Honors Interdisciplinary Seminars

Upcoming Semesters:

Current Semester:

Summer 2014

Summer I

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

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

Prof. Jeffrey Burds
History Department

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 Drawing from a wide variety of published and unpublished primary and secondary sources, supplemented by modern theoretical and social science perspectives, literature, and films, this course explores the history of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
Topic: Promoting Success Through Prevention Science

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

Prof. Emily Mann
Human Services

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
Topic: 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
Topic: Social Justice: The Role of Reading, Writing, and Understanding Non-Fiction

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

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
Topic: Promoting Success Through Prevention Science

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

Prof. Emily Mann
Human Services

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
Topic: Can There Be Morality In Politics?

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

Prof. David Rochefort
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
Topic: Entrepreneurial Thinking

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

Prof. Justin Craig
Entrepreneurship and Innovation

Entrepreneurship involves both a skillset and a mindset. In this course students will be introduced to the proven skillset that successful entrepreneurs need to launch and grow a new venture. But, as important, they will appreciate that entrepreneurship is a mindset and involves thinking about problems and opportunities differently. Entrepreneurial thinking lies at the heart of our innovation economy.

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, and “entrepreneurial management” has become the quintessence of good management practice. The central focus of this course, therefore, is to begin to develop the skillset and mindset needed to think entrepreneurially. Throughout the course, students will be introduced to the concepts related to the way that entrepreneurs think and act and, importantly, appreciate that entrepreneurship exists in various contexts, specifically, technology entrepreneurship, corporate entrepreneurship, family enterprising, and social entrepreneurship.

 

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

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

Prof. Jeffrey Burds
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 3310-06
Topic: 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: TBA

Prof. James Ross
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.

We also will discuss the narrative non-fiction of Tom Wolfe, Hunter S. Thompson, John McPhee, Gay Talese, Tracy Kidder and Katherine Boo. 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
Topic: Visual Art and Visual Culture Since 1945

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

Prof. William Kaizen
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, the increasing proliferation of mass cultural forms was seen by many to constitute 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 t.v. 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 and the influence of other cultures on the U.S., especially British and Japanese pop culture.

 

HONR 3310-08
Topic: Contemporary Issues in Health Care

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

Prof. Lorna Hayward
Physical Therapy

The course will examine modern health care issues at the individual, local, national, and global levels. Students will develop an understanding of U.S. health care issues in an historical context. Students will also develop an understanding of health care issues abroad in both developed and underdeveloped nations. Students will examine health decisions from multiple perspectives including: historical, political, ethical, financial, technological, and epidemiological.

 

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

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

Prof. Harlow Robinson
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 in the post-war period, paying 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
Topic: Limits on Scientific Knowledge: Chaos, Complexity, and Computability

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

Prof. Waleed Meleis
Electrical and Computer Engineering

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

 

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

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

Prof. Leonard Brown
Music
African American Studies

In 2007, The Pulitzer Prize Board awarded a posthumous Special Citation to John Coltrane for his lifetime of innovative and influential work. The citation lauds Coltrane for “his masterful improvisation, supreme musicianship and iconic centrality to the history of jazz.”

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.” 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 lastly his continued spiritual evolution and impact.

“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.” “A Love Supreme” blurred the aesthetic and commercial borders of musical genres generally classified as jazz, religious, pop, secular, spiritual or sacred. Coltrane became a “preacher on his horn” as a result of this composition, which is considered one of the most significant musical compositions of the 20th century by such diverse groups as the Smithsonian Institution and Rolling Stone. His impact and influence on pop, rock and rap musicians is significant.

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.” By the end of the semester, we will have an understanding of Coltrane’s influence on musicians across many genres, including rock, rap/hip-hop, pop, blues, classical and jazz. We will also understand his cultural impact on literature, poetry, film, and the African American experience through his musical, political, social, and spiritual quest.

 

HONR 3310-12
Topic: 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: TBA

Prof. Nathaniel Rickles
Pharmacy Practice

This interactive course will take you through a historical and comparative journey of how medications have been 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 politics, the arts and humanities, and the social sciences. For example, we will explore how mental health care and treatment has been shaped by both scientific understanding and cultural responses.

We will also historically situate how medication use is viewed in the US in comparison to other cultures. We will conduct these analyses by examining such cultural artifacts such as memoirs and film and through discussions with consumers and other stakeholders. Individually, students will develop an in-depth and comparative analysis of an aspect of drug treatment. As a class, we will develop a synthesis of critiques of major artifacts explored through the term from politics, the arts and humanities, social sciences, and medicine. At the end of the semester, participants will have an interdisciplinary understanding of the complexity of one aspect of contemporary health care.

 

Spring 2014

HONR 3310-01
Topic: Contemporary Issues of Substance Abuse

Wed, Fri / 11:45am – 1:25pm (Seq E)
CRN: 34766

Prof. Carol Paronis
Pharmaceutical Sciences

This course covers pharmacological, social, and political aspects of drug abuse and the treatment of drug abuse disorders. Didactic lectures the mechanisms of action of different drugs are paired with class discussions on readings drawn from the original literature that describe pharmacological effects of commonly abused drugs including opioids, psychomotor stimulants, alcohol, marijuana, and nicotine. The class will also address the use of research data to set legal and medical policy.

 

HONR 3310-02
Topic: Health Policy in an Era of Reform

Tues / 11:45am – 1:25pm & Thurs / 2:50pm – 4:30pm (Seq H)
CRN: 34767

Prof. Kristin Madison
Health Sciences
School of Law

Health reform has dominated headlines for much of the last few years. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and numerous other reform initiatives led by policymakers, health care providers, employers, and others have the potential to completely transform the health care system. In this course, we will look behind the headlines to evaluate the implications of these initiatives for health care access, cost, and quality, and ultimately for health. Through readings, class discussions, and research papers and presentations, we will explore diverse health policy-related issues, including obesity, health incentives, direct-to-consumer advertising, health disparities, malpractice liability, and the Affordable Care Act. We will then identify the common themes that weave these topics together and discuss their implications for the future health care system.

 

HONR 3310-03
Topic: Unraveling the Beatles

Mon, Thurs / 11:45am – 1:25pm (Seq A)
CRN: 34769

Prof. Dennis Miller
Music

This course will look at the threads that weave through the career of the Beatles. Their influence, while grounded in their music, spun off in ways that helped to both shape and reflect a particular historical time between 1963 and 1971. Yet, their musical consciousness continues to influence today. This course will explore how the themes of religion, politics and innovation (among others) run through their music. The course will ground students in the musical terms and concepts that will be used as foundational tools to discuss the seminal influence of the Beatles.

 

HONR 3310-04
Topic: Social Fact from Fiction: Using Novels to Explore Contemporary Social Problems and Public Policy

Wed / 5:00pm – 8:00pm (Seq 99)
CRN: 34768

Prof. David Rochefort
Political Science

Harriet Beecher Stowe and slavery. Upton Sinclair and unhealthy working conditions. John Steinbeck and the Great Depression. Richard Wright and racial inequality. There is a long tradition of concern in American fiction with emerging or neglected social problems. At its best, such work has had far-reaching effects, first in raising public awareness, and second in triggering public policy reforms. The purpose of this honors seminar will be to examine the way that novelists on the contemporary scene are using their writing to explore poverty, homelessness, mental illness, race relations, domestic abuse, and other important social issues. Reading fiction can be a powerful experience that brings together the “historical,” “social,” and “personal” dimensions of life in our society. By focusing on a series of noteworthy realist novels, this course aims to cover both the factual basis of the texts and the narrative devices, such as plotting, characterization, symbolism, subjective description, and normative judgment, used by authors to cast a spotlight on social problems and their impacts.

 

HONR 3310-05
Topic: From the Wobblies to Occupy: the Culture, Politics, and Representation of Popular Struggle

Tues / 5:00pm – 8:00pm (Seq 99)
CRN: 36045

Prof. Jeffrey Juris
Anthropology

Occupy Wall Street burst onto the scene in September 2011 to challenge skyrocketing inequality, bank bailouts, and socio-economic injustice, reinvigorating the long-simmering hope in the U.S. and around the world that radical social change was possible. For many observers, the Occupy Movement came out of nowhere, but for scholars and long-time activists, Occupy was the continuation of long tradition of grassroots social movements in this country and abroad. This interdisciplinary honors seminar explores this history of radical social movement organizing in the U.S. and around the world through a consideration of the ways various social movements have been narrated, explained, and represented by activists, academics, and documentary film makers. Why do people collectively challenge political authorities? Why at other times do they engage in more everyday forms of resistance? When and why do groups refuse to accept the status quo and let others speak for them? Why do they decide to protest in the streets rather than express their grievances through representative institutions? What strategies and tactics do they choose, and how do authorities, the mass media, and fellow citizens respond? How does collective action produce new social identities, new cultural forms, new media practices, and new modes of democracy? When and why do social movements succeed or fail? Each session will combine a brief introductory lecture with a documentary film and discussion of course readings and student writing about a particular struggle, such as the civil rights, women’s, environmental, global justice, Tea Party, Arab Spring, and Occupy movements.

 

HONR 3310-06
Topic: The New Global Politics: Urban Contestation

Tues, Fri / 9:50am – 11:30am (Seq D)
CRN: 34770

Prof. Berna Turam
Sociology

This seminar has two major goals. First, we will explore the recently rising prominence of urban contestation across the globe. Why has “space” come to the forefront of political contestation, discontent and opposition over the last couple of years? Second, we will examine the primacy of the relationship between urban space and political processes. Specifically, we will analyze the linkages between the city and democracy. In order to expand our conceptual and theoretical frameworks, we will bring in contemporary empirical cases, such as the Occupy movements, the Arab Spring, the Taksim-Gezi events in Turkey, the recent protests in Brazil. This course aims at expanding our grasp of urban contestations, by shifting from narrower foci on protest to broader conceptions of “everyday life as politics.” When people become defenders of their doorsteps, streets, squares, neighborhoods, and campuses, and can no longer easily share or utilize the city, social mobilization theories do not suffice to explain the issue at hand. Most often, the altercations take the form of struggle over lifestyle and worldview. The politics of space by ordinary residents forces us to think beyond the categories of collective action and policy-making. Instead, this seminar prioritizes less strategic practices of urban life and unintentional consequences urban politics with regard to democratization.

 

HONR 3310-07
Topic: Scientific Approaches to Philosophy: From Evolution to Quantum Physics

Mon, Wed / 2:50pm – 4:30pm (Seq B)
CRN: 35170

Prof. Rory Smead
Philosophy

Science has produced a wealth of knowledge addressing issues ranging from evolution to quantum physics. Philosophy has struggled with critical and central questions that have remained largely unanswered despite over a thousand years of investigation.

This course will explore the connection between scientific discovery 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 science and scientific methods. While science may not be able to answer these questions, it may help us change how we think about them. For instance, what does evolutionary theory help us to understand about ethics? what does quantum physics tell us about pre-determination? Or what does psychology contribute to our understanding of consciousness?

One answer that we may reach is that there are questions that are fundamentally beyond the grasp of science.

 

HONR 3310-08
Topic: Pagans, Jews, and Christians: The Religions of Rome

Mon, Thurs / 11:45am – 1:25pm (Seq A)
CRN: 36725

Prof. Susan Setta
Philosophy

This course will explore the Roman religious marketplace’s offerings of paganism, Judaism and Christianity. Beginning with a theoretical discussion of religion, it will look at the theologies, rituals, ethics, and practices of these religions as they express themselves in the art and architecture of Rome. It will look at the way in which Christianity emerges as a syncretistic religion that blends theology from earlier religions in its symbols, rituals.

Please Note: Students who register for this course will be required to participate in an embedded international program to Rome, Italy the week of spring break. The dates of that program will be March 1 to March 7, 2014. An additional fee will be charged to your student account. You will receive an email from the Office of International Study Programs with the amount closer to the program start date.