Honors Interdisciplinary Seminars

Fall 2016 

HONR 3310-01
Social Justice

Mon/5:00 pm – 8:00 pm
CRN: 14121

Prof. Michael P. MacDonald

In order to write the most effective non-fiction around social justice issues, a writer might undertake personal reflection on their own life to access that “place” that allows for greater empathy. When we write about issues affecting other people’s lives, it is important to engage in a process of contemplation that will lead to more in-depth understanding, and create a unique and passionate “voice” that brings the reader in. This is true, no matter where we come from or what our previous exposure to the issues at hand. This model is the mark of training in traditional fields such as anthropology and the new genre of “self aware” contemporary writing that contributes to our understanding of social issues. This “writing classroom” will help students engage in critical thought and discussion of a wide range of social issues, as well as grassroots movements for change. Central unifying themes of the course will be poverty, violence, and the intersection of social justice and healing efforts in communities affected by both. We will focus on the implications for writers of non-fiction on these topics. The course will present an “insider’s” view into writing with a greater consciousness of these topics by starting with some of my work, which includes two memoirs, a screen-play, editorials and a work-in-progress on solutions to gang violence in Massachusetts.

Second, the course will move outward to the works of other significant writers of non-fiction – what has made their work so effective and memorable? Have the works influenced or been influenced by contemporary social problems? Are there policy links to any of these writings? Finally, the course will frame a discussion of the many ways to write non-fiction about these central themes: as memoirs, non-fiction books, as reports, as news articles, and as policy initiatives. This course is suitable for students interested in general public policy issues, criminal justice concerns, social problems and social justice, journalism, urban anthropology, international affairs, English and the practice of writing.

HONR 3310-02
Contemporary Issues in Health Care

Tues & Fri/ 9:50 am – 11:30 am
CRN: 14270

Prof. Lorna Hayward
Department of Physical Therapy/ Bouve

This service-learning, seminar based course is project-based and involves the creation of a group proposal for addressing a community-defined health need. We will examine modern health care issues at the individual, local, national, and global levels. Students will develop an understanding of health as it affects them as individuals. From there, US health care issues will be examined historically. Students will also develop an understanding of health care issues locally and abroad in both developed and underdeveloped nations. Health decisions will be examined from multiple perspectives including: historical, political, ethical, financial, technological, and epidemiological.

HONR 3310-03
Assassinations in World History

Wed/ 5:00 pm – 8:00 pm
CRN: 14123

Prof. Jeffrey Burds
Department of History/ CSSH

Challenging Disraeli’s hasty dismissal of the role of assassinations in history. this seminar explores the historical antecedents to the unprecedented use of assassination and targeted killing as state policy in the current War on Terror: the theory, strategic use, ethics, and legality of assassination. Using film, literature, and primary and secondary readings, students in the seminar will explore case studies in the world history of assassination, from ancient times to the current day. We will explore case studies from the Roman Empire; the Assassini; Early-Modern Europe; Regicide in Revolutionary Europe; the Lincoln assassination; and the 20th century assassination of world leaders; World War II; Gandhi; the Soviets’ Murder, Inc.; the Cold War; the Middle East; JFK; Castro; Israeli “Targeted Killing” operations; and Osama Bin Laden.

Introduced during the second administration of President George W. Bush as an extension of the Bush Doctrine, the assassination of enemy combatants in the War on Terror has targeted for execution thousands of suspected terrorists around the world. The primary mechanism for assassination has been the use of drones: 50 assassinations between 2005 and 2009 in the Bush administration; 2,400 to 3,888 suspected kills in Pakistan during six years of the Obama administration, 2005-2014; 344-533 suspected kills in Yemen; etc. At no time in the history of the world has assassination been used so openly and so widely as a strategic weapon. Throughout history, other nations have similarly adopted targeted killing as a strategic weapon: from the Soviet Union to Israel, from the Roman Empire to the modern Middle East, assassination has been an integral part of state-sponsored violence throughout history.

HONR 3310-04
Shaping Technology to Mine the Ornate

Mon & Wed/ 2:50 pm – 4:30 pm
CRN: 16342

Prof. Janos Stone
Department of Art & Design/ CAMD

You are invited to join a group whose goal is to create new thinking and uses for applied 3D ornamentation by combining your area of expertise, technology, and art and design theory. We will be an interdisciplinary collection of artist/designer/scientists exploring questions such as; “What is contemporary ornamentation? How can ornament be created using contemporary technologies? How can contemporary ornamentation help us all live better lives? What applications are there for new ornament? What interesting opportunities are there after 100 years of ornament-less design?”

HONR 3310-05
Of Two Minds: Intuition and Deliberation in Human Decision Making

Mon & Thurs/ 11:45 am – 1:25 pm
CRN: 16479

Prof. John Coley
Department of Psychology/ COS

Current theory suggests that two distinct cognitive systems guide our everyday thinking: “System 1” is fast, intuitive, and emotional; “System 2” is slow, deliberative, and more logical. In this course, we’ll explore how each works and how their interaction results in the extraordinary capabilities—and the faults and biases—that characterize how we think, as well as the pervasive influence of intuitive impressions on our thoughts and behavior. We’ll read Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow (2011) and Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink (2007), along with empirical research articles and case studies from the popular media. The goal will be to consider how the interaction of unconscious intuition and conscious deliberation influence everyday thinking across a wide range of disciplines, including history, politics, law, science, and human relationships. The class format will be discussion and student presentations.

HONR 3310-06
Innovation by Design: Radical Ideas and Creative Action

Tues & Fri/ 1:35 pm – 3:15 pm
CRN: 18020

Prof. Xavier Costa
School of Architecture/ CAMD

From Charles & Ray Eames to the Media Lab, contemporary design has been rapidly changing the world we live in. From the spaces we inhabit to the clothes we wear, from sustainable environments to data visualization, design is reshaping the way we think, the processes of making, and the cultures of interacting with products and systems. This discussion-based seminar looks at the evolution of design during the past sixty years, with an emphasis on the present and immediate future of disruptive creativity. We will look at how design methodologies translate into business models, into new forms of communication and problem solving with high emotional and intellectual impact. We will focus on designers that have successfully doubled as entrepreneurs in different fields, such as visual communication, fashion, product design, architectural innovation, gastronomy or applied technology.

HONR 3310- 08
Human Rights in the 21st Century

Mon, Wed, Thurs/ 10:30 am – 11:35 am
CRN: 17574

Prof. Serena Parekh
Department of Philosophy/CSSH

Human Rights in the 21st Century is an interdisciplinary course that examines one of the most important political concepts in the world today – human rights. This course aims to give students a solid foundation on the theories, laws, and institutions that relate to human rights. This course will provide students with a deep understanding of human rights from a variety of perspectives – legal, political, philosophical, sociological and cultural/artistic – through the use of primary sources (such as UN declarations and treaties); scholarship by legal scholars, political scientists and philosophers; and film, literature and other forms of cultural production that grapple with human rights. We will look both at the theory and practice of human rights, as well as specific issues such as genocide, refugees, torture, and women’s rights. The course will incorporate presentations by human rights activists, lawyers, and NGO leaders working in the Boston area. The class is based on classroom discussion, collaborative projects, and class presentations. Students will complete the class understanding the challenges involved with protecting human rights and having the tools to take part in this global social movement.

HONR 3310-09
Scientific Approaches to Philosophy

Mon, Wed, Thurs/ 1:35 pm – 2:40 pm
CRN: 17575

Prof. Roy Smead
Department off Philosophy & Religion/ CSSH

Science has produced a wealth of knowledge in areas ranging from evolution to quantum physics. Philosophy has struggled with foundational questions that have remained largely unanswered, despite over a thousand years of investigation. This course will explore the connection between the scientific worldview and fundamental philosophical questions. Central to philosophy are questions about the distinction between appearance and reality, whether we have free will, whether our future is predetermined, or if there is a fundamental value to human life. We will assess recent attempts to answer classic philosophical questions by drawing on contemporary scientific theories and methods. While science may not always provide satisfactory answers to answer these questions, it changes the way we think about them. For instance, if we are the products of evolution, what does that say about morality and ethics? What does contemporary physics tell us about pre-determination? Or, what does psychology and neuroscience contribute to our understanding of consciousness? Some questions may be fundamentally beyond the grasp of science.

HONR 3310-10
Fundamental Limits on Scientific Knowledge

Mon & Thursday/ 11:45 am – 1:25 pm
CRN: 17650

Prof. Waleed Meleis
Department of Electrical& Computer Engineering/ COE

The principle of determinism – the belief that future behavior can be known and determined from an analysis of current conditions – has shaped contemporary scientific knowledge in physics, chemistry, mathematics, and other areas. This seminar begins with an exploration of this principle, and then focuses on four important conceptual challenges that were discovered during the 20th century and which reduce the applicability of determinism: chaos, complexity, uncertainty, and noncomputability. These ideas have had a dramatic effect on scientific disciplines as diverse as biology, computer science, economics, sociology, and engineering, and on applications such as weather prediction, genome sequencing, and cell phone routing. In understanding these challenges, we will discuss their practical implications for scientists and non-scientists.

HONR 3310-12
Art of Narrative Nonfiction

Thurs/ 5:00 pm – 8:00 pm
CRN: 18223

Prof. James Ross

Department of Journalism/ CAMD

We will read and discuss the work of some of the most compelling non-fiction writers of the 20th and 21st century and screen some of the films based on their works. We will watch and discuss a film one week and discuss the author and the book on which the film was based the following week. Our goal for the semester is to examine how narrative works, in both film and print, and explore the different forms of non-fiction. The authors we’ll be discussing narrate “true” stories but use devices normally associated with fiction, such as scenic construction, dialogue and shifting points of view.

Summer I 2016 

HONR 3310
Cold War Spies

Mon – Thu / 1:30pm-3:10pm
CRN: 40413

Prof. Jeffrey Burds
Department of History

Commonly referred to as the world’s “second oldest profession,” espionage has become an intrinsic part of the relations between communities, institutions, and states. Drawing from a wide variety of published and unpublished primary and secondary sources, supplemented by modern theoretical and social science perspectives, literature, and films, this course explores the history of espionage during the Cold War era (1943-1991) through a series of case studies. Working individually and in teams, students will explore the history of covert operations including these sub-themes: the origins of the Cold War in World War II; the postwar battle for German scientists; Containment and Rollback; Venona and codebreaking; nuclear spies; defectors; proxy wars; insurgencies and counterinsurgencies; terrorism; technology.

HONR 3310
The Science of Play

Mon – Thu / 9:50am-11:30am
CRN: 40535

Prof. Emily Mann
Department of Human Services

Students will actively engage in the scholarship of play and explore the role and function, benefits and barriers of play in childhood and throughout the lifespan.  Course topics will include the background and significance of play in history, the role of play as a predictor of academic and social functioning, the use of play in character/moral development, play and inequality, and the use of play to prevent, intervene, and treat trauma. Clinical and non-clinical implications of play will be explored, as well as the physiological and social implications of play, using contemporary research on brain science and brain development. The Science of Play combines classroom learning with field work and research on the role of play as prevention, intervention, and treatment within the early childhood period. Students will alternate between classroom time and field work at Boston’s Children Museum and in the local community, where they will develop research projects through a consultation with Northeastern faculty, a Children’s Museum Director, and NU Crossing.  The course will include a research based service-learning project.


Summer II 2016 

HONR 3310
Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Global Justice

Tue, Thu / 1:30pm-5:00pm
CRN: 60713

Prof. Serena Parekh
Department of Philosophy

Most of the important political issues of our day– climate change, terrorism, health pandemics – are global in nature. This course will approach the question of global justice from an interdisciplinary perspective. We will consider the moral/philosophical dimensions of global problems, as well as their legal and political dimensions, with specific attention to human rights and international law. That is, we will look not only at the questions of what we should do legally or politically about a particular issue, but also what we are morally obliged at do, through reading and discussing philosophical texts, case studies, and films. Students will have the opportunity to conduct independent research on topics that are of interest to them, such as: climate change (and associated issues), global health, trade justice, global poverty, military intervention, global security, global corporate responsibility, refugees and immigration, and women’s rights among others.