University Honors debuts Spring 2016 course list

Editor’s note, Nov. 11, 12:50 p.m.: This story has been updated throughout.

A handful of honors students were quietly studying in the Scholar’s Den Tuesday evening when the space filled with more than 20 students and faculty eagerly awaiting the program’s Spring 2016 Course List Reveal. With course topics ranging from art to sociology, and everything in between, attendees weren’t disappointed.

Dr. David Doyle, adjunct assistant history professor and director of the University Honors Program, explained that the event began about six years ago to allow students to hear directly from professors about upcoming courses.

“Often students take courses for really random reasons, like because it’s a good time,” Doyle said. “This way they can get a lot more information.”

The event now happens each semester, and also gives students ample time to ask attending professors about their courses and address any honors advising questions they might have. The location of this year’s event, The Scholar’s Den, is a lounge on the bottom floor of Clements Hall where honors students can study and groups can meet.

This year, art professor Phillip Van Keuren was the first to speak about the New York Colloquium course he’s taught for 25 years. The JanTerm course involves a two-week trip to New York City for “intensive analysis, discussion, and writing” about art housed throughout the city.

“It’s for very independent people who are very curious,” said Van Keuren.

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Students listen to Dr. Levy discuss his course. Photo credit: Megan Sunderland

Sophomore Wynne Casteel, a geology major, expressed interest in Van Keuren’s course. He also mentioned that the reveal was a good chance to get together with other honors students, who have been “the best part” of the program.

“Usually the students in the honors program seem to be really interested and just willing to talk about more in-depth academic things,” said Casteel. “That just kind of brings a whole new level of learning to a class.”

English professor Bruce Levy discussed The Kids are All Right: Childhood in America, a course he will collaboratively teach with history professor Crista DeLuzio. The course focuses on using interdisciplinary perspectives to examine primarily historical and social questions surrounding childhood.

“By combining disciplines we can create new forms of knowledge,” Levy said.

Sociology professor Debra Branch also spoke about her course, Social Problems. Students taking her course will study widespread social issues through a sociological perspective and have the opportunity to work with local organizations attempting to alleviate such issues.

“Students like to describe my class as part sociology, part philosophy,” Branch explained of the concrete and theoretical underpinnings of the course.

Doyle was the last professor to speak about the course he will teach with French professor Maxime Foerster, Persecution to Affirmation: Sexual Minorities and Human Rights, concerning the analysis of gender and sexuality historically, globally, and as human rights issues. Students will travel to Amsterdam during spring break to study both issues as they pertain to the city and its refugees.

Freshman Andrea Salt asked how many first-year students would be able to enroll in Doyle’s course, but he advised that those students should wait because of the workload and “the ability to get more out of it” as a junior or senior. Despite the setback, the electrical engineering and math double major said that her experience as an honors student has been “really good” so far.

“Instead of being
taught to, you’re collaborating with professors,” Salt said of her current
honors courses.

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