Summer Honors Program Course Descriptions

Student working in a chemistry lab

All Summer Honors Program courses are designed to be dynamic, interactive explorations by the students and professor into the course topic.

Honors Core Classes

In the Honors Core courses, all students will tackle some of the most basic and debated questions of human existence, such as, “How do we create and use the past?” or, “What do we know? What do we believe? Is there a difference?” Working on these questions with professors from English, history, and the fine arts provides a unique opportunity for a synthesis of ideas. You will be challenged to develop critical thinking skills through the analysis of various media, group discussions, writing, and group presentations. 

“How do we understand the sacred?”

Instructor: Dr. John Marsden, English

This unit will focus on how we understand conceptions of sacredness from a literary perspective. What do we hold dear? What do we value? What inspires us? What happens when sacred values conflict? What is profane? We’ll explore these and other questions by looking at work ranging from Romantic poets of the early nineteenth century to contemporary authors such as Hanif Kureishi and Salman Rushdie. In doing so, we will engage in thought-provoking and exciting discussions surrounding the brief readings and the core question.

“How do we create and use the past?” 

Instructor: Dr. Scott Moore, History

History is the witness that testifies to the passing of time; it illumines reality, vitalizes memory, provides guidance in daily life, and brings us tidings of antiquity. —Cicero, Pro Publio Sestio

History is a pack of lies about events that never happened told by people who weren't there. —George Santayana

We’ll be looking at this question primarily in an attempt to understand the pull that the past exerts over later societies. To accomplish this we are going to examine how history and the past were created and used in various historical societies, starting with the ancient Greeks. We are also going to work through a variety of readings, including both primary sources as well as works by more recent historians. History, and the creation of history, is much more than dates and people; it is a tool that assists in decision-making and analytical thinking. 

“How do we create and use the past?” 

Instructor: Dr. Elizabeth Ricketts, History

We are going to consider how two historical myths—the Myth of the Plantation South, and the Myth of the Lost Cause—were created in the aftermath of the Civil War and how these myths have been used to promote the ideologies of Southern exceptionalism and white superiority. 

“What do we know? What do we believe? What’s the difference?”

Instructor: Dr. Michael Schwartz, Theatre, Dance, and Performance

What we know and what we believe determines our values and our decisions. In this core unit, students examine the question of how we determine what we know and what we believe (and what we should do) through the lens of theater and performance. Playwrights, performers, and directors have raised key questions about knowledge and belief for generations, and students will witness these questions enacted and dramatized in ways that may challenge lifelong assumptions.

Discipline-Based Class Options 

Counseling: Bridges to Your Future: Experiential Self-Care & Career Preparation

Instructor: Stephanie Onkst

We’ve all heard the phrase “self-care” before, but what does it actually mean? Although many people associate self-care with doing various activities be it going places, buying things, justifying actions, splurging on experiences... but is this what the phrase actually entails? We will explore what self-care, mental resiliency, and wellness mean to you and determine what outlets exist to help you explore your individual needs. We will also take a look at your future in terms of employment and build upon your skills to bridge to your future career.

History: World War II in America: Women in the Home Front

Instructor: Elizabeth Ricketts, PhD

Although no military battles were fought on the American mainland, World War II affected all areas of life at home. In this course, we will look at how women responded to the demands of war: at home, at the workplace, and in their communities. We will look at new areas of opportunity that opened for women in traditionally male-dominated areas of life, and at how cultural mores for women were shaped by the realities of war. Among the topics we will address are female pilots, women’s baseball, changing sexual mores, and the special challenges faced by women of color.

Interdisciplinary: Social Justice and the American Musical Theatre

Instructor: Mary Beth Leidman, PhD

If you are interested in history, politics, poverty, LBGTQA, Black Lives Matter, Women’s Rights, music, theater, and culture—Look no further! From its very beginning, the American Musical Theatre has more often than not been a platform advocating the causes of social justice in the United States and around the world. It is unique.

This course will explore the structure of the musical and look at how its many offerings have utilized the genre to magnify and explore the human condition and the history which laid the groundwork for such shows as Showboat, South Pacific, Kinky Boots, Les Misérables, and Wicked, to name a few. So, come “ease on down the road” and discover how “a spoon full of sugar” really does make for great Company.

Mathematics: Graph Coloring: Applied and Theoretical Perspectives

Instructor: John Lattanzio, PhD

Graph theory as a mathematical discipline has grown enormously in the past several decades. In this course, applications of graph theory will be discussed with an emphasis on graph coloring. This discussion will lead naturally into a theoretical discussion of unsolved problems in graph theory as they relate to graph coloring. This course will be self-contained in the sense that no prior mathematical knowledge will be a prerequisite for understanding the course content. There will be a wide range of mathematical ideas introduced in this course, including matrices and linear algebra; groups, permutations, equivalence relations, abstract algebra, and graph theory.

Molecular Biology: CRISPR Cas9 Gene Editing Technology

Instructor: N. Bharathan, PhD

As advances in biotechnology and gene editing gain momentum, so do our understanding of the principles and techniques governing gene-editing tools. The course will describe in detail the development and application of several gene-editing technologies like CRISPR in agriculture, animal sciences, human health, and the environment. A wide variety of applications of the editing process including basic biological research, development of biotechnology products, and treatment of diseases will be discussed. The students will perform hands-on experiments using CRISPR Cas9 to edit a gene that naturally occurs in prokaryotes. The course will also address issues concerning their ethical, legal, and social implications in the United States and around the world.

Social Psychology: Everyone is an Influencer

Instructor: Ananya Sharma

This course explores how social psychology is ever-present in our daily lives. It sets out to discuss how people influence one another, especially in this day and age, where social influence goes beyond daily interaction with friends, to influence that is put forth through social media (Tiktok, Instagram, Twitter). The course will cover topics of self-image, conformity, bias, prejudice, prosocial behavior, and more. It will elaborate on the concept of intersections within societal contexts that influence our understanding of the past, present, and future. This course will build upon these concepts with the use of psychological research, trends in society, demonstrations of social phenomena, videos, and discussions. Through the lens of social psychology, students will discuss how these concepts influence their behavior and relationships. Students will leave this course with a greater understanding of social phenomenon, perspective taking, and understanding of the self in the world.

Political Science: Wait… can they really do that? Current events and the Constitution

Instructor: Gwendolyn Torges, PhD

Can the government make people wear masks during a pandemic? Can Congress impeach and remove an ex-president? Would the twenty-fifth Amendment really allow Congress to declare a president incompetent?  Why do we pick our presidents with the electoral college, and why is the electoral college so strange? If you listen to the news, people constantly make all kinds of claims about what the Constitution does or doesn't allow the government to do. But what does the Constitution actually say? The course offers a primer on the Constitution and helps make sense of what it means.

Daily Schedule

  • 9:00 a.m. to Noon - Two Honors Core Classes (1:15 min. each)

  • Noon to 1:00 p.m. -  Lunch

  • 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.  -  One Discipline-Based Class (three-hour block)

  • 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.  -  Dinner

  • 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. -  Counselor-Led Activities

  • 9:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. -  Individual Study and/or Social Activities

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