Honors Spring 2021 Courses

Honors: Introduction to Sociocultural Anthropology— ANTH 130-01 with Professor Mohamad Junaid, MWF 9:00-9:50 am.  Counts for Self & Society requirement in the Core curriculum. 

 Sociocultural anthropology is the study of the social lives of human communities. The field takes as its primary concern the nature of societies, variations among them, and the transformations they undergo. Understanding systems of belief, modes of social organization, and cultural practices animates sociocultural anthropologists. They formulate their questions in unique ways: How do humans inhabit and sense the world? How do they narrate their experiences? How do their experiences relate to interpersonal and social relations, cultural imaginaries and practices, historical forces and contingencies, and natural and material ‘things’ surrounding them?
Based on engagement with everyday life in different contexts, sociocultural anthropology challenges our commonsense ideas about people’s beliefs and practices, and the life-worlds they build. The discipline provides us with a conceptual vocabulary to understand key challenges with which individuals and societies grapple. It takes us beyond the familiar and the visible, and towards the imaginative and the creative. Sociocultural anthropology compels us to question the common-sense notion of the ‘human’ itself. 
Throughout this course, we will use anthropological essays, ethnographic accounts, and documentary films to trace the range of topics with which sociocultural anthropology deals. We will see how sociocultural anthropologists, instead of imposing their own understanding, produce knowledge in dialogue with the subjects of their study. This approach has required a persistent refinement of methods. You will become familiar with the rich repertoire of methods that sociocultural anthropologists have developed. Our assigned textual and visual materials will allow us to reflect on ethnography as a key mode of producing anthropological knowledge as well as a unique genre of writing and filmmaking.  Course attributes: CRCU, CSS, SOCJ. Prerequisite: None


Honors: Introduction to Cross-Cultural & Social Justice Studies— IDST 150-02 with Professor  Susan Edgerton, TR 1:00—2:15 pm. Counts for Human Heritage requirement in the Core curriculum.    

This course engages important issues that affect people in our culturally and socially diverse world--in past and present, local and global contexts. It is an inquiry into the multiple means by which power is socially and culturally mediated and channeled to create structures of inequality and oppression that privilege some populations while marginalizing others.  We begin each new section of the course by exploring the theoretical underpinnings of major socio-cultural categories such as race, socio-economic class, gender, and sexuality. Our theoretical understandings are then applied to actual cases that range from experiences of marginalized groups and individuals to historical and contemporary events that mark turning points and ongoing challenges to justice. Discussing culture and its multiple connections to power will take us to an exploration of different faces of oppression. Intersectional analysis will be our analytic tool to investigate how culturally/socially defined categories of identity are intertwined to create structures of privilege and oppression. Course attributes: CHH, CRCU, SOCJ. Prerequisite: None


Honors: Environmental  Sustainability— ENVI 152H with Professor Dan Shustack, MWF 10:00-10:50 am + required Lab (ENVI 152HL) during either Tuesdays or Thursdays, 1:00-3:45 pm

This course provides a foundation in the nature and properties of natural resources in the context of sustainable environmental management. Students will consider and apply the paradigm of social, environmental and economic sustainability to a variety of natural resource issues such as fossil fuels, renewable energy, wastewater, forestry and wildlife, land protection, food production, urbanization and solid waste and recycling. Laboratory required. Course attributes: ENVI, HONR. Prerequisite: None


Honors: Word Regional Geography—HONR 101 with Professor Kirk Scott, MW 2:00-3:15 pm.  Counts for Human Heritage requirement in the Core curriculum.    

This course is intended to expose you to theories, terms and contemporary topics in human geography including how cultures are born and change, how groups of people organize themselves and their activities both spatially and politically, how patterns of activities emerge and change across time and space, and how we interact with our environments.  We will explore complex relationships between people and the places they inhabit, gain skill in using maps, data, argument and persuasion, including basic interpretation of ArcGIS data layers, and appreciate a discipline that is an important component of a well-rounded liberal arts education.  For students pursuing a teaching license, we will also link course content to the relevant for Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks.


Introduction to Urban Studies: HONR 201-01 with Professor Guangzhi Huang, TR 9:00-10:15 am. Counts for Self and Society requirement in Core curriculum.

In this course, we will travel across the world and explore cities, many cities, from various perspectives, both macro and micro. Cities are ambiguous existences. On the one hand they make us proud and showcase astonishing architectures, but at the same time, they are known for problems like inequalities, crime, and lack of sanitation; they put an enormous amount of pressure on the planet, polluting its air and water, but at the same time hold the potential for efficient living. This course traces cities back to when it all began and ends with the world we live in today where urbanization is happening faster than ever. We will examine what drives urban developments in the world and how they are interconnected. We will also look at how small communities such as North Adams were impacted by global forces. The course will introduce students to various basic concepts such as cities, urbanization, gentrification, and urban renewal. To gain a comprehensive understanding of cities, the course draws from various disciplines including sociology, history, anthropology, literature, and cultural studies.  Prerequisite: None


Honors: Social Problems—SOCI 201-03  with Professor Jenn Zoltanski.  Fully on-line & asynchronous.  Counts for Self & Society requirement of MCLA’s Core curriculum

Why would anyone want to study social problems? After all, problems like violence, crime, poverty, inequality, corruption, environmental destruction, and more, are found in virtually all societies, past and present. It seems like nothing can be done to fix the things that plague human civilization everywhere, so why bother studying that which seems inevitable? A Sisyphean Task, indeed. And yet, the study of most social problems reveals that people share a common desire for what the Swedes call Lagom—translated imperfectly into “having enough for each person to lead a happy and balanced life” or “having enough is as good as a feast.” Social problems deprive lots of people from achieving Lagom through mechanisms that deny adequate resources to meet basic needs, much less, nurture contentment. Examination of social problems teaches us that we humans are generally not satisfied by this arrangement—people have united to correct problems around the globe and across history. As noted by authors Kornblum and Julian, a social problem is “a condition that threatens the quality of life for people in a society and their most cherished values. It is a condition that a significant number of people believe should be remedied through collective action (Social Problems, 1998). Thus, analyses of social problems spill over into studies of how people organize social change movements that can lead to both progressive and regressive reform outcomes. Guided study of social problems also fosters development of the sociological imagination (a term coined by American sociologist, C. Wright Mills) which is considered a hallmark of advanced critical thinking. The sociological imagination allows us to discover the systemic/cultural roots for problems that we often attribute to individuals, revealing pathways for social change. Acquiring this critical lens is a game changer in terms of how you come to view the world! I am hoping that by the end of the semester you will develop this skill (along with others) and develop a deep appreciation for the field of sociology and social problems as one of its major sub-specialization areas. Prereq:  SOCI 100 or a 100-level Self & Society course.


Honors: Health Promotion and Planning—HLTH 200 with Professor Nicole Porther, MW 2:00-3:15 pm

Focuses on community health concepts, including the public health approach, social determinants of health, health promotion theoretical models, policy, advocacy, health communication, health literacy, cultural humility and competency, and health equity. Students will develop skills in community organizing and building, conduct community needs and strengths assessments, and asset maps and planning. Students will also implement and evaluate a community health program/intervention in collaboration with a community partner. Prerequisite: None


Honors: Human Health and Development—HLTH  210 with Professor Maryann Schroder, fully online. Counts for Self & Society requirement in the Core

In this fully online and asynchronous course, we will explore the life cycle from conception to death. Biological, sociological, and psychological perspectives will be examined and applied to everyday situations and social issues. As a semester project, students will choose a biography or autobiography to read and apply course concepts to, including: the individual's navigation of developmental periods; analysis of multiple contexts in which the person's life unfolds; and relationship to a social issue or movement of the times. Course attributes: CSS. Prerequisite: None


Honors: Fundamentals of Arts & Culture Organizations: AMGT 235-01 with Professor Jerome Socolof,  MWF  1:00-1:50 pm

This course explores and examines the functional elements of arts organizations with an emphasis on strategic planning and organizations’ fit in the arts and cultural ecosystem. Designed as the in depth introduction for arts management majors, topics include arts management issues including planning, organizational identity, environmental analysis, strategy development, integrated marketing, human resources, financial planning, fundraising and control systems with a focus on the strategic management process in the context of the contemporary arts and culture environment. Course attributes: LDRS. Prerequisite: None


Honors: John Rawls: Justice as Fairness—PHIL 385-01 with Professor Paul Nnodim, MW 5:00-6:15 pm. Fully online.

Imagine a scenario where policymakers in Washington D.C. are momentarily unaware of their political affiliations, economic interests, race, gender, sexual orientation, position in society, religion, talents, psychological dispositions, advantages or disadvantages when enacting policies for the American people. Would there be no more injustice, prejudice, or inequality? This thought experiment, known as the “veil of ignorance,” is Rawls’s answer to the recurrent questions of justice in the modern world. John Rawls was an emeritus professor of philosophy at Harvard University until his death in 2002. Today, his works are among the most influential theories in contemporary Western legal and political philosophy. This course examines Rawlsian notions of justice (social justice, the justice of pluralism, and global justice), anti-utilitarian views, and his dialogues with critics. Prerequisite: A 100-level or 200-level philosophy course, junior status, or instructor approval.


Honors: Heidegger—PHIL 385-02 with Professor Paul Nnodim, W 6:30-9:15 pm. Fully online.

The German philosopher, Martin Heidegger (1889-1976), was undoubtedly one of the most influential thinkers of the twentieth century. His work Being and Time (Sein und Zeit) has the reputation of being a challenging but essential philosophical text. Heidegger’s influence cuts across academic disciplines such as psychology, environmental studies, arts, architecture, and political science. Being and Time takes the existentialism of Kierkegaard and Nietzsche to a higher level of abstraction. The result is a fascinating, animated, and original way of thinking that deconstructs the history of western metaphysics in order to redefine a new method of doing philosophy known as phenomenology. Our primary goal in this course is to read and understand Heidegger’s Being and Time. Our method is to approach the text with all seriousness and care, moving slowly but steadily as may be possible in one semester.  If we succeed in achieving our novel goal before the end of the semester, then we may try to acquaint ourselves with some of the later works of Heidegger: On the Essence of Truth, The Origin of the work of art, The Question Concerning Technology, and Building Dwelling Thinking. Prerequisite: A 100-level or 200-level philosophy course, junior status, or instructor approval.


Honors: Plants and Society—BIOL 327H with Professor Eric Doucette, MWF 1:00-1:50 pm.

Introduces students to the interactions between people and plants in cultures throughout the world. Topics to be discussed include the current and historical use of plants as food, fiber, fuel and medicine. Course attributes: ENVI, HONR. Prerequisite: Junior/senior status or instructor approval.


Hybrid Poetics—HONR 301-01 with Professor Zachary Finch, MW 2:00-3:15 pm.

This literature and creative writing course investigates a range of experimental literary texts that cross, blur, or recombine different modes and genres of writing, in order to invent new forms of expression. Students explore the porous borders between poetry and prose, the creative and the critical, the visual and the verbal, the oral and the written, the factual and the imaginative. In their own writing, students are invited to move between two types of writing, creative and analytical, that are ordinarily kept separate. Prerequisite: Junior/senior status or instructor approval.


Honors: Advanced Leadership—BADM 440H with Professor Thomas Whalen, MW 2:00-3:15 pm.

Advanced Leadership examines a range of topics in leadership studies, both current and historical. Emphasis will be placed on exploring and developing the student’s personal leadership philosophy, style, and approach. Possible topics could include operational, strategic, and ethical considerations within today’s dynamic social, corporate, and non-profit environment. Additional research component will be required of students taking this course for honors credit. Prerequisite: Junior status or instructor approval.


Honors: From Semiotics to Signification—HONR 401-01 with Professor Michael Birch, TR 2:30-3:45 pm

This course examines the development of semiotics (the study of the science of signs) from its early foundation through to its development into the contemporary cultural practice of reading significations. Reading signs/meanings is a part of everyday life whether it’s interpreting the sequence of traffic lights or understanding meanings in a film or social media. Thus, our work examines the theoretical evolution of how we read signs by checking different key paradigms across a hundred years in a multitude of different media forms. Among the many things we will look at is the #MeToo movement. We will question our learning of how meanings/signs can be interpreted in many different ways and explore how different modes of interpretation can inform different understandings across our world. Therefore, the fundamental question posed across the semester will be: How are we seeing/hearing what we are knowing? How do we know what we know?  Prerequisites: Junior/Senior status or instruction from instructor.


SOCI 495-01:  Honors: Children’s Geographies  with Professor Ingrid Castro: Fully asynchronous and online.

This course is devoted to exploring the importance of space, place, location, and time in the lived realities of children’s and youth’s lives.  The environments children and youth occupy are both unique to their cultures and shared, negotiated, and contested by and with adults on the local and global scale.  Theoretical perspectives frame growing international research efforts that examine the diverse experiences of children and youth in various spatial locations framed by both public and private contexts. Conceptually, children’s and youth’s constructions of and interactions with definitions of “home,” “family,” “neighborhood,” “nature,” “friendship,” and “body” are examined to gain knowledge of historical and contemporary constructions of childhood and youth, drawing on sociological and cultural theories, discourses, and ideologies.

Prerequisites: SOCI 100 and Junior/senior status. Counts as Elective for: Child & Family Studies; Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies