Honors Colloquia

The Honors Colloquia, open only to students in Williams Honors College, are interdisciplinary seminars designed to increase understanding of the primary concerns, the intellectual traditions, and the epistemologies of the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. These seminars offer you a special chance to broaden your perspectives by interacting with honors students from widely diverse fields of study. They invite you to sharpen your critical reading, speaking and writing skills so that you may thrive in your professional, civic, and personal lives. Note that all Honors students are required to take the set of three Honors Colloquia as part of the Honors Distribution. The colloquia are offered each fall and spring semester, and frequently during summer sessions. It is your responsibility to schedule the colloquia in a timely manner.

  • Students entering the Williams Honors College Fall 2018 or later are required to take 3 credit hours in each of the three groups, for a total of 9 credit hours overall.
  • Students must receive a grade of B or higher in their colloquium courses to graduate as a Williams Honors Scholar.

2020 Fall

Henry David Thoreau as Ecologist, Botanist and Civil Engineer

Chura, Patrick

(73735) 1870:250–001
2 credit hours
Tu, Th 2:00pm – 2:50pm; online (synchronous)

tba


The History of Anti-Semitism

Levin, Michael J

(75001) 1870:350–001
3 credit hours
Tu, Th 9:15am – 10:30am; online (synchronous)

Why do people hate Jews? Is anti-Semitism different from other forms of prejudice? And what does it mean to be Jewish in the first place? In this colloquium we will explore the historical roots of these questions, using various primary sources as a springboard for discussion. We will start in Biblical times, and cover such topics as the Spanish Inquisition, the Holocaust, and events in modern America. There will be guest lectures from other professors in the History Department, who will bring their own expertise and experiences to the class. The emphasis of the course will be on discussion, with a final project to be determined.


Humanitarian Social Media — Yes or No???

Tomko, Carrie

(74516) 1870:350–002
3 credit hours
M, W, F 9:40am – 10:30am; online (synchronous)

Social media brings instantaneous news, information, and entertainment. Is it accurate in detail? Is it even true? Is it responsible "journalism"? Does it benefit humanity? Does it require accountability? This colloquium looks at the good, bad, and even the "ugly" of social media, studying the impact on culture.


The Hero

Pollock, Heather N

(74785) 1870:350–003
3 credit hours
Tu, Th 12:15pm – 1:30pm; Hybrid

(74518) 1870:350–004
3 credit hours
M, W, F, 12:55pm – 1:45pm; Hybrid

The human condition is marked with uncertainty and discovery. No character helps us confront this journey better than the hero. From classical myth and world origins, through the timely lens of comic books and film, and finally the age of modern heroism, we will explore the universal nature of the hero, with an eye toward its significance in society and in our individual lives. As Joseph Campbell states: We have only to follow the thread of the hero path, and…we will come to the center of our own existence.


Are We Our Brains?

Blower, Nathanial S

(75547) 1870:350–005
3 credit hours
M, W, F 2:00pm – 2:50pm; Hybrid

In this class we will discuss a number of topics related to the question: Are we our brains? The central focus of the course will be a dispute between Peter Hacker and Daniel Dennett. Hacker argues against the habit in neuroscience of treating brains as though they were people: assuming that brains think, feel, perceive, intend and do all manner of things that ordinarily we say people do, not their brains. Daniel Dennett defends the neuroscientists, claiming that Hacker pays too much attention to what we ordinarily say. As we discuss this dispute, we will touch on a number of traditionally philosophical questions about free-will, the afterlife, morality, subjectivity and more. On the more scientific side, we will discuss topics in neuroscience, computer science, mathematics, linguistics and more.


Religions East and West: The Big Questions (and Answers in Words and Art)

Levin, Paula

(75556) 1870:350–006
3 credit hours
M, W, F 11:50am – 12:40pm; online (synchronous)

We will examine the teachings of Eastern and Western Religions - Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam - in their attempts to guide us to answers to The Big Questions: What is the meaning of life, how should I live, what happens after life, what is God. We will experience the great world of artistic expression of religious ideas through literature, virtual tours, visual media, and music. Guest lecturers will enhance our understanding of religion as it is practiced today. The emphasis of the course is on class discussion of what we experience and react to.


The Iconic and Psychotic: Or Just Written That Way in the News

Amir, Juliana

(76248) 1870:350–007
3 credit hours
Tu, Th 10:45am – 12:00pm; online (synchronous)


Radio, TV, Internet... OH MY!

Tomko, Carrie

(74516) 1870:340–001
3 credit hours
Tum Th 10:45am – 12:00pm; online (synchronous)

Communication is key in this fast-paced society with TV, radio, and the internet bringing instantaneous news, information, and entertainment. The mass media brings global topics from across the world close to home. This colloquium will engage students by examining current event coverage in conjunction with communication theories in order to critically analyze what we seeing and hearing in the media. Watch it! Discuss it! Be a student of the world around us! Class discussion is dynamic in my classes!! Interaction in class is highly encouraged through both individual and small group projects. Small group projects are a major part of assessment in order to develop communication skills. Through the group process, students are able to interact in small group communication. Also, during the small group presentation, students gain public speaking communication skills, as well as use communication skills to facilitate a question and answer session. Development of these communication skills is key to success in academia, as well as in career settings. Academia gives us the opportunity to both develop and practice these important communication skills. On an individual level, students read a book, related to media, of their choice, and then they present the findings, as well as inquire to the other students through facilitation of a question and answer session.


STEM in the News

Tomko, Carrie

(74527) 1870:340–002
3 credit hours
M, W, F 10:45am – 11:35am; Hybrid

Students in this colloquium have an opportunity to reflect on innovations, such as: The latest in available smart phones... The ongoing discussion of global warming... The usage of self-driving cars... The challenges of feeding a growing population through technological advances in agriculture...!! As new research and technology emerge, resulting innovations enter our ever-changing world. How are these innovations communicated to the general public?? The mass media is the place where the general population learns of innovations. Students in this colloquium will engage in the analysis of the media's reporting and then the population's reaction to S.T.E.M.'s impact on society, discerning how emerging research and technology are embraced or refused by society via communication and the media's role in construction of a new reality. Class discussion is dynamic in my classes!! Interaction in class is highly encouraged through both individual and small group projects. Small group projects are a major part of assessment in order to develop communication skills. Through the group process, students are able to interact in small group communication. Also, during the small group presentation, students gain public speaking communication skills, as well as use communication skills to facilitate a question and answer session. Development of these communication skills is key to success in academia, as well as in career settings. Academia gives us the opportunity to both develop and practice these important communication skills. On an individual level, students read a book, related to media, of their choice, and then they present the findings, as well as inquire to the other students through facilitation of a question and answer session.


Leadership Through LEGOs

Plaster, Karen B

(74536) 1870:340–003
3 credit hours
W 4:15pm – 6:45pm; online (synchronous)

What does it take to develop and sustain a nonprofit? How do they interact with the community? FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) has developed a robotics competition for students from kindergarten to high school to create robots and use technology to solve real-world problems. This course will provide experiential learning which will focus on leadership, teamwork, communication and ethics in a student centered nonprofit environment. We will investigate how nonprofits work and support local FIRST robotics through mentorship, outreach events, and tournaments. Explore the vast nonprofit arena of STEM through leadership, robotics and LEGOs.


Exploring Higher Education through Popular Culture

Faidley, Evan

(74552) 1870:340–004
3 credit hours
M, W, F 11:50am – 12:40pm; online (synchronous)

This Honors course will examine the specificities of portrayal of higher education through popular culture over the course of the 15-week semester. Popular is an ambiguous term; in this course, popular can be understood as the mass, mainstream culture, as well as a culture that is accessible and appreciated by each and every individual, without the necessity of any intellectual background. This is the reason why it has always been looked down upon, but also highly among the public and academic eye. However, since the industrialization and the literacy of American society, popular culture has become the culture of reference in the country. It is starting to gain recognition from the critics, with, for example, the numerous awards given blockbusters such as Animal House (1978), Accepted (2006), Pitch Perfect (2012), and Dear White People (2014). Questions are asked, such as: What do these representations of campus life and culture mean to the study of higher education? How accurate are fictional portrayals of colleges, universities, faculty, and students? In an effort to recognize a collective consciousness, students will analyze elements of college student development as demonstrated in “college films,” social media, and music.


Story Tonic: The Science and Healing behind Narrative

Amir, Juliana

(75002) 1870:340–005
3 credit hours
Tu, Th 9:15am – 10:30am; online (synchronous)

Can a story save a life? What is the power behind stories? Is that power finite, or infinite? Dr. Thomas Mutter, the beloved, innovative surgeon of the nineteenth century, urged his colleagues and students to see the humanity of their patients, their story, and not simply their symptoms. In the twenty-first century, hospitalist, Dr. Zachary Jacobs writes: "stories are the currency of medicine." And across time and culture has come the simple request: "tell me a story." From folklore, to the medical humanities, to scientific and theoretical studies, this course will unearth the ways in which stories heal.


Polymer Science of Cooking

King, Hunter

(74523) 1870:370–001
3 credit hours
M, W, F 10:45am – 11:35am; online (synchronous)


Sustainable Plastics

Eagan, James

(74569) 1870:370–002
3 credit hours
M, W, F 9:40am – 10:30am; online (synchronous)

This course introduces students to sustainable plastic technologies, challenges, and the principals of the circular economy. Students will be able to understand the how different kinds of plastics are recovered, sorted, and recycled (or not). Topics covered include polymer recycling, composting, bio-based plastics, and life cycle analysis.


Energy and Society

Knoll, Andrew

(74774) 1870:370–003
3 credit hours
M, W, F 10:45pm – 11:35am; online (synchronous)

Energy is essential to every aspect of our daily lives from transportation to food to electronics. This course will give a basic overview of how humans use energy in our daily lives and where that energy comes from. We will discuss the impacts of this energy use on aspects of our society and the environment.


Global Environmental Issues — with an Anthropogenic Discussion Focus

Dunbar, Michael D

(74886) 1870:370–004
3 credit hours
Tu, Th 10:45am – 11:35pm; online (synchronous)

(74887) 1870:370–005
3 credit hours
Tu, Th 12:15pm – 1:30pm; online (synchronous)

As the human population grows towards 8 billion, what kind of lasting impact do we have? During the semester we'll be exploring how our unsustainable lifestyles have impacted the earth’s natural resources, species, environments, and offer a prognosis for the future. Our discussions, proposals and debates will examine how to confront some of these issues and how we can act on a local and personal level.


Water Law, Science & Policy: Environmental Decision-making to Attain a Fishable & Swimmable Summit Lake

Collins, Emily

(75086) 1870:370–006
3 credit hours
M, W 3:30pm – 4:45pm; online (synchronous)


Edison to Elon Musk: Learn how to Ideate, Build and Innovate Successfully

Nadkarni, Gopal

(70034) 1870:470–001
2 credit hours
W, F 2:00pm – 2:50pm; online (synchronous)


2020 Spring

The Victorian Era (1835–1901)

W, F; 8:45am – 9:35am

Dr. Harvey Rosenthal
(12989) 1870:250 – 001, 2 credit hours; Honors Complex 82


The Hero

Tu, Th; 11:45am – 1:00pm

Dr. Heather Pollock
(15944) 1870:350 – 001, 3 credit hours; Honors Complex 82


Hunting Witches in Early Modern Europe

M, W; 8:45am – 10:00am

Dr. Michael Graham
(16021) 1870:350 – 002, 3 credit hours; Honors Complex 83

This workshop-style colloquium will focus on one of the stranger aspects of early modern European history: the fact that the same era that included the scientific revolution and the early enlightenment also witnessed the execution of tens of thousands of people (mostly women) for the imaginary crime of witchcraft. We will start with a general survey of the witch hunt. Following that, teams of students will delve into sets of trial dossiers in an effort to figure out what was really going on in those particular cases. Finally, students will be able to get creative, either by writing and performing one-act plays on their particular cases, or else “forging” a pamphlet about their case, in the style of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century tabloid-style accounts of witchcraft. This course should be of particular interest to students interested in history, literature, religion, anthropology, communications, psychology or sociology.


Fairytales, Myths, and Folklore

Tu, Th; 10:15am – 11:30am;

Dr. Juliana Amir
(15945) 1870:350 – 003, 3 credit hours; Honors Complex 83

A culture's conscious and unconscious fears, hopes, and beliefs are infused into the stories we love and think we know, How do these stories, in turn, go on to suffuse anxieties and meaning into later cultures and into us as individuals? This colloquium explores the ripples that are formed by these magical stories.


Imagining a Better World: The Role of Imagination in Envisioning the Future

W, F; 1:15pm – 2:30pm

Dr. Dimitria Gatzia
(15946) 1870:350 – 004, 3 credit hours; Honors Complex 83

Does imagination affects our ability to make decisions about, among other things, social, political, and economic issues? This colloquium will focus on recent philosophical and empirical research on imagination and its relation to decision-making.


Religion East and West: The Big Questions (and Answers in Words and Art)

M, W; 11:45am – 1:00pm

Dr. Paula Levin
(16415) 1870:350 – 005, 3 credit hours; Honors Complex 92

What is the meaning of life? How should I live? What happens after we die? What is God? We humans, conscious of our mortality and our limitations, have wrestled with these questions since the dawn of time. In this course we will examine the teachings of major world religions - Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam - in their attempts to guide us to answers. In addition to consulting various texts and primary sources, we will consider religious expression in art, literature, music, drama, and film. And we will discuss how religious beliefs (or the absence of them!) affect how we may experience the world.


Study Abroad in Japan

Spring Break 2020 (23 March – 29 March)

Dr. Yuki Sigler
(16469) 1870:350 – 006, 3 credit hours; tba

This program is a 10-day, three-credit authentic learning experience of Japan in Spring 2020 and cross listed by Humanities credits in Honors Colloquia.This class will not only visit several famous and historical places, but also experience various elements of Japanese culture. In order to solve real problems in Japan by using prior knowledge before the trip, this program is to promote students’ cultural awareness and leadership skills so as to boost future career opportunities.


Winning Combinations in Health Behavior: Exploring Health Priorities

M, W; 11:45am – 1:00pm

Dr. John Roncone II
(15086) 1870:340 – 001, 3 credit hours; Honors Complex 82

This social science discipline colloquium examines health behavior exploring health priority areas, such as, physical activity, stress management, and other dimensions of health-related physical fitness. The priority areas explored will be beneficial to students reflecting on their own health behavior(s), quality of life/healthy life years/lifestyle management. Students will leave the course with a sound knowledge of key health components related to mind/body health, research as well as health behavior models/theories.


Truth, Lies, and Alternative Facts: Are You Perplexed?

M; 4:15pm – 6:45pm

Dr. Luis Proenza
(15241) 1870:340 – 003, 3 credit hours; Honors Complex 83


History of Sexuality in Latin America

T, Th; 2:45pm – 4:00pm

Dr. Martha Santos
(15972) 1870:340 – 004, 3 credit hours; Honors Complex 82

What have sex, gender, and sexuality meant across time and space in the Americas? How have people thought about sex, sexuality and gender in Latin America throughout five hundred years of history? What makes the way that gender and sexual norms work particular to specific places, times, and groups of people—and what makes them broader than that? Can we identify peculiarly “Latin American” approaches to sex and gender? How have gender and sexuality in this hemisphere changed over time, broadly speaking? We will explore these interesting questions through analysis of primary sources, scholarly work on these topics, and visual sources, including some feature film.


TV, Radio, Internet... Oh My!

F; 10:15am – 12:45pm

Dr. Carrie Tomko
(15974) 1870:340 – 005, 3 credit hours; Honors Complex 82

Communication is key in this fast-paced society with TV, radio, and the internet bringing instantaneous news, information, and entertainment. The mass media brings global topics from across the world close to home. T his colloquium will engage students by examining current event coverage in conjunction with communication theories in order to critically analyze what we seeing and hearing in the media. Watch it! Discuss it! Be a student of the world around us!


Water Law, Science & Policy: Environmental Decision-making to Attain A Fishable and Swimmable Summit Lake

M, W; 4:15pm – 5:30pm

Dr. Emily Collins
(16073) 1870:340 – 006, 3 credit hours; Honors Complex 82


Global Classroom

T, Th; 10:15am – 12:45pm

Dr. Chris Opoku-Agyeman
(16572) 1870:340 – 007, 3 credit hours; tba


Science and Technology in the World

M; 10:15am – 12:45pm

Dr. Luis Proenza
(15242) 1870:370 – 001, 3 credit hours; Honors Complex 83


Science and Technology for Future Presidents

M; 1:15pm – 3:45pm

Dr. Luis Proenza
(15244) 1870:370 – 002, 3 credit hours; Honors Complex 83


Complexity

Tu, Th; 8:45am – 10:00am

Dr. Dane Quinn
(15245) 1870:370 – 003, 3 credit hours; Honors Complex 82

From engineering to economics to biology, the systems around us are made of components that often interact in simple ways. However, these multiple interactions can give rise to feedback loops and behaviors that are more complicated than would be expected from the components alone. This colloquium will examine complex systems with examples from biology, economics, socialogy, physics, and engineering, highlighting how complicated behavior can emerge from simple components.


Our Great Lakes

T, Th; 8:45am – 10:00am

Dr. Ira Sasowsky
(15246) 1870:370 – 004, 3 credit hours; Honors Complex 92

This natural sciences colloquium examines the role of water in our everyday lives, with particular emphasis on the Great Lakes of North America. Using the overarching topic of Great Lakes, we will explore as a group, learning from each other's experiences, and the background of the professor (an expert in groundwater), as well as from assigned readings and discussions. An optional field trip to Lake Erie will be held on non-class day.


Polymers and the Environment

T, Th; 10:15am – 11:30am

Dr. Ruel McKenzie
(15557) 1870:370 – 005, 3 credit hours; Honors Complex 92

Polymers (natural and synthetic) play an important role in society and has been integrated into nearly all aspects of human life. Recent focus on the issue of plastic waste mitigation has brought the notion and necessity of sustainability of the polymers industry to the forefront of national discussions. The objective of this course is to discuss in a holistic manner: the extent to which polymers have enabled societal transformations, attempt to raise a collective awareness detailing the resultant ecological ramifications of polymer production, highlight some of the advances in mitigating the ecological impacts and to explore paths for a more sustainable coexistence with these materials.


Energy and Society

T, Th; 1:15pm – 2:30pm

Dr. Andrew Knoll
(16000) 1870:370 – 006, 3 credit hours; Honors Complex 82

Energy is essential to every aspect of our daily lives from transportation to food to electronics. This course will give a basic overview of how humans use energy in our daily lives and where that energy comes from. We will discuss the impacts of this energy use on aspects of our society and the environment.


Global Environmental Issues

Tu, Th; 11:45am – 12:35pm

Dr. Michael Dunbar
(10016) 1870:470 – 001, 2 credit hours; Honors Complex 92

During the semester we'll be exploring how our presence on the planet has impacted the natural resources, its environment, and offer a prognosis for the future. Our discussions, debates and proposals will examine how to confront some of these issues and how we can act on a local level.


Global Environmental Issues

Tu, Th; 1:15pm – 2:05pm

Dr. Michael Dunbar
(12385) 1870:470 – 002, 2 credit hours; Honors Complex 92

During the semester we'll be exploring how our presence on the planet has impacted the natural resources, its environment, and offer a prognosis for the future. Our discussions, debates and proposals will examine how to confront some of these issues and how we can act on a local level.


Edison to Elon Musk: Learn to Ideate, Build, and Innovate Successfully

W; 4:15pm – 5:55pm

Dr. Gopal Nadkarni
(16461) 1870:470 – 003, 2 credit hours; Honors Complex 92


2020 Summer

An Immersive Theatre-going Experience

07/13/2020 – 08/16/2020 (5W2)

Nunn, Hillary

(32295) 1870:350–001
3 credit hours
M, Tu, W, Th, Fr 11:30am – 1:00pm; TBA

The purpose of this course is not only to study and interpret plays, but to understand their adaptation, performance, and critical reception in our own times. Much of the class will be devoted to attending local live performances of Shakespeare plays, where students will consider how performance choices influence understanding of these early modern texts, and how performances today present works for current audiences.


Theatre Anthropology

06/08/2020 – 07/12/2020 (5W1)

Slowiak, James

(32853) 1870:350–002
3 credit hours
M, Tu, W 12:30pm – 3:15pm; Honors Complex 82


Histories of the Future

07/13/2020 – 08/16/2020 (5W2)

Huss, John

(32715) 1870:350–003
3 credit hours
Tu, Th 11:00am – 12:15pm; online

In this humanities colloquium, we will discuss fiction, films, forecasts and philosophies of the future with an eye toward using moral imagination to speculate about where the present may lead.


Winning Combinations in Health Behavior: Combating Obesity

05/18/2020 – 06/07/2020 (Int)

Roncone, John

(32296) 1870:340–001
3 credit hours
M, Tu, W, Th 9:00am – 12:10pm; Honors Complex 82

The purpose of this course is not only to study and interpret plays, but to understand their adaptation, performance, and critical reception in our own times. Much of the class will be devoted to attending local live performances of Shakespeare plays, where students will consider how performance choices influence understanding of these early modern texts, and how performances today present works for current audiences.


The Culture of Fear

07/13/2020 – 08/16/2020 (5W2)

Pollock, Heather

(32682) 1870:340–401
3 credit hours
M, Tu, Th 12:30pm – 3:15pm; Honors Complex 83

Gloria Steinem says, Empathy is the most radical of human emotions. Where has it gone in this ironic age of global disconnect and isolation? How do we foster compassion if we cannot connect? We investigate its opposite, fear, and render it inert. From universal fears to personal ones, we will explore the nature of fear, seek its purpose, how to navigate it, understand it, and move forward into connection.


Global Environmental Issues

06/08/2020 – 07/12/2020 (5W1)

Dunbar, Michael D

(32298) 1870:370–002
3 credit hours
Tu, Th 9:00am – 12:45pm; Honors Complex 92

As the human population grows towards 8 billion, what kind of lasting impact do we have? During the semester we'll be exploring how our unsustainable lifestyles have impacted the earth’s natural resources, species, environments, and offer a prognosis for the future. Our discussions, proposals and debates will examine how to confront some of these issues and how we can act on a local and personal level.


The Psychology of Physical Activity

06/08/2020 – 07/12/2020 (5W1)

Kornspan, Alan

(32663) 1870:370–003
3 credit hours
M, Tu, W, Th, F 12:00am – 1:30pm; Honors Complex 92


Obesity: Rhetoric and Metaphors

06/08/2020 – 07/12/2020 (5W1)

Richardson, Laura

(32297) 1870:370–501
3 credit hours
Online Class


Water in Our World

06/08/2020 – 07/12/2020 (5W1)

Sasowsky, Ira

(32695) 1870:370–502
3 credit hours
M, T, W, Th, F 8:00 – 9:30am; Online Synchronous

This natural sciences colloquium provides a thought-provoking experience on the role of water in our everyday lives, and the issues that we are facing as a society that depends upon this ever more tenuous resource. Using the overarching topic of water, we will explore as a group, learning from each other's experiences, and the background of the professor (an expert in groundwater), as well as from assigned readings and discussions. We will leave with an increased understanding of the issues, and as empowered citizens participating in a global water community. We will have assigned readings from the book, with about half of each session dedicated to student-led critical discussion. One quarter of the class time will encompass brief illustrated content lectures, and the remainder will be in-class exercises and online (verbal) discussions. The term will conclude with presentations by the students on a water topic of their choosing.

Note: This is not a self-paced course. This course meets synchronously online at the scheduled time, and attendance is required. Students will need: a) A computer capable of running Webex and Zoom, b) headset (headphone/mic), c) webcam, d) Internet connection. A screen not less than 12” diagonal is suggested.


Propose a Colloquium

For faculty

If you are a faculty member here at UA and would like to teach an Honors Colloquium, we would love to hear your idea. A colloquium should typically be on a specific unique topic of particular interest to the faculty member teaching the course, and should not duplicate courses otherwise offered in the general curriculum. Keep in mind that there will most likely be students from a broad range of disciplines in any given colloquium group.

Use this form to submit a colloquium proposal for the Williams Honors College to consider whether and when it might fit into an upcoming schedule.

For students

Are you a Williams Honors College student with an idea for an exciting and unique Honors Colloquium? Email us your idea for consideration. Additionally, we are always happy to add more Honors Colloquia in a given semester for a given subject area once the others have filled, so please keep us in the loop about what type of colloquia you need and your preferred date and time if everything is full, and we will look to provide additional offerings before the semester begins.