Honors Interdisciplinary Seminars

Upcoming Semesters:

Current Semester:

Summer 2014

Summer I

HONR 3310-01
A History of Espionage & Covert Operations in the Cold War

Mon, Tues, Wed, Thurs / 11:40am – 1:20pm
CRN: 40525

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 Drawing from a wide variety of published and unpublished primary and secondary sources, supplemented by modern theoretical and social science perspectives, literature, and films, this course explores the history of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.

Students will create a framework for understanding the alternative roles of espionage in wartime and peacetime, as well as the standard methods for establishing and running agent networks in hostile conditions.

 

HONR 3310-02
Promoting Success Through Prevention Science

Mon, Tues, Wed, Thurs / 9:50am – 11:30am
CRN: 40860

Prof. Emily Mann
Human Services Program

Child maltreatment, school failure, delinquency, and substance abuse are complicated social problems with complex causes and multifaceted solutions. Over the last century, intervention has been framed to “cure” these social problems and others. And yet individuals, families, and communities continue to be plagued by these issues. This course will ask the question “how can we prevent, intervene, and treat social problems in a more effective manner?” Using frameworks from public health, social work, psychology, sociology and family studies, we will explore the implementation of “best practices” as defined by the field known as prevention science. We will assess programmatic ability to reduce social problems and enhance positive outcomes for children, their families, and their communities. We will examine the feasibility and effectiveness of universal and selective prevention, intervention, and treatment programs on a wide range of contemporary social problems. Through class readings and discussions, we will begin to better understand what makes programs work – who is most effectively reached, whether there is an optimal intervention point, and why some programs work and others do not.

 

Summer II

HONR 3310-01
Can There Be Morality In Politics?

Mon, Wed / 1:30pm – 5:00pm
CRN: 60435

Prof. David Rochefort
Department of Political Science

Who lives and who dies? How should scarce resources be allocated? What degree of inequality should be allowed between different social groups? When should the power of the state be used for coercion, punishment, destruction, or blame? These are just some of the weighty issues in politics that involve a critical moral dimension. The purpose of this course is to review a series of case studies in which morality and pragmatism have competed for attention in the policy making process. Through in-depth discussion of the background of these historical and contemporary situations and the controversies they provoked, students in this highly interactive seminar will examine the consideration of morality in politics and how leaders confront questions of means v. ends, rival stakeholder interests, short v. long-term benefit, and other challenging quandaries.

 

Fall 2014

HONR 3310-01
Social Justice: The Role of Reading, Writing, and Understanding Non-Fiction

Mon / 5:00pm – 8:00pm (Seq 99)
CRN: 15097

Michael Patrick MacDonald
Honors Program Writer-in-Residence

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 movement 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
Promoting Success Through Prevention Science

Mon, Wed / 2:50pm – 4:30pm (Seq B)
CRN: 15098

Prof. Emily Mann
Human Services Program

Child maltreatment, school failure, delinquency, and substance abuse are complicated social problems with complex causes and multifaceted solutions. Over the last century, intervention has been framed to “cure” these social problems and others. And yet individuals, families, and communities continue to be plagued by these issues. This course will ask the question “how can we prevent, intervene, and treat social problems in a more effective manner?” Using frameworks from public health, social work, psychology, sociology and family studies, we will explore the implementation of “best practices” as defined by the field known as prevention science. We will assess programmatic ability to reduce social problems and enhance positive outcomes for children, their families, and their communities. We will examine the feasibility and effectiveness of universal and selective prevention, intervention, and treatment programs on a wide range of contemporary social problems. Through class readings and discussions, we will begin to better understand what makes programs work – who is most effectively reached, whether there is an optimal intervention point, and why some programs work and others do not.

 

HONR 3310-03
Can There Be Morality In Politics?

Wed / 5:00pm – 8:00pm (Seq 99)
CRN: 15099

Prof. David Rochefort
Department of Political Science

Who lives and who dies? How should scarce resources be allocated? What degree of inequality should be allowed between different social groups? When should the power of the state be used for coercion, punishment, destruction, or blame? These are just some of the weighty issues in politics that involve a critical moral dimension. The purpose of this course is to review a series of case studies in which morality and pragmatism have competed for attention in the policy making process. Through in-depth discussion of the background of these historical and contemporary situations and the controversies they provoked, students in this highly interactive seminar will examine the consideration of morality in politics and how leaders confront questions of means v. ends, rival stakeholder interests, short v. long-term benefit, and other challenging quandaries.

 

HONR 3310-04
Entrepreneurial Thinking

Thurs / 5:00pm – 8:00pm (Seq 99)
CRN: 15100

Prof. Justin Craig
Department of Entrepreneurship and Innovation

Entrepreneurial thinking lies at the heart of our innovation economy. Entrepreneurship involves both a skillset and a mindset.  This course will introduce students to the proven skillset that successful entrepreneurs need in order to launch and grow a new venture. It will also illustrate why and how entrepreneurship is a mindset, which involves different ways of thinking about problems and opportunities.

Entrepreneurs do think differently. The ability to think “like an entrepreneur” has become a core skill of the managerial mind and the leadership ethos in virtually every sphere of human activity.  “Entrepreneurial management” has become quintessential  with good management practice. The central focus of this course, therefore, is to develop the skills and mindset that students need in order to think entrepreneurially. Throughout the course, students will learn the concepts related to entrepreneurial thinking and action.  Most importantly, they will appreciate that entrepreneurship exists in various contexts — e.g. technology entrepreneurship, corporate entrepreneurship, family enterprise, and social entrepreneurship.

 

HONR 3310-05
A History of Espionage & Covert Operations in the Cold War

Wed / 5:00pm – 8:00pm (Seq 99)
CRN: 15101

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. This course explores the history of espionage during the Cold War era (1943-1991) through a series of emblematic case studies. To this end, it draws from a wide variety of published and unpublished, primary and secondary sources, supplemented by modern theoretical and social science perspectives, literature, and films,. Working individually and in teams, students will explore the history of covert operations, with a special focus on the following sub-themes: the origins of the Cold War in World War II; the postwar battle for German scientists; Containment and Rollback; Venona and code-breaking; nuclear spies; defectors; proxy wars; insurgencies and counterinsurgencies; terrorism; technology.

Students will create a framework for understanding the alternative roles of espionage in wartime and peacetime, as well as the standard methods for establishing and running agent networks in hostile conditions.

 

HONR 3310-06
The Art of Narrative Non-Fiction: From the Survivors of Hiroshima to the Garbage Pickers of Mumbai

Thurs / 5:00pm – 8:00pm (Seq 99)
CRN: 15103

Prof. James Ross
School of Journalism

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. These authors narrate true stories but use devices normally associated with fiction, such as scenic construction, dialogue and shifting points of view.
John Hersey’s “Hiroshima,” first published in The New Yorker magazine in 1946, portrayed the lives of six survivors of the atomic blast and showed the horrors of nuclear warfare in human terms. Truman Capote’s “In Cold Blood” (1966) reconstructed the savage murder of a farmer and his family in Holcomb, Kansas and the search, capture and execution of the two killers. The film “Capote,” among others, is based on this non-fiction novel. Michael Herr’s “Dispatches” (1977) is a vivid, first-hand account from soldiers on the front lines of the Vietnam War. Some of the characters in the book appeared in Herr’s screenplay for Stanley Kubrick’s film “Full Metal Jacket.” Susan Orlean’s “The Orchid Thief”(1998) was the basis for the film “Adaptation,” starring Nicolas Cage and Meryl Streep.

In the course, we will also discuss the narrative non-fiction of Tom Wolfe, Hunter S. Thompson, John McPhee, Gay Talese, Tracy Kidder and Katherine Boo. Finally, we will examine some of the issues raised by this type of journalism, particularly the blurring of lines between fiction and non-fiction, and analyze the use of narrative elements, photography, editing and sound in the films.

 

HONR 3310-07
Visual Art and Visual Culture Since 1945

Tues / 5:00pm – 8:00pm (Seq 99)
CRN: 15291

Prof. William Kaizen
Department of Art + Design

The years after 1945 saw, as art critic Irving Sandler phrased it, the “triumph of American painting.” Visual art in the U.S. had at last achieved an unprecedented level of international prestige. At the same time, many saw the increasing proliferation of mass cultural forms as a threat to this precarious achievement. This course will both survey and question the purportedly dialectical relationship between ‘high’ and ‘low’ forms of visual culture with a focus on the post-World War II U.S., as articulated in the visual arts (Pop Art, feminist art, and performance art), film (genre film vs. auteur films vs. avant-garde films), television (sitcoms and the counter-culture’s use of TV news), and digital media (computers as work, play and fine art). We will also examine the global influence — and criticism — of contemporary U.S. visual culture, as well as the influence of other cultures on the U.S. (especially British and Japanese pop culture).

 

HONR 3310-08
Contemporary Issues in Health Care

Tues, Fri / 9:50am – 11:30am (Seq D)
CRN: 15377

Prof. Lorna Hayward
Department of Physical Therapy

The course will examine modern health care issues at various levels — i.e. individual, local, national, and global. Through the course, students will develop an understanding of U.S. health care issues in a historical context, with a specific focus on the recent changes to the US health care system through the nationwide implementation of Obama Care. Students will also discuss health care issues abroad. Students will learn about health care in other developed nations such as Japan, Germany, and England. In addition, we will read current literature that chronicles the work of Dr. Paul Farmer, founder of Partners in Health, in the underdeveloped nations of Haiti, Peru and Russia. Finally, students will analyze health decisions from multiple perspectives, such as: historical, political, ethical, financial, technological, and epidemiological. Strategies for promotion of self care will be accomplished through exposure to important topics such as nutrition, stress and stress reduction techniques. Additional topics include telemedicine and how medical ethics impacts the delivery of care and end of life decisions in medicine.

 

HONR 3310-09
After the Walls Came Down: Central Europe Before, During and After Communism

Mon / 5:00pm – 8:00pm (Seq 99)
CRN: 15413

Prof. Harlow Robinson
Department of History

The goal of this course is to understand the human dimensions of the dramatic political changes that have taken place in Central and Eastern Europe since 1945. What has it been like to live through the rise and fall of Communism, and into the brave—and often frightening–new world of capitalism? Using historical writings, memoirs, novels and films, we will examine the transformation of the societies in this volatile region during the post-war period, with particular attention to Czechoslovakia (later Czech Republic and Slovakia), East Germany and Hungary. Austria, the only country in the region to develop an enduring capitalist economy and democratic government after 1945, will provide a different comparative model. Why did Communism appeal to so many people in these countries? How did national and cultural factors influence the way the various Communist regimes arose and developed? How did the USSR attempt to control the local populations? How have these various countries and societies dealt with the difficult transition from Communism to capitalism? The goal of the course is to understand better what people gained—and what they lost—when the fences and walls came tumbling down from Berlin to Prague to Budapest.

 

HONR 3310-10
Limits on Scientific Knowledge: Chaos, Complexity, and Computability

Mon, Thurs / 11:45am – 1:25pm (Seq A)
CRN: 16942

Prof. Waleed Meleis
Electrical & Computer Engineering Department

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 non-computability. 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. Throughout the seminar students will get hands-on experience using software packages.

 

HONR 3310-11
50th anniversary of John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme”: Jazz, Vision and Divine Inspiration

Mon, Thurs / 11:45am – 1:25pm (Seq A)
CRN: 16943

Prof. Leonard Brown
Department of Music
Department of African American Studies

This course will focus on the major contributions of John Coltrane to jazz and American music with a specific focus on his composition “A Love Supreme”, which blurred the aesthetic and commercial borders of musical genres generally classified as jazz, religious, pop, secular, spiritual or sacred.

The course will start with a biographical examination of Coltrane’s cultural roots and his early exposure to music and culture including his formative years in North Carolina and Philadelphia. We will explore his subsequent apprenticeships with jazz masters including Dizzy Gillespie, Johnny Hodges, Thelonious Monk and Miles Davis. We will then assess Coltrane’s spiritual awakening and his subsequent continued musical growth and mastery; his interest in world musical forms, styles and belief systems; his growth and development as an innovative virtuoso and creative artist; and his continued spiritual evolution and impact. Finally, we will gauge his cultural impact on literature, poetry, film, and the African American experience through his musical, political, social, and spiritual quest.

As part of the course, we will attend the 37th John Coltrane Memorial Concert in the fall of 2014, which will feature a special 50th anniversary performance of “A Love Supreme.” “A Love Supreme” was Coltrane’s musical offering expressing his faith and belief in God; a four-part suite in which Coltrane expresses gratitude, joy and humility for the grace that God has bestowed on him. It is a testimony to Coltrane’s deep spiritual roots, musical genius and use of music as “a force for good.” As a result of this composition, which is considered one of the most significant of the 20th century, John Coltrane became “a preacher on his horn”. . His impact and influence on rock, rap/hip-hop, pop, blues, classical and jazz musicians is significant.

 

HONR 3310-12
From Potions to the Modern Pharmaceutical Empire: The Changing Approaches to Drug Therapy in the US

Tues, Fri / 9:50am – 11:30am (Seq D)
CRN: 16987

Prof. Nathaniel Rickles
Department of Pharmacy Practice

This interactive course will take students through a historical and comparative exploration of how medications are developed and used in treatment. Specifically, we will examine how medication development, access, use and outcomes are shaped not only by developments in medical/pharmaceutical research but also by political decisions, culture, and the prevailing social science paradigms. For example, we will explore how both scientific advances and cultural evolution have shaped mental health care and treatment over time.

The course will historically situate medication use in the US and compare it with other cultures’. We will analyze drug therapy through cultural artifacts (such as memoirs and film) and debate with consumers and other stakeholders. Students will develop individual, in-depth and comparative analyses of an aspect of drug treatment. As a class, we will elaborate a synthesis of political, cultural, scientific and medical critiques of the major artifacts, which we explored during the course. At the end of the semester, students will acquire an interdisciplinary understanding of the complexity of contemporary health care issues.

 

HONR 3310-13
Justice: What is Right and Why

Wed / 4:35pm – 5:35pm; 6:00pm – 8:00pm (Seq 99)
CRN: 17526

Prof. Barry Bluestone
Department of Political Science

Prof. Paola Cesarini
Department of Political Science; Director, University Honors Program

With the participation of leading scholars in social science, law, public policy and philosophy, the course offers a multidisciplinary approach to an exploration of “justice” as an ethical, legal, political, economic, and social concept. It also delves into a wide range of topics related to justice – i.e. criminal justice, civil justice, economic justice, social justice, environmental justice, transitional justice, global justice and international justice, etc. — all of which turn on the question posed by Harvard University Professor of Government, Michael J. Sandel: “What is the Right Thing to Do?”

As a starting point, this course will address key questions about the meaning of justice and analyze contrasting views as to the basis for ethical behavior. More specifically, it will compare and contrast three perspectives on the subject: justice as welfare maximization, justice as individual rights, and justice as virtue and “the good life”. Next, the course will explore the philosophical roots of ethical behavior — perhaps uncomfortably suggesting that what is the right thing to do is not always obvious.