Honors Classes in Action

HON 100 – The Nature of Inquiry  – Dr. Christopher Kukk

Course Description: This purpose of this course is to examine some of the methodologies various academic disciplines use to understand topics.  Each semester the course will examine a different topic, such as crime, mental illness or sexuality, by applying various disciplinary techniques and perspectives.  The course is also designed to expose student to some of the key informational resources available in various fields (Prerequisite:  Admission into the University Honors Program or Permission of lnstructor, every fall semester).

The following videos were completed by honors students in the introductory honors class, The Nature of Inquiry, during the fall 2015 and fall 2017 semesters. Students had to choose a brain rule from John Medina’s book Brain Rules and show how it is related to a subject, analyzing the relationship and connections using the four modes of inquiry.


HON 398 – Crossing the Danger Water – Dr. Donald Gagnon

Course Description: The slave trade between Africa and the Americas marked the Atlantic Ocean as the site of what Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and others have called “the largest unmarked graveyard in the world.”  Whether referred to as “The Danger Water,” “The Middle Passage” or “The City of Bones,” among other designations, the Atlantic serves as an unmarked gravesite for more than a million Africans who died of either physical trauma and deprivation or intentional self-sacrifice.  As such, it has since become a fertile ground for African American literature in its task of reviving the spiritual power of the ancestors in order to enrich the lives of their descendants.  In particular, African American writers of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries have consecrated the experience of the Middle Passage as a sacred one and its Atlantic geography as a sacred site, marked by monuments and literary tributes to its spiritual value in acknowledging the value of the lives lost in attempt to restore visibility and therefore power to the souls lost along the journey.


HON398 – Stop Motion Animation – Professor Sabrina Marques

Course Description: This course will investigate information we consume from news coverage to social media and visually respond to current event issues through the medium of stop motion animation. Students will create artwork to socially engage an audience of their peers. Through the process of making art, students will begin to see the world differently as the medium of drawing- specifically charcoal-rendered stop motion animation, becomes a tool for communicating ideas. Students will choose a current crisis (consumer culture or global warming, for instance) that they will turn into their stop motion animation.


HON 398 – Americans in Paris – Dr. Donald Gagnon and Dr. Leslie Lindenauer

Course Description: Paris has long been a destination for Americans seeking artistic shelter and inspiration, a welcoming space for writers and artists across race, gender, and sexualities, and political support and affirmation of popularly constructed core democratic values. As David McCullough states in his work, The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris, “Not all pioneers went west.” Some voyaged to Europe in search of, and returned home with, intellectual capital. In addition to well recorded visits to Paris by such American founding fathers as Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, the first Americans to land in France in the nineteenth century were an eclectic group; medical students, artists, and writers. They were also very talented. Samuel Morse, Charles Sumner, Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr., and James Fennimore Cooper counted among the first wave, but at that time, almost all of them were unknown. They went to Paris to “study hard” as the painter George Healy stated. Even Cooper, already famous for his novel The Last of the Mohicans, shared his cohorts’ emphasis on work; he wrote eight novels during his seven years abroad. The U.S. was better for their efforts; for example, it was alongside black students at the Sorbonne that Sumner first discerned the inconsistencies undergirding America’s racial system. As he recorded in his journal in January 1838, “The distance between free blacks and whites among us is derived from education, and does not exist in the nature of things.” It is this “nature of things,” on a broader cultural, historical, political and artistic canvas, that we hope to explore in this course, echoing in academic and intellectual inquiry what George Gershwin hoped to explore in his seminal composition, An American in Paris: “My purpose here is to portray the impressions of an American visitor in Paris as he strolls about the city, listens to the various street noises, and absorbs the French atmosphere.” Our “impressions” will focus on the lasting impact of American/Parisian social and cultural contact, beginning with our early political alliances and morphing through various intentional and unintentional phenomena to a lasting, if sometimes uneasy, relationship.


HON 498 – Chemia Cafea: Journey through the Center of a Bean – Dr. Nicholas Greco

Course Description:While coffee is ubiquitous with the morning ritual of a large number of people, the chemistry, history and artistic nature is not. This one little bean has changed the course of cultures and communities, both ancient and present day. It’s ultimate transformation into coffee evokes strong emotions for or against, and for those that gravitate towards it, what they prefer is rarely based in scientific exploration. This honors capstone course provides a pathway into the historical, social, cultural, psychological and artistic part of coffee, all through the overarching eye of chemistry.

The following are coffee shop flyers and commercials created by students during the fall 2017 semester.




HON 498 – Biological Illustration – Professor Jack Tom

Course Description: Biological Illustration is a field of study that examines all areas of biological sciences. This course introduced students to the fundamental principles of creating illustration for the purpose of natural sciences. Students will develop an understanding of the ways in which the visual arts are integrated with the sciences. Both the arts and sciences are historically based upon observation, scientific research and by studying multiple disciplines that allow us to view the biological world from different perspectives with greater accuracy. This enriches the work of both the scientist and the artist. Students will explore scientific terms and concepts that will assist them in creating accurate drawings used in research, teaching, scientific journals and publication, presentations and other applications. A basic knowledge of biological concepts and some artistic ability is useful. Both art and biology involve careful observation dealing with ideas where the hands, eye, and mind come together, learning and appreciating the aesthetics of professionally executed illustrations for science. During the Renaissance Leonardo Da Vinci was a true artist and scientist. He observed the world closely, studying physiology, anatomy, natural sciences, physics, engineering and art. Charles Darwin Sketched finches in the Galapagos as he uncovered the mysteries of evolution. Some of the greatest artistic and scientific minds belonged to the individuals who embraced both the sciences and visual arts. The principal task of a scientific illustrator is preparing accurate renderings of natural science subjects for various applications. The symbiotic relationship between the arts and the sciences uses artwork as a visual tool for communication for the service of research, discovery, and education. The goal in this class is to enhance the student’s technical skills and understanding of the importance of visual communications in the field of biology. Emphasis is placed on observation, visual data collection, annotated field sketching, studying the characteristics of biological specimens and the research process in preparation for the final illustration. Students will become acquainted with basic rendering techniques used in biological illustration. This course aims to create a mutual understanding and appreciation between those involved in the fields of visual art and sciences.

The following are biological illustrations completed by students during the fall 2017 semester.

























HON 398 – History of American Music – Professor Dirck Westervelt

Course Description:This course will cover the development of music in the United States from the first colonists up to the 20th Century. We will use reading, listening, as well as singing to access the broad array of musical styles that make up the complex tapestry known as ‘American Music.’ We will study music form and theory in order to develop our understanding of the language of music. This is a historical and sociological study as music reflects both the history of the people making it as well as the social and psychological conditions in which they lived or are living.


HON 398: Breaking Bad: Drug Economics and Crime Theory – Dr. Casey Jordan

Course Description: The hit TV series, Breaking Bad, has been praised for its compelling dramatic storyline about Walter White, a simple math teacher and family man who “breaks bad” when he discovers he has cancer. But Breaking Bad is far more than just great entertainment: in its five seasons of nearly 50 viewing hours, it reveals situations of crime patterns, criminal typologies, and economic complexities of the drug market that are quite accurate when compared to real-world situations. This course requires students to watch the entire series of Breaking Bad in their own time (about 3-4 episodes per week), utilizing assigned readings {criminal case studies, newspaper articles, journal articles, statutory law, textbook chapters, etc.), and guest speaker presentations to analyze the content of each week’s assigned viewing. While most students have probably already watched the series, it is imperative that the shows be viewed again with an “academic eye” towards enquiry and analysis to determine fact vs. fiction in comparison to today’s crime problems and drug market economy. While Breaking Bad can’t be presented as “real life” as a documentary series, it is perhaps the best modern day vignette for demonstrating the link between our current “Get Tough On Crime” drug policy that has spawned the Three-Strikes laws and harsh penalties (including life sentences for drug dealers and kingpins) over the past 20 years. To understand the rampant growth of drug trade—particularly between Mexico and the United States—and its links to organized crime and white collar crime, Breaking Bad serves as a vehicle by which to demonstrate key concepts of the economics, psychology, victimology, family dynamics, and social realities of crime. Emphasis on the current state of methamphetamine production and addiction in the United States will be the foundation for analysis.


HON 498 – Aesthetics, Perception, and Visual Art – Professor Stacey Kolbig

Course Description: The judgement of aesthetics is based on the universal characteristics of perception. By using the rules of perception to explore our collective conception of beauty, pleasure and art, this course explores the psychology and biology that governs and defines our experience of the visual arts. In this four mode inquiry, three credit (no prerequisites required) multi-disciplinary course, students will evaluate the science and cultural circumstance that governs and defines visual perception as it relates to our experience and understanding of art. Through a hybrid of experimental research, studio art exercises, discussion and lecture, students will be introduced to a variety of works of art and corresponding pivotal movements. The adaptive biology responsible for the aesthetic experience and the collective circumstances that define art will be evaluated with both studio exercise and experimental research. The culmination of this evaluation will be used to examine how artists are guided by the rules of perception as they either choose to seek or refute the ideals of a pleasurable aesthetic.


HON400 – The Science and Art of Learning – Dr. Christopher Kukk

The following videos were completed by honors students in the spring 2016 and spring 2018 capstone courses, The Science and Art of Learning, taught by Dr. Kukk. For this assignment, students had to solve a complex problem on a subject of their choice and analyze the problem and possible solutions using the four modes of inquiry.