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Honors Program

2010-11 Honors Courses

Fall 2010 Courses

Course for First-Year Students

GST 110: The Global Experience
Professor Steve Braye

Green Day's words, "Don't want to be an American Idiot," reflected contemporary America in important ways. Yet how do we avoid this fate, being an American Idiot? In this interdisciplinary seminar, we will think beyond the media, for ourselves, examining and re-examining our beliefs and assumptions in significant ways. We will use our time together to get outside the lines, to question our views of the world in new and challenging ways. What are your views on contemporary slavery? Are we implicated in the death of Sudanese in the Sudan? What do we think about such global issues, and, more importantly, how do we decide what to think about these issues?

So often, we concentrate on what we know, the accumulation of material, rather than the perspectives we bring to this material. No matter how old we are, we tend to see things the same over and over, forgetting to recognize how different people, or just different perspectives, can lead us to enact different realities. This course will challenge us to achieve something better. We can gain new perspectives that enable us to change both the world around us and ourselves. We can examine new ways of thinking and see what these ways can offer us. Finally, we can decide what we want to accomplish in our world and use these ways of seeing to help us develop innovative ways of acting in the world.

Team-Taught Courses for Second-Year Students

HNR 230: Exploring Consciousness
Professors Mat Gendle and Jeffrey Pugh
General Studies Distribution: Society or Civilization
Meeting Time: 10:30-12:10 TTH

Gaining an understanding of the nature of human consciousness is one of the great intellectual problems faced by both science and religion. For centuries, philosophers, scientists, and theologians have debated the unitary nature of human experience. In the past 100 years, remarkable advances have been made in the study of the human brain, and the biological underpinnings of many psychological processes related to consciousness are beginning to be understood. Although correlations between neural activity and certain facets of conscious experience have been documented, the precise characterization of human consciousness remains an elusive goal. This course will discuss current and historical theories and research on consciousness (from the fields of religious studies, philosophy, physics, and neurobiology) in an attempt to formulate an integrated view of the differing and competing conceptualizations of the nature of consciousness and self-awareness.


HNR 272: Literary Journalism
Professors Tom Mould and Brooke Barnett
General Studies Distribution: Society or Expression (including Literature requirement)
Meeting Time: 12:25-2:05 TTH

Literary journalism involves employing fiction techniques when writing non-fiction stories. The effect is extremely compelling and has resulted in some of literary history's most memorable accounts, including a look at the sharecropper experience after the depression, a ride on a bus with a writer and his acid-dropping friends and the discovery of government-funded weapons used to massacre an entire village. In this class you will study the masters who started the movement as well as current writers, and in the end produce your own piece of literary journalism.

Spring 2011 Courses

Courses for First-Year Students

HNR 136: Don Quixote in the 21st Century
Professor Maureen Ihrie
General Studies Distribution: Expression (Literature)
Meeting Time: 1:40-3:20 MW

In a 2002 poll of one hundred of today's best-known living writers, Miguel de Cervantes's 400-year old Don Quijote de la Mancha was, by a wide margin, voted the single best, most influential work of literature in the history of the world. Popular opinion of what its archetypal hero represents, however, usually has little relation to Cervantes's masterpiece.

Using a recent translation, we will find out why the Quijote, the first modern novel, maintains relevance, and what the text implies about issues we face today, including: what determines ones personal identity; how do fiction and history differ, and what is the truth value of each; what constitutes reality; what is the relative power of idealism versus pragmatism; what defines a leader, and what separates a visionary from a madman; what constitutes faith; and other enduring concerns.

We will contextualize understanding of the primary text with readings about early seventeenth-century Spanish culture and the challenges that Spain faced. Select critical readings will model textual analysis from several theoretical perspectives. Attention will be paid as well to how the Quijote has embedded itself in issues and cultural products (film, texts, art) of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

HNR 137: Intellectual History
Professor Michael Carignan
General Studies Distribution:Civilization
Meeting Time: 10:30-12:10 TTH

Description: This course is designed to provide students opportunities to critically understand the historical nature of our own important ideas by examining the ways in which ideas have evolved through the last 300 years of European history. In order to understand the major, modern intellectual movements—Enlightenment, Romanticism, Developmentalism, Fin de Siecle, Modernism, Existentialism, and Deconstruction—we will read classic works ranging from philosophy to history and literature from the major figures who have asked and/or responded to the very deepest questions that have captivated modern, Western civilization. Threading many of the movements will be the enduring themes of freedom, critique, historical consciousness, the “death” of God, and the inescapable disappearance of certainties. Writers include: Kant, Rousseau, Wollstonecraft, Mary Shelley, Darwin, Nietzsche, Kafka, Freud, Sartre, Camus, Derrida, and Borges.

Team-Taught Courses for Second-Year Students

HNR 232: Disability Past and Present
Professors Carolyn Stuart and Mary Jo Festle
General Studies Distribution: Civilization or Society
Meeting time: 12:25-2:05 TTH

What does it mean to be disabled? How has the meaning of disability changed during different time periods in the U.S.? What factors affect a person's experience of disability? Why would it matter for people - either disabled or not - to learn about these matters? In this course, the answers to these and other questions will be explored. Disability is a complex category, and peoples' experiences with disability have varied a great deal. This course aims to explore that complexity while concentrating on certain ideas, including the social construction of disability and how it has changed over time. A variety of perspectives on disability will be introduced and connections between past and present will be made. Students will be critiquing societal actions and portrayals, including those by cultural authorities and the disabled themselves. Students will complete a significant research project that enables them to learn how the field of Disabilities Studies touches upon a discipline of their interest. The instructors hope to engage students' brains and hearts - to deepen their thinking about this particular interdisciplinary topic, to improve their academic skills, and to stimulate their thinking about the art and business of being human.

HNR 234: Bioinformatics: The Digital Code of Life
Professors Linda Niedziela and Lynn Heinrichs
General Studies Distribution: Science (does count for lab science) or Society
Meeting Time: 10:30-12:10 TTH

DNA is often called “the blueprint of life,” but is this really accurate? We often think of a blueprint as a detailed plan for how to put a building together, but living things are more complicated than buildings. In biology, a genome contains all the information needed to create and maintain a copy of a living organism. The genetic code is carried in the DNA. Genome sequencing can decipher the code to provide a “blueprint” of how the DNA is organized, but once the “blueprint” is defined, the biggest challenge still remains – understanding what it means and how it can be used to improve our quality of life. Biologists and computer scientists are closely collaborating in the field of bioinformatics to do just that.

This course introduces students to bioinformatics, the use of computers to gather, store, search, and analyze biological data. The goal of bioinformatics is to discover knowledge about organisms for use in such fields as human health, agriculture, energy, and the environment. In this course, students will use biological databases and Internet tools to analyze DNA, RNA and protein sequences; compare sequences; predict molecular structure related to function; and develop evolutionary family trees. Throughout the course, problem-solving techniques will be applied to real-world scenarios that consider the societal, legal, and ethical issues surrounding bioinformatics applications. No prerequisites are needed.