these questions. This course takes a deep dive into the types of structural inequalities that exist in the world and the ways in which aid has been managed by governments, financial institutions, foundations and other local and international actors. Through concrete examples, students will be introduced to fundamental ideas in economics, consider both theoretical arguments and empirical evidence, and critically evaluate some of the recent literature on aid effectiveness. We will also consider alternatives to aid such as reform of rich countries’ trade and agricultural support policies. The course will use readings, discussion, activities and writing assignments, to examine current debates about foreign aid specifically, and about programs to help reduce poverty, more generally.

HONR 228T– Journalism and Peace
Colman McCarthy

We have no shortage of war correspondents. But where are the peace correspondents? Where are the journalists whether in print or broadcast, whether toiling for the wealthy corporate media or going it alone as independents, whether columnists or editorial writers, whether reporters and editors on high school or college newspapers or reporters and editors of large circulation dailies, who bring to the public the news about peace? This course is a modest effort to examine some of the issues involving journalism and peace.  

HONR 229E- Are Sports Ethical?
Harjit Bhogal

Think of the last time you watched a sports game: perhaps it was a Baltimore Ravens game, a Terps basketball game, or the USA competing in the World Cup. Whatever it was, it is likely that lots of the things that you saw would seem morally unacceptable of they were outside the context of a sports game. There might have been violence between the participants, even violence that’s not allowed by the rules. Some of the participants might have been attempting to trick or mislead the referee. The people watching might have been hoping that some of the participants performances were an embarrassing failure. And they might have verbally abused the participants in hopes of increasing the likelihood that they would fail. And sometimes, especially when the participants represent countries, the people watching might feel anger and resentment towards whole nations. All of this seems much more reasonable, and perhaps even justifiable, when we consider these actions within a sporting context. So, the ethical nature of sport seems to be very different from that of ordinary life. In this course we will investigate the ethical structure of sport and what it tells us about the ethics of everyday life.  

HONR 229L– Climate Change: Science, Economic, and Governance
Ross Salawitch

Hardly a day goes by without some news worthy item being reported on Earth’s changing climate. Often the stories are contradictory, tainted by parochialism and extremism, not only by the conservative and liberal media, but also by the camps of so-called believers and deniers. This seminar will begin with a review of the history of how decisions regarding human interactions with the environment have either doomed past societies to failure, or enabled long-term, sustainable success. Next we’ll examine the science that underlies global warming, in a manner accessible to non-scientists, as well as the potential consequences of a rapidly changing climate. We will then discuss the economics of large-scale provision of energy by renewable resources, which will be needed to avert climate catastrophe. During the final few weeks of this seminar, students will break into three groups, representing various parts of the world, and negotiate an international plan to transition the world energy supply to renewable resources that emit little or no greenhouse gases.  

HONR 238C– The Future of Energy and Climate Policy
Tyson Slocum

This course brings the Washington, DC policy debate of the future of U.S. energy and climate policy into the College Park classroom. The course reveals far more than what you read in the news, offering students an up-close-and-personal tour of the people and strategies that shape how and why Congress and the President promote their energy and climate initiatives. Students will learn first-hand the behind-the-scenes fights between different competing special interests that shape our legislative and regulatory energy and climate policy outcomes, as the semester will feature numerous DC policy experts who work on the front lines of these high-profile fights. The class explores different grassroots, media and lobbying strategies that organizations utilize to influence the positions that Congress and the Executive Branch take on energy and climate policy. The course also introduces students to the difference between the academic analysis of various energy policy reforms—such as U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulations to address climate change—and the ways in which well-funded advocacy groups shape the public’s (and lawmakers’) perception of these programs.  

HONR 238L- Engineering in Ancient Empires
Denis Sullivan

The Parthenon and the Pantheon, the Antikythera mechanism and the catapult, the aqueduct and the Roman road are impressive examples of the skills of Greek and Roman engineers. This course explores a number of these ancient technical achievements from bridges and buildings to aqueducts and artillery, with a focus on the specific nature of the technical achievement and the methods used to create it. We also consider the question of why, despite these technical skills and achievements, no major jump to industrialization occurred in the ancient Mediterranean world. Readings include various original Greek and Roman sources in English translation as well as examination of existing ancient monuments, artifacts and manuscript illustrations and modern scholars’ interpretations of them.  

HONR 238N– Public Health and Contemporary Health Issues: Saving Lives Millions at a Time
Kirsten Stoebenau

Do we really have an opioid crisis? Is obesity a threat to our health care system? Should young adults worry about colorectal cancer? How scared should I be about Ebola or Zika? Are energy drinks dangerous? Every day, we are confronted with new public health findings. However, it can be challenging to understand the significance of public health findings presented by the media without a basic understanding of public health methods and its scientific foundation. Through the in-depth exploration of a variety of health topics, students will gain insight into the public health approach to better understand its purpose and methodology. This class introduces students to the basic principles of epidemiology, and the science of public health, to allow them to be better consumers of public health findings presented in the popular media.  

HONR 238R– Global Terrorism
Howard Smead

Manchester Arena. Pulse in Orlando. Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. Fort Hood. Mumbai. San Bernardino. Hebron. Oklahoma City. Beirut. Tokyo. Political and religious fanatics, suicide bombers, mass murder, fear of flying, fear of foreigners, fear of public places. Welcome to the world of modern terrorism. No part of the world is immune, no humans are safe. Terrorism is a shared nightmare. This course explores this global phenomenon, its nature, causes and consequences. The subject matter might not be for everyone, but it is for those determined to understand this vast, complex problem and how to fight it.  

HONR 238U- Making the World a Better Place: Global Development and Justice
Karol Soltan

How can we make the world a better place? We need to clarify what we mean by “better.” What makes the world better – Greater justice? More equality? More wealth? More happiness? We’ll start by considering what goals and ideals are widely pursued in the world today and evaluating them. One broad global commitment is to the goals of sustainable development and justice (understood through the idea of human rights). But these ideas seem hopelessly vague. What do they mean? Can we make them specific and precise enough to guide our actions? The seminar will explore some ways to do so. The questions we will consider are difficult, so the seminar will draw on multiple disciplines: philosophy, the social sciences, history and law. Along the way, we’ll ask questions such as, how is sustainable development different from economic growth? Can happiness be a measure of development? What about the quality of human lives? What does “justice” mean, and how is it related to human rights? Whatever answers we consider will be inevitably controversial. Here there are no settled answers.  

HONR 239C- The Creative Process in Dance
Kendra Portier

The most important component of dance is bodies moving through space and time. This course will explore the physicality of our bodies (how does it feel to move?) and the presentation of our bodies as movers (how do we appear to others?). Additionally, we will investigate how our bodies interact with other bodies. The emphasis in this class will be on discovering and exploring ways of moving that your bodies choose, rather than learning a codified dance technique. You will explore and extend your own range of movement, while focusing on developing a personal movement style. You will work alone, with partners, in small groups and as a large group. Finally, and no less importantly, you will develop dance analysis skills through critical viewing and thoughtful commentary on the works of your colleagues and viewing assignments. You will integrate concepts generated in discussion of readings, viewings, and writing into your creative process and choreography.  

HONR 239D- Introduction to Printmaking
Matthew McLaughlin

Note: Students must pay a $40.00 studio lab fee.
Ever wonder where the mass production of images started? How you can reproduce the same image over and over by hand instead of computer? Feeling the urge to get your hands inky and make something special? This course introduces students to centuries old fine art printmaking techniques and their historical and contemporary context. Through a combination of lectures, demonstrations and hands-on experience, students will learn about the tools, paper and inks of printmaking and how to produce images in multiple. Students will develop their own imagery while demonstrating their skill and confidence in printing on a press. Students will have the opportunity to explore their personal visual expression through a unique set of processes.  

HONR 239J- “Enemy of the People”: When Journalism Investigates the Powerful
Mark Feldstein

President Trump has called the news media “the enemy of the American people.” But he is not the first president to attack reporters, who have been exposing wrongdoing in American ever since George Washington. How and why does the press uncover misconduct by individuals and institutions in the US? How do their targets react? Why does this matter? This seminar will trace the history of investigative journalism and its impact on society.  

HONR 239N- Colonial Consequences: American Archaeology in the Era of Colonialism
Barnet Pavao-Zuckerman
It is not possible to make sense of the world today without understanding the colonial roots of nearly all aspects of modern life, from cuisine, music, and health to structural inequalities, environmental degradation, and cultural resilience. Archaeology offers a holistic view of the human past through material remains, revealing aspects of daily life and social structures that are not always accessible via written documents. This seminar uses archaeological approaches to examine the processes of colonialism and the roots of globalization in the 15th through 19th centuries to better understand the world as we experience it today. In the process of exploring this pivotal era in recent human history, students will be exposed to the fundamental methodological and theoretical concepts within the field of archaeology, and how archaeological approaches have changed over time in response to greater understanding of archaeological practice as a tool *of* colonialism.  

HONR 248H- From Willowbrook to Attica: Delinquency in the Context of Disability
Peter Leone

Individuals with disabilities are disproportionately represented in the juvenile and criminal justice systems throughout the United States. How do we explain this overrepresentation? Do those considered disabled commit more delinquent or criminal offenses than others? Do schools, residential facilities, and social service agencies provide adequate accommodations and supports that enable all to become productive citizens? HONR248H explores historic and contemporary treatment of disability and delinquency. Seminar activities include a site visit to a correctional facility in the DMV.  

HONR 248J- A Most Human Nation
Ingrid Satelmajer
Note: Students who have taken HHUM 205 should contact the instructor for permission.
What does it mean to be represented in the national capital? This course examines the history of Washington, D.C. through written and visual portraits of national leaders and ordinary Americans. What is lost and gained when your likeness is “taken”? How important is it for portraits to be “real”? Human and civil rights struggles; virtual reality in an era of globalization, balkanization, and digital technology; surveillance and privacy rights; and concerns about the human habitation of the city all will be covered.

HONR 258E- Creating the Future through Systemic Thinking and Design
Gerald Suarez

What makes the task of envisioning and creating a desirable future so difficult is the gap we impose between our thoughts and our actions. We create barriers to change because to shape our future, to take control of it, means to take on activities that require purposeful action. How, then, do we overcome these obstacles? Through this engaging and highly experiential course, students learn about a process called idealized design. The methodology is simple, but the implications are profound. Students will engage in a cycle of activities that begins with the mental creation of an idealized future and ends with its realization. Students will uncover and examine assumptions, explore innovative possibilities, engage in problem dissolution, use design thinking tools, assess implications and unintended consequences, and apply frameworks to “dig deep” for answers on how to influence the future. In this course, students will not be passive observers of the future but purposeful designers of the future they wish to pursue.

HONR 258O- The Kinesiological Bases of Skilled Performance
Seppo Iso-Ahola

"Learning a motor skill may seem like child’s play, but as this course will explore, the learning and performance of motor skills is a complex human endeavor. Using golf as a focal sport, we’ll consider the following questions and issues: How is it that the human nervous system with billions of neurons, a musculoskeletal system of more than 200 bones, 100 moveable joints and over a thousand muscles is able to marshal itself to swing a long stick with a very small striking surface (i.e., a golf club) to contact a small ball and send it 200 yards? Every performer’s goal is to be able to repeat a movement consistently over and over, yet we often fail. Doing well at one time and poorly on the next attempt. Why? How does the human brain process movements consciously and non-consciously? Why is that we often “choke” under pressure? Motor and sport performance is not just an individual matter but also a societal issue. Do sports reflect and mirror society at large? Is there gender, race, and disability discrimination in sports? Why do certain sports have philosophical and spiritual meaning for many people? Students will also have hands-on experience learning motor skills by practicing golf."

HONR 258R- Soundtrack to Revolution: Black Protest Music from Slave Ship to Soundcloud
La Marr Bruce

This course invites students to hear a tradition of black protest music that reverberates from the slave ship to Soundcloud and beyond. Together we will ponder how black people have created, performed, broadcast, and mobilized music for protest, self-making, community-building, cultural critique, agitation, venting, healing, and joy. We will listen to live and studio performances by Paul Robeson, Mahalia Jackson, Billie Holiday, Abbey Lincoln and Max Roach, Nina Simone, Fela Kuti, Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin, Bob Marley, Michael Jackson, Public Enemy, NWA, Lil’ Kim, Lauryn Hill, Beyoncé, Kendrick Lamar, Frank Ocean, and others. Among the questions we will ponder are the following: What does protest sound like? Does all protest happen on picket lines and must all protest music entail overt political statements set to melody? At various historical junctures, how have black people mobilized music (and art more broadly) to shape and impact their political conditions? What can music accomplish that artforms like literature and visual art cannot? How have various social justice and liberation movements—including Abolitionism, the Civil Rights Movement, the Black Power Movement, the Movement for Black Lives, and beyond—deployed music? How has new media technology transformed protest (music)? How does revolution sound?

HONR 258T- Tools of Fiction: Literature and/as Creative Writing
Dean Hebert

When you read a work of fiction, you are communicating with a person (the author) you’ve probably never met. If you wonder about the person who created the story you read, the only clues you have are in the story itself. How reliable are these clues? And what assumptions does the author make about you, the reader? In “Tools of Fiction,” we will try to answer these questions by reading short stories and examining the rhetorical techniques authors use. We will analyze works of short fiction and examine storytelling conventions that many have in common. We’ll also look at works that deliberately set out to break various “rules” of literary fiction, whether conventional expectations readers generally have or rules that a story establishes internally (such as by creating a pattern, and then breaking it).

HONR 258W- Demystifying LGBTQ Issues
Robyn Zeiger

The Supreme Court's ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges (2015), the federal recognition of marriage equality, marked a milestone victory for LGBTQ rights. And yet, discrimination and prejudice against LGBTQ people still pervades our culture, from businesses refusing services to bathroom laws. This seminar will focus on homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia through an extensive examination of LGBTQ culture. By examining the myths and stereotypes related to the LGBTQ community, we will explore the reality of this population. Through this analysis, we will strive to develop a humane vocabulary that reflects appreciation of human diversity. We will explore such topics as sexual orientation, LGBTQ couple relationships (including parenting and legal issues), family issues (including coming out to family members), physical and psychological health concerns, as well as LGBTQ people in history, film, music, art, and sports.

HONR 259G- Fairness, Inequality, and Democracy
Allan Drazen


HONR 259K- Global Inequality: Research and Practice
Roberto Patricio Korzeniewicz


HONR 259L- Thinking Strategically
Daniel Vincent

Ever wonder if the citizens of Gotham made the right choice when the Joker placed a bomb on that ferry? Should the goalkeepers in soccer guess which way to jump before penalty kicks? How should you bid for that cute picture at the local art auction? Could you construct a better overtime rule for American football? This course is designed to use the tools of game theory and decision theory to find approaches to these kinds of everyday problems and to understand various economic, political and social problems and issues. Among other topics, it will examine the fallacy of sunk costs; techniques to determine the credibility of threats and promises; the importance of identifying dominated strategies; the potential value of randomizing strategies; the importance of knowing how much rivals know before choosing a strategy. We will also examine some case studies such as using auction theory and matching theory in the design of markets. While mathematical skills such as calculus and algebra will increase the student’s enjoyment of the course, these are not required. What is required is a curious mind and a willingness to think formally and analytically about interesting and (sometimes) important problems.

HONR 259P- Jane Austen
Ingrid Satelmajer

What does it mean to be a “Janeite”? To collect “Austeniana”? To be part of the “cult” of Jane Austen? We are surrounded by on-screen adaptations of Austen’s novels; books and movies concerned with her life, the lives of her fans, and the off-page lives of her characters; and send-up novels such as Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Jane Austen’s novels–and “Jane Austen”–are alive and well. But why? We'll focus on reading Austen's major novels, looking at their historical and cultural context, and we'll consider to what degree Austen's writing reflects or serves as an escape from present-day economic and social concerns.

HONR 268L- United States Immigration Issues
Dorith Grant-Wisdom

Issues of international migration and the integration of immigrants and refugees are among the most compelling and controversial issues in today’s world. However, the debate over immigration to the United States often ignores how current discussions are deeply rooted in century-long conversations about who is allowed into the country and what it means to be an American. This in turn generates questions such as: Who has come to the United States and why? Why has immigration been such a hotly debated topic in the past and now? What determines who is allowed entry into the country? When and why did the U.S. start building walls and banning and deporting immigrants? What were the impact and consequences of those policies? What does it mean to be ‘illegal’? What’s “new” about the new immigration to the United States? What lessons might we learn as we move forward into the twenty-first century? The purpose of this course is to provide an historical context to current debates over immigration reform, integration, and citizenship; as well as explore some of the important issues and complexities that characterize the U.S. immigration process and policies. It will also try to expose students to various policy experts (in and outside of government) and community organizations that are integrally involved with immigrant communities and the immigration process.

HONR 268N– Cracking the Secrets of the Universe Using Computers: Re-discovering the Higgs & Searching for Invisible Matter
Shabnam Jabeen and Sarah Eno

Albert Einstein once said, “I would like to know that moon exists even when I am not looking at it.” This quote was in response to a well-known theory that describes, at the atomic level, almost everything that we observe in everyday life. Part of this theory describes the presence of a sub-atomic particle that exists in the whole universe and is considered to be responsible for giving mass to all the particles that it interacts with. This particle was just an idea until 2012, when we finally discovered it at one of the largest and most complex experiments ever built—the Large Hadron Collider. This course takes you on a journey to relive this discovery. Along the way, you learn fundamental physics and the basic tools needed to contribute to experimental or theoretical frontier research in any computationally intensive field. You will learn kinematics, relativity, the standard model of forces and particles, theories of new particles and forces, particle interactions with matter, Linux, C++ and computational tools useful for frontier physics research.

For more information about this course, please visit the following webpage:

HONR 269P- Formulating U.S. Science and Technology Policy
Hank Lucas

The U.S. competes in a global economy primarily on the basis of knowledge and creativity. Much of our success comes from capabilities in science and technology. These two areas raise significant policy issues for the U.S. and the world. How does one protect intellectual property that is essential for making economic progress? Should the government have a policy toward broadband communications, and if so, what should that policy be? What should the U.S. policy be toward current and future energy sources? What is the science and politics behind the use of ethanol as a fuel? This Honors Seminar will explore the facts needed to make policy decisions, and students will be challenged to make recommendations to policy-makers.  

HONR 269T- Understanding U.S. Foreign Policy toward Afghanistan
Tim Nusraty

In this Global Classroom, Honors College students at UMD and students at the American University of Afghanistan in Kabul will examine the history of Afghanistan, its political figures, and the empires that attempted to rule the country. Students will also learn about Afghanistan’s turbulent modern history, including the Soviet occupation, the Afghan civil war, and the Taliban era. Students will then analyze the U.S. foreign policy decisions that followed the events of September 11, 2001. This includes key policy decisions such as how the country should be governed, the selection of Afghanistan’s leader, the role and mission of the international community, the adoption of a new Constitution, and the establishment of a new democratic system of government.

HONR 269U- Hidden Figures: Race, Science, and Black Narrative
Mary Helen Washington

John Glenn, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Katherine Johnson: all key figures in the Space Race of the 1950s and 1960s, but only the first three were immediately recognizable until recently. Hidden Figures (both a 2016 book and film) unveils the black women behind the mathematical calculations and scientific work crucial to space flight, highlighting both their achievements and the discrimination they faced. Indeed, scientific work has a long history of obscuring, hindering, and excluding blacks. This class will study the complex relationship between race and scientific discourse, practices, and institutions by looking at representations of science in 20th and 21st century African American literature. Specifically, we will focus on blacks in science, on the history of blacks as makers of science, as well as on the ways blacks have responded to and countered the aims of scientific racism. The literature we read produces alternative histories of science as black writers illuminate a discourse that has been hidden.

HONR 269V- Virus Hunting: Emerging Diseases, Social Controversies and Nano-Technologies
James Culver

The term virus invokes visions of sickness, disease and death. But viruses are much more than harbingers of plaque they are an integral part of our environment, present in the air we breathe, the food we eat and in you. In addition, virus studies have impacted social controversies including the vaccine-autism connection and the development and use of genetic engineering. Furthermore, viruses represent remarkable biological nano-machines that are currently being used to produce energy active materials and deliver life saving drugs. This seminar will explore viruses, their biology and their impact on society. Specific topics will include: 1, viral infectious diseases, their history, epidemiology and control (from the 1918 Spanish flu to the AIDS, Ebola and Zika crises); 2, the role of virus studies in social controversies (vaccine use and genetic therapies); 3, viruses in our genomes and in our environment (agents of evolution, cancer and as beneficial symbionts); 4, the impact of viruses in the development of modern science and nanotechnology (from scientific theory to DNA origami).  

HONR 278D- National Security Dilemmas
Daniel Rosenthal

A young lawyer at the CIA wakes with a jolt to a call on her cell phone. It’s 2 a.m., and Langley is calling. Something about a newspaper. She rushes out of her apartment and speeds to headquarters. Once at CIA Headquarters, she discovers that a New York Times reporter has learned about an undercover CIA informant in Syria providing crucial intelligence about the leadership of an international terrorist organization. But the asset has a dirty past: Before choosing to cooperate with the CIA, he had killed dozens of Westerners–and four Americans. The Agency is working with a terrorist who has American blood on his hands, and the Times thinks that the public has a right to know. But the story also contains top secret details that could help identify the asset, which if exposed would surely lead to the murder of the asset, thus eliminating a valuable source of intelligence for the U.S. government about the international terrorist organization, and discouraging others in the future from cooperating. National security is on the line. The life of the CIA informant hangs in the balance. The young lawyer is tasked with talking the reporter down. What arguments should she make? What questions should she ask? And what can be done, if anything, to stop the New York Times from publishing. Take this class to find out.  

HONR 278G- Exploring How Foreign Policy is Developed
Tim Nusraty

Developing foreign policy is a delicate and complicated matter. How does one walk this tightrope and shape the policies that govern U.S. international relations? This seminar will offer students a window into this process, focusing on the role played by the National Security Council in formulating, coordinating and implementing foreign policy. The seminar will begin by exploring the history of the Council, including the events leading up to its creation and the underlying law that established the Council. As part of this historical review, students will also examine the evolution of the National Security Council and the varying degree of influence it wielded under different administrations. Against this backdrop, students will then conduct a case study of some of the key foreign policy issues over the past 20 years in order to gain a better understanding of the National Security Council’s decision-making process.  

HONR 278K- Evolutionary Processes in Health and Medicine
Charles Delwiche

How does evolution impact our daily lives? We will explore this topic by focusing on the impact of evolutionary processes on human health. Built around student-led discussions, the course includes a general introduction to evolutionary biology for non-biology majors, as well as explorations of the rise of multiple-drug resistant pathogens, cancer as an evolutionary process, the consequences of disease transmission between humans and other animals, the importance of the human microbiome to our health, and new insights into human genetic diversity. Students learn to read the scientific literature, to ask questions, and to critically evaluate reports in the popular press. They also maintain a blog on a course-related topic of their choice through the semester. Potential field trips include a visit to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History and to the National Museum of Health and Medicine.

HONR 278Q- Biodiversity Matters: Effects on Health, National Security, Development, and Design
Karen Lips

Variety and variation are key to creating the kind of healthy environment that sustains human life and well-being. Indeed, biodiversity is the source of unique non-substitutable ecosystem goods that humans depend on for food, shelter, medicine, and building materials as well as providing ecosystem services that regulate climate, control disease, purify air and water, and decompose waste products. Biodiversity and ecosystem services are also important in engineering, biosecurity, technology, international security, sustainable development, and urban planning. The quality and quantity of these environmental goods and services provided to humans by the environment can be damaged by human activities. We will explore the benefits we derive from an intact and functioning environments, learn how those benefits are valued and quantified, and evaluate how human behaviors and values influence our use of those resources. We will also explore the importance of communicating science through written, visual and verbal media.

HONR 278Z– The Philosophy and Practice of Yoga
Susan Dwyer

Approximately 36 million Americans participate in yoga, spending over $16 billion on yoga classes, accessories, and clothing each year. And, all manner of “types” of yoga are on offer, from Power Yoga to Vinyasa to Hot Yoga. But what does any of this have to do with Yoga, one of six great darśanas of Hindu Philosophy? Not all that much, as it turns out. At its heart, Yoga is a practical philosophy, weaving together abstract ideas about the nature of self and consciousness with guidance on how to lead an ethical life of meaning. Tuesday’s class will take a relatively traditional seminar form, during which we shall closely study two primary texts (Patañjali’s Yoga Sutras and the Bhagavad Gītā) along with contemporary and more recent philosophical commentary. Thursday’s class will be devoted to asana practice (the physical form of yoga you might be most familiar with). You will need your own yoga mat and at least one (ideally, two) yoga blocks. In addition, please give careful consideration to timing before you register for this course: you will not be admitted to asana practice if you are late and you may not leave asana practice before 10:45am.

HONR 279B- Social Security in a Changing America
Scott Szymendera

You may not realize it, but if you work, even part-time, you pay into the Social Security system and so does your employer. Yet, according to current projections, the Social Security system will be unable to pay full benefits to retirees beginning in 2035, long before you reach retirement age. So what can be done to save Social Security? There are no easy answers but that won’t stop us in this class from taking on this problem. We will look at the history of Social Security as well as its current challenges and analyze possible ways to preserve benefits for future generations of retirees, or, if the program should even be saved given the changing nature of American society and the American economy. More importantly, this analysis of Social Security policy will show students how to confidently take on any of the most difficult policy challenges facing our country.  

HONR 279K- Magic, Science, and Religion
Maxine Grossman

What is religion, and how does it differ from other comprehensive formations of knowledge and experience? Modern scholars of religion are fascinated by these questions of difference and distinction. This is nowhere more evident than in Bronislaw Malinowski’s famous study, “Magic, Science, and Religion” (1926) which attempted to explore and explain the dynamics of practices and beliefs that he observed as an ethnographer in the Trobriand Islands of Papua New Guinea. The study of religion – not to mention world culture itself – has changed dramatically since Malinowski’s time, but some of his basic questions remain trenchant. Now more than ever, it is worth asking how religion works in society and what roles it can play. When is religion like a communal “science,” and when does science win out over religion? How does “magic” play out in this mix? In this course we will investigate some of the classic approaches to the study of religion, addressing such concepts as experience, altered consciousness, belief, ritual, and community. We will consider the relationships among systems of meaning-making including religion, science, and magic, and we will also ask how they work in contemporary world culture.

HONR 279L- The Problem of Prejudice: Overcoming Impediments to Global Peace and Justice
Hoda Mahmoudi

What is prejudice? How are our prejudices formed? What similarities and differences are there between various forms of prejudice across race, gender, nationality, politics, religion, among others? What is the relationship between prejudice and conflict? What is the role of prejudice in thinking about issues of peace and justice? How can we better understand the role that prejudice and discrimination have in a globalizing world? What can we learn from a scientific basis of knowledge about the causes of prejudice? This course will survey interdisciplinary scholarly research and popular cultural conversations about the root causes of prejudice and discrimination. You are expected to examine empirical evidence toward formulating your own views about the impact that all forms of prejudice impose on the human condition and the role it has played in your own life. Based on research evidence, the course encourages the search for solutions to the blight of prejudice.

HONR 279M- How Does the Brain Speak?: Insights from Neuroimaging and Brain Damage
Yasmeen Shah

We speak at an average rate of 200 words per minute! An amazing number of processes occur when we speak: conceptualizing what to say, selecting the words that convey our ideas, selecting the tone of the message, constructing grammatical sentences, uttering the sounds that make up the sentences, and so on. How do our brains enable us to speak creatively at such a rapid rate? And how did we find out about neural operations involved in speaking? This course uses a multidisciplinary approach to address these issues, drawing from neuroscience, brain imaging, psycholinguistics, speech pathology and cognitive neuropsychology.  

HONR 279Q- The Boy Who Lived, All Grown Up: Assessing the Harry Potter Books and Their Adaptations
Michelle Markey Butler

The generation who grew up with the Harry Potter series is now in college. This course invites and encourages students to revisit these popular books of their childhood with an eye towards critical assessment. How do we approach books differently when we intend to evaluate them, rather than read them for entertainment? In what ways can critical reading enhance our enjoyment and appreciation of a work? What do we gain when we approach a beloved work with a literary critic’s eye? What do we lose? We will also consider how the world of Harry Potter has been adapted into many other forms of media. The Warner Brothers films are the most widely known adaptations, but there are also audiobooks (award-winning in their own right), videogames, board and card games, Lego sets, memes and Tumblrs, fan-made art, fan fiction, and theme parks (!). We will consider changes made in adapting a story to a new medium and the impact of such changes upon the world, characters, themes, and narrative structures. The range and number of Harry Potter adaptations are so extensive we will not be able to cover them all; rather, as a class, students will select the set of adaptation types we will study. For their final project, students will propose a new (yes, ladies and gentlemen, a feat never before attempted on this or any stage!) adaptation.

HONR 288O- Why Do Things Fail?
Kevin Calabro

Note: This course is open only to non-engineering majors. High school math and science are adequate for understanding of the material.
Why did the Silver Bridge between Ohio and West Virginia collapse on Christmas Eve, 1967? What caused the top of an Aloha Airlines flight to rupture, creating a convertible airplane? How do these kinds of massive structural damage occur, and how might we prevent them? This course will introduce students to topics of stress and strain and their importance in determining the safety and reliability of engineering structures. Some of the major structural failures worldwide will be identified and researched as to the circumstances leading up to the failures. Reasons for failures will be investigated and are expected to include engineering, social, political, ethical, and economic explanations. Other possible failures to be researched and analyzed would be the collapse of a walkway in Kansas City, the failure of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge in Washington, the collapse of a bridge on Interstate 95 in Connecticut, and the collapse of the Twin Towers in New York after 911. Students in the seminar will determine the exact cases to be explored. Students will frequently test materials in the laboratory to better understand different types of failure that can occur and to try to better understand what can be done to prevent these failures. Testing machines in the J. M. Patterson Building will be used for the laboratory component of the work.

HONR 288P- Why Do Things Burn?
Marino diMarzo

Note: This course is open only to non-engineering majors.
Think of sitting in front of fireplace on a cold winter evening: the flames warm the air, creating a nice, cozy experience. We use fire for warmth, for cooking, for hot water, for motors, power generation, jet planes and all sort of useful applications. However, sometime our friendly and useful fire quickly turns into a life-threatening experience, and its unrestrained impact results in significant loss of life and property. This class explores how this transition takes place and how we prevent and mitigate these dreadful outcomes. The class uses experiential learning rather than theory and deep scientific investigations. This means that you will go through a variety of real life experiments, and you will figure out how fire actually works. There is no need of scientific knowledge beyond what you were taught in high school, and the class does not allow for engineering majors to register. The work is done in multidisciplinary groups of students, and all skills are needed and appreciated.

HONR 289N- From Fat to Fit to Olympic Gold: Physical Activity in Health & Human Performance
Colleen Farmer

The U.S. has a growing obesity problem, and XL has become the new normal. This seminar will examine the issues of physical activity and obesity from a physiological, psychological, social, political and economic perspective. First, we will explore the continuum of physical activity from children to grandmothers. We then address lifetime fitness up close and personal, developing individual aerobic and strength training plans designed to enhance quality of life as well as prevent chronic diseases such as coronary artery disease, diabetes, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia and osteoporosis. Finally, we focus on the elite athlete in pursuit of Olympic gold. Are we genetically predetermined to excel or is there an ideal combination of genes and environment? How can we utilize our understanding of elite performance to improve our own movement mechanics?

HONR 299C– Fashion and Costume through the Ages
Mikhail Kachman

“Fashion is a mirror of history,” Louis XIV famously observed. Taken out of historical circumstances, however, few fashions make sense. Stripped of their context, Victorian-era crinolines and bustles, 2-feet tall hairdos of Marie Antoinette’s France, Roman togas, and 1940s zoot suits all might seem bizarre, but they each reflect their societies and their moment. This course is designed to reveal the historical connections of such clothing while covering the landmarks of costume history, the materials and forms used through the ages, the underlying motives of fashion and the ways in which costume has been used to express identity. The class is designed as a broad survey of the evolution of clothing styles and materials in the West through history, from early Mid-Eastern civilizations to the present day. It will demonstrate how sociological, political, economic, artistic, geographic, technological and other factors affect clothing through the ages, and how, at the same time, costume and personal adornment emerge not only as practical necessities and/or signs of social rank, but also as manifestations of human individuality, character, and personal taste.

HONR 299F- Financial Crisis Simulation: The Foundation of Global Tension
Behzad Gohari

The global financial crisis of 2008 was a watershed moment in American history as the country experienced its worst crisis since the Great Depression. This class will track the factors leading up to this market meltdown and place it within a larger historical context of previous financial crises. In doing so, we will see how financial crises often serve as mechanisms of shock to societal structures that lead to political movements, wars, and massive social change. Then, after studying these past circumstances, we will simulate a hypothetical financial crisis to more fully understand how these economic upheavals impact various stakeholders. Working in teams, students will play the roles of central banks, large market players, government regulators, legislatures and government executives during the run-up to and unfolding of a crisis, putting into practice the lessons learned from the past.

HONR 299G- Revolution, Regret, and Reform: The People and Principles of the American Political Tradition
Robert Chiles

“You may not be interested in the state, but the state is interested in you,” noted the eminent American historian William Leuchtenburg in encouraging a revival of political history. Indeed, political history provides a comprehensive window into society: it is fundamentally interested in the interaction of social, economic, cultural, demographic, technological, and ideological developments with institutional and structural forces. This course explores American political history from Independence through the present day. It interrogates the roots of American political ideas, the dynamics of partisan competition, the interaction of class, ethnicity, race, and politics, the evolution of policy preferences, the growth of the state, and the transformation of rank-and- file expectations and ambitions, among other important themes. By exploring the writings of major figures (from Jefferson to Lincoln, Roosevelt to Reagan) as well as the preferences of anonymous voters—and everyone in between, this course will help students identify the overarching themes and the important forgotten moments in our nation’s political development. Students will end the semester armed with a mastery of this history, an understanding of the methods of political historians and scholars in related fields, and a contextualization of our contemporary political world.

HONR 299I- The Practice of Science in an Age of Truthiness
Chris Capp

Science is a beautiful, if oft misunderstood, process; one that has allowed us to gain immense knowledge about the world around us, and to make unimagined technological leaps. Science often feels opaque to non-scientists, leading some to treat all scientific ideas as unquestioned dogma, and others to reflexively dismiss scientific ideas as wrong-headed or irrelevant. The aim of this course is to teach students what science actually is – the exquisite, careful, awe-inspiring process by which we understand the world around us. To do this, we will first focus on how scientists think, how they develop models and theories, break down research questions into testable hypotheses, evaluate controls, and assess data: in short, how they do science. To do this, we will touch on the philosophy of science, the history of science, and classic scientific literature. Then we will look at how science is popularly conceived and covered in the media, using as case studies those movements which are skeptical of vaccination safety or climate change.

HONR 348D: Innovation and Social Change: Do Good Now
Toby Egan


HONR 348J- Contemporary Social Issues
Howard Smead

A standoff between armed Americans and law enforcement in Oregon, mass marches about a war that ended in 1865. Senators and Congressmen who won’t speak to one another. Leaders who demonstrate little regard for truth or decent behavior. Media outlets that slant or alter the news. Enormous wealth, degrading poverty. Hatred of government, fear of foreigners, contempt for education. Censorship on college campuses, exhibitionism, mass murder, and over-stuffed jails, poor health care despite the most advanced medical science in the world. What’s going on here? Is this the price of freedom? The end of civil society? We are a nation deeply polarized on almost all pressing issues: from abortion to civil rights; from guns to privacy, from race to gender to ethnicity, from the way we worship (or choose not to) to where we live. Come join the discussion where we explore the hot-button issues plaguing our nation in an attempt to answer this question: Why have we become a nation at war with itself, at loggerheads over what the country stands for and where it is headed?

HONR 359B- Alternatives to Violence
Colman McCarthy

Friedrich Nietzsche said, “It is one thing to have the courage of your convictions but quite another to challenge them.” All of us are called on to be peacemakers, whether in our personal or in our political lives. Yet, few have the skills or ideas to create the conditions in which peace can result. Courses in non-violence are rarely taught in schools, and non-violence is rarely used by governments as a means to settle conflicts. We seem helpless, to have no choice but reliance on fists, guns, armies, and bombs. But whatever the many types of violence—military violence, gun violence, sexual violence, domestic violence, corporate violence, verbal violence, to name a few—alternatives exist. The course, discussion-based with all opinions and all personal stories welcomed, examines where, when and how alternative succeeded, where peace increased and violence decreased.