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 must receive a grade of B or higher in their colloquium courses to graduate as a Williams Honors Scholar.  If a grade of B- or lower is earned, the colloquium can be retaken, but please contact Ms. Laura Zinke for assistance.

Fall 2024 Colloquia & [un]Classes

Fall Colloquia Offerings

Fall [un]Classes 

Humanities "Out of the Archives" MW 3:30-4:45
Social Science "Get Out the Vote" Times vary (first eight weeks)
Social Science "Zips Recenter Together" MWF 12:55-2:45 (first seven weeks)

Summer 2024 Colloquia & [un]Classes

Summer Colloquia Offerings  

Summer [un]Classes 

Social Science "Zips Talk Together" MWF 11:00am-1:45pm Summer 1
Natural Sciences "Dragonflies and Damselflies of Northeastern Ohio" TTh 12:00pm-4:30pm Summer 2

Spring 2024 Colloquia

340 Social Science Colloquia
350 Humanities Colloquia
370 Natural Science Colloquia

Spring 2024 UnClasses:

  • Social Science
    • EXLC:490-002 Zips Care Together: Urban Agriculture Edition (T/Th 2:00pm-3:15pm)
    • EDML:480-001 Today at I Promise (M/W 9:30am-10:45am)
  • Humanities
    • ENG:489-001 'Round Howard Street: Telling the Story of Akron Jazz (T/Th 3:30pm-4:45pm)
  • Natural Science
    • BIOL:495-003 One Health (M 12:55pm-3:15pm)
    • EXLC:490-003 Derby Dreams (MWF 9:40am-11:30am) 8 week course

Fall 2023 Colloquia

340 Social Science Colloquia

350 Humanities Colloquia

370 Natural Science Colloquia


2023 Spring

STEM in the News

MoWeFr 10:45am – 11:35am
(13011) HONOR 340 – 001

Carrie Tomko

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.

The Honors Tradition

MWF 11:50am – 12:40pm
(13053) HONOR 340 – 002

Carrie Tomko

In anticipation of the 50th anniversary of the Honors at The University of Akron, students who enroll in this colloquium will have the honor to research the history of The Williams Honors College, formerly known as the Honors College and the Honors Program. Using archival historical documents—digital and hardcopy—a timeline of key events will be developed, along with key moments and key people in the history of Honors, key faculty and staff, key alumni, keynote speakers, key events, and key individuals who have propelled The Williams Honors College to academic successes through its 50-year history. The information that is gathered by the students in this colloquium will be used to document the history and aid in celebratory plans for the year 2025.

Democracy, Objectivity, and the US Constitution

MWF 9:40am - 10:30am
(13282) HONOR 340 – 003, 3

Nathanial Blower

How should we read the United States Constitution? As a ‘living document’ whose meaning can change and grow alongside changes and growth in American democratic society? Or as something whose meaning is more ‘static’, more ‘objective’? Recently more than ever, perhaps, it seems to be the second option that is preferred by justices of the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS). But is it even possible to interpret the Constitution without injecting any life into it? And if it is possible, do the recent decisions of SCOTUS (on abortion and gun control, for instance) actually live up to this ideal? These questions, and a number of related political, social and philosophical questions, will be our focus in this colloquium.

Rethinking Race Through Courageous Conversations

W 3:30pm - 4:45pm, WWW online hybrid 
(15319) HONOR 340 – 004

Sandie Crawford

This course is designed to foster a collaborative and reflective thinking process via discussion and assignments in order to facilitate a better understanding of people from a diversity of perspectives. Students will exhibit culturally responsive practices as they learn about different people and how to honor diversity in society.

More specifically, the goal for this colloquium is to be a practical course for students and that through study and practice, students will become more effective communicators when engaging in challenging discussions concerning race, diversity, equity, and inclusion. We will accomplish this goal via the exploration of the tenets of “Courageous Conversations” as a strategy and protocol for promoting meaningful, heartful, and civil discourse aimed at creating inclusive excellence while addressing race

Salsa: History in Motion

TuTh 2:00pm – 3:15pm
(13332) HONOR 340 – 005

Martha Santos

This interdisciplinary colloquium provides the opportunity to examine and experience the history, aesthetics, and movement of salsa dancing, from its origins in the Afro-Cuban rhythms and dances of enslaved and formerly enslaved peoples to its modern emergence in the Latin neighborhoods of New York during the 1970s. Through reading, discussion, and debate, we will analyze how the various rhythms and dances encompassed in salsa emerged within complex histories of globalization, colonialism, enslavement, immigration, and cultural commodification in the Caribbean and New York. Through movement, we will explore the embodied strategies through which various peoples navigated their historical circumstances and the meanings they assigned to their music and dance. As an experience in interdisciplinarity, this course invites us to imagine and participate in new ways of learning, teaching, and communicating history. Assessment will not be based on dancing ability. Instead, the course will develop its own creative language to reflect on our discovery of the history and motion of salsa.

Watch former Honors students’ perspectives on the course!

The Willpower Superpower: The Epic of LeBron James

Wed 3:05pm - 5:35pm  WWW online synchronous class
(13824) HONOR 340 – 504


This course conceptually focuses on the intersection of psychology and storytelling, more specifically how the dimensions of willpower create self-understanding when life is viewed narratively. In this sense, we think of willpower as an agentic force for not only accomplishing external goals, but also how we, as individuals, can transform our inner selves and society as a collective. While The Willpower Superpower: The Epic of LeBron James is naturally about a basketball icon, it is more about how his journey, discovery and application of willpower—for better and worse—informs the development of our own. It is a unique, and surprisingly local, paradigm to analyze these concepts. In fact, the willpower and personal story we all have, when understood and applied, is a force as prodigious as LeBron James' basketball ability.

Winning Combinations of Health Behavior: Combating Obesity

WWW-online asynchronous
(15318) 1870:340 – 505
(13488) 1870:340 – 506

John Roncone

This social science discipline colloquium examines health behavior in an exploration to combat obesity. Areas that will be carefully examined include: Current obesity trends, assessment of body weight and body composition, etiology of obesity, health and economic consequences of obesity, dietary interventions for obesity prevention and new insights and looking into future insights. We will engage in meaningful online discussions as well as assignments, learning from other's experiences and guidance from the professor, whom has an extensive knowledge in health education and promotion. Our main book will be, Nutrition and Obesity: Assessment, Management, and Prevention, by Alexandra G. Kazaks, and Judith S. Stern. Other secondary resources will be provided to the students from the professor. Assignment readings, HW/Labs, behavior change models/theories, online discussions, and other assignments will be assessments utilized in the course. Brightspace will be utilized to deliver this online asynchronous course for content, grades, communication/announcements, communication/class roster and emails, assessments/assignments, and communications/discussions and course materials/calendar. Students will leave the course with a sound knowledge of health behavior and exploring areas in combating the obesity epidemic in the US.

Winning Combinations In Health Behavior: Exploring Health Priorities

Tu 5:15p – 6:30pm, WWW online hybrid
(15178) HONOR 340 – 801

John Roncone

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.

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

TuTh 12:15pm – 1:30pm
(13267) HONOR 350 – 001

Paula Levin

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.

Shakespeare's Swords and Words: The War of the Roses

MW 3:30pm – 4:45pm
(13308) HONOR 350 – 002

Dane Leasure

Shakespeare penned some of theatre's most read plays, but frequently theatres and scholars skip his histories for their lack of appeal. In this course, we will examine Shakespeare tetralogy of plays (Henry VI parts 1, 2, 3 and Richard III) and their historical relevance along with theatrical staging/history. This will, of course, include learning about the theatricality of stage combat with hands on experiences for students.

"Nature vs. Nurture" in Literature

MW 3:30pm – 4:45pm
(15173) HONOR 350 – 003

Philathia Bolton

Psychologists have typically studied whether one’s genetic predispositions or environment plays the greatest role in shaping a person. This same question also resides in certain literary works that have left the greatest impression. Through compelling characterization, thought-provoking conflict, and beautiful use of language, we are given memorable stories that—regardless of time or any ostensible connection we may have to the writer—cause us to ponder what makes us who we are and how much control we have over our destiny. Looking, then, to works such as John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath (1939), Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969), Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere (2017), and James Baldwin’s “Sonny’s Blues,” we will explore this debate through questions like the following: What details does the writer provide to help us understand the main character and their conflict? What accounts for the fate of the main character, if it seems determined? Does the character, in contrast, come across with agency? If they have some control and power, from where does it come?  

Hunting Witches in Early Modern Europe

MoWe 2:00pm – 3:15pm
(13269) HONOR 350 – 004

Michael Graham

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.

Are We Our Brains?

MoWeFr 10:45am – 11:35am
(13433) HONOR 350 – 005

Nathanial Blower

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.

Classical Athens: The Individual and the Community

TuTh 9:15am – 10:30am
(13451) HONOR 350 – 006

Elisha Dumser

How does one balance personal choice and freedom against the needs of the greater community? This question, which remains pertinent today, was first explored in ancient Greece. This class seeks to learn more about ourselves by examining the roots of this thorny issue as it emerged in 5th century BCE Classical Athens. Theater, philosophy, history, politics, religious practices, and the visual arts are avenues we'll explore as we discover how the competing needs of the individual and the community were debated in the birthplace of democracy.

Humanitarian Social Media

MWF 9:40am – 10:30am
(TBD) HONOR 350 – 007

Carrie Tomko

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.

Enchanted Tales: Analyzing the Stories That Make Us

WWW online asynchronous
(13268) HONOR 350 – 501 (tentative)

Juliana Amir

Stories of the dark woods, the forbidden fruit, filial love, and creative intelligence grace the pages of many beloved storybooks. This colloquium explores the construction, shaping, and use of folklore, fairytales, and myths as the pillars of our own culture. How does the language of fairytales and myths intersect with the language of our dreams, both literal and figurative? Is there a certain age where folklore loses its meaning to us? How much do these enchanted stories shape our identity? We will investigate the archetypes these stories create, how they relate in terms of our own personalities, and how they are utilized to sold modern messages. The course allows students to analyze these stories for their cultural resonance, and gives them the option of creating stories of their own.

Sustainable Plastics

TuTh 10:45am - 12:00pm
(13538) HONOR 370 – 001

James Eagan

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.

The Great Debate: Nature vs. Nurture

TuTh 12:15pm – 1:30pm
(15042) 1870:370 – 002, 3 credit hours

Sarah Psihountakis

The Nature versus Nurture debate has been deeply rooted in the search for what aspects of behavior are either inherited (genetic) or acquired (learned). Is it our genes that impacts our behavior or is it our environment? In this course, we will examine the nature versus nurture debate- its origin and how it has influenced future theorists, critically analyze each side of the debate and apply to our own behavioral development, reflect on how genetics and the environment impact overall development, and develop discussion skills within our online classroom environment, emphasizing effective and respectful sharing of personal experiences.

Our Great Lakes

TuTh 12:15pm – 1:30pm
(13540) HONOR 370 – 003

Ira Sasowsky

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.

Deep Yet Accessible Problems in Math

MWF 9:40am - 10:30am
(13542) HONOR 370 – 005

James Cossey

We sometimes give students the impression that getting through the Calculus sequence is the be-all and end-all of math.  But there is so much more to math than that – including many deep, yet easily accessible (and fun!) problems that have nothing to do with calculus.  We’ll explore twin primes, stable marriages, and let the Harlem Globetrotters of the future put our brains back where they belong.  People will die in a duel, a grown man will cry, and we’ll save Rand-McNally money on ink. No math background beyond high school algebra is needed – just come open-minded.

Global Environmental Issues

TuTh 3:30pm – 4:45pm
(13541) HONOR 370 – 004

TuTh 5:15pm – 6:30pm
(13543) HONOR 370 – 006

Michael Dunbar

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.

Astrobiology and the Origins of Life

TuTh 2:00pm – 3:15pm
(15175) HONOR 370 – 007

Nita Sahai


Technoculture and Society

WWW Online asynchronous
(15176) HONOR 370 – 008

Robert Williams

Focusing on the intersection between Culture, Political Economy, Science, and Technology, this colloquium introduces students to their relationship with this growing techno-entanglement. Students will explore ways in which people interact with the environment - both built and natural, and with one another by examining sociocultural processes such as science and technology, race and social inequalities, bodies and medicine, social aspects of climate change, political power, policies that legislate human interactions with the natural world, and global ecological futures. Students will also participate in the virtual application of ethnographic frameworks to contemporary environmental issues and the writing of papers to report their findings.

The EX[L] Center helps students emerge as civically-engaged, adaptable leaders, ready to join in the enterprise of building strong and sustainable communities by promoting hands-on, community-based, problem-centered learning. The Williams Honors College will allow students to substitute one EX[L] [Un]Class for the corresponding Honors Colloquium course (noted below). Note that only one Honors Colloquium group may be satisfied in this way.

[Un]Classes for the Social Sciences Colloquium (HONOR 340)

[Un]Classes for the Humanities Colloquium (HONOR 350)

[Un]Classes for the Natural Sciences Colloquium (HONOR 370)

For more information on current [Un]Classes, please visit www.uakron.edu/exl/unclasses/.  For help registering for the [Un]Classes, contact the instructor listed on the course flyer or Dr. Christin Seher.

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.

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.