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 Home < Academics < Honors Program < Previous Honors Seminars


 

A World of Ideas
Coordinated by Dr. Rulison (Physics) & Dr. Tiu (Mathematics)
Spring 2013

In the late 1980's, journalist Bill Moyers sat down with philosophers, fiction writers, scientists, educators, historians and more, and engaged each of them in a lengthy (and often lively) conversation about their perceptions of the world and the times we live in. These conversations, which aired on PBS under the ambitious title "A World of Ideas," were later compiled in book form. Moyers employs the deft touch of a veteraninterviewer to draw out thought-provoking insights and predictions from his subjects. We will examine some of these insights and predictions from a quarter-century retrospective.


Global Warming, the Science and the Hype
Coordinated by Dr. Cramer (Physics) & Dr. Runge (Politics)
Spring 2013

Seminar participants will form a simulated think tank, “The Oglethorpe Brain Trust”, to study and then present a finished report on the topic of Global Warming, The Science and the Hype. This will be a “no-holds-barred” examination of the topic subject only to the restraints of rigorous testing and critical, skeptical evaluation. Seminar leaders have expertise in the physical (Dr. Cramer) and social (Dr.Runge) sciences.


World Mythologies
Coordinated by Dr. Collins (Art History) & Ms. Salter (Library Sciences)
Fall 2012

This course is designed to introduce students to the honors program through the subject matter of world mythologies, ranging from Asian, Greek, Roman, Celtic, to central, South and Native American.  In addition, there will be a robust research element associated with the class that will include exploring and navigating the information literacy skills of critical thinking, analysis, and writing.   Through the subject matter of world mythologies students will begin to discover and put into practice the academic process of multidiscipline approaches to content.  Each student will be responsible for in class oral presentations on the topic of a world mythology and a research paper on a similar topic.  Class assignments will encourage collaborative learning, individual initiative, evidence of research skills acquired, and indication of the acquisition of knowledge.  

World Cinema: Showcasing film from the developing world
Coordinated by Dr. Chandler (Spanish) & Dr. Shrikhande (Communications and Rhetoric Studies)
Fall 2012


This honors course will explore international film as artistic, social and political expression.  In this course, students will engage film as a medium which powerfully expresses the human condition as it is viewed and defined in diverse cultural contexts.  Through exposure to national cinemas from the Developing World, with particular emphasis on Africa, India and Latin America, students will be exposed to rich cultural landscapes quite different from their own. 


Campaigns and Elections in the 21st Century
Coordinated by Dr. Knippenberg (Politics)
Fall 2012

Teams of students will study various aspects of the Democratic and Republican presidential campaigns and their associated SuperPACs. Examining the approaches to fund-raising and campaigning in speeches and rallies, phonebanks, direct-mail, face-to-face contact, television and radio advertising, email, websites, and social media, the teams will compile and present critical reports about the campaigns. The teams' reports will be presented at the 2013 Liberal Arts and Sciences Symposium.


Intellectual Imposters and the Science Wars (sophomore seminar)
Coordinated by Dr. Belcher (Philosophy) & Dr. Rulison (Physics)
Fall 2012

In 1996, physicist Alan Sokal submitted an article in the journal, "Social Text", a journal of postmodern literary criticism. The article was a deliberate hoax - it was designed to expose what Sokal felt was the intellectual bankruptcy of postmodernism. The resulting "Social Text Affair" ignited a firestorm of controversy, raising several issues that we will discuss in this class. The Social Text affair provides one glimpse into the very broad field of postmodern social studies of the practice of science.  In this seminar we will investigate (1) the context within which such a hoax could have been perpetrated, (2) what the Social Text affair does, and does not, tell us about postmodern views of science and its practice and practitioners, (3) what are the dangers and the benefits of socio-political influences on, and by, science, and (4) what is the possibility of knowledge via testimony.
Text: Fashionable Nonsense by Sokal and Bricmont


A Future Shaped by the Past?: Disappearing Borders in the European Union
Coordinated by Dr. Copeland (Economics) & Dr. Shrikhande (Communications and Rhetoric Studies)
Fall 2011

Western Europe in the 21st century is facing both economic and social challenges.  Economically, the European Union finds itself with members like Greece which is experiencing a severe debt crisis that required Germany and France to rescue it.  Socially, the population of immigrants, especially those from Islamic countries, has reached a critical mass and is bringing to the forefront a conflict between religious freedom and a western world-view. In this seminar we explore the policies that have brought Europe to this point and discuss the implications for the future.


Nothing Endures but Change
Coordinated by Dr. Rulison (Physics) & Prof. Smith (Politics)
Fall 2011

Heraclitus said that one could never step in the same river twice. The modern study of physics seems to bear out his claim that being is change. Aristotle claimed, counter to Heraclitus, that nature rests and has purpose. Modern natural science seems to have defeated Aristotle, but is Aristotle all he seems to be at first glance? Can the Aristotelian study of continuity, place and weight shed any light on the dizzying account of being encountered among the leptons, flavors and charges of modern physics?


From the Civil War to Civil Rights: The Role of Jews in the Rise of the New South
Coordinated by Dr. Bobroff (History) & Dr. Kower (Economics)
Spring 2011

Far from marginalized, Jews have played an important role in the development of the New South, from service during the Civil War, to the growth of the textile industry, to the Civil Rights movement. We’ll study their contributions to this development as well as their struggles over identity along the way.


Shakespearean Interpretation
Coordinated by Dr. Hornback (English & Comparative Literatures) & Dr. McCarthy (Core, Director of the Writing Center)
Spring 2011

This seminar will explore cruxes, issues, and assumptions raised by critical essays on Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. Students will be asked to apply such approaches to filmed adaptations and in scene workshops. As students synthesize their findings, they will be guided through the problem-solving needed to undertake research.  


Nuclear Proliferation
Coordinated by Dr. Orme (Politics) & Dr. Rulison (Physics)
Spring 2011

Concerns of various kinds related to nuclear proliferation are currently much in the news.  In this seminar students will investigate the topic of nuclear proliferation from a variety of viewpoints including technical aspects of the issue as well as political considerations, both domestic and international.  For example: How does the bomb work? Could terrorists make a bomb? What are the consequences of proliferation? Is missile defense feasible as a solution?  Students will conduct research and present to the seminar.


Representations of Eva Perón and Ernesto “Che” Guevara in Literature and Film
Coordinated by Dr. John Nardo (Mathematics) and Dr. Viviana Plotnik (Spanish)
Fall 2010

This seminar explores the impact and legacy of two legendary figures from Argentina: Eva Perón and Ernesto “Che” Guevara. We will study some of the various Evitas and Ches created at different times and places (from the 1950s to the present) by examining both literature and film. By the end of the seminar, students should be able to answer the following questions:
Why are Guevara and Perón such powerful icons? How and why have representations of these historical figures changed?
At the same time, students will become aware of historical, social, and cultural processes that will widen their knowledge of Latin America.


Ecotourism: Balancing economic gain and resource conservation
Coordinated by Dr. Cassandra Copeland (Economics) and Dr. Roarke Donnelly (Biology)
Fall 2010

Economic growth is often strongly implicated in biodiversity loss around the globe. However, environmentally sensitive tourism has been touted as a means for protecting rare species via private market incentives without running afoul of conservation regulations. Is this too good to be true? Students taking this seminar will discuss the different meanings of “ecotourism”, whether eco-tour operators truly balance economics and conservation, and conditions in which eco-tours are most likely to succeed. Associated with this seminar we will offer an optional study abroad component to investigate the practice and success of ecotourism on Costa Rica’s coral reefs and rainforests.


F.A. Hayek's Relevance in the Age of Obama
Coordinated by Dr. Bruce Hetherington (Economics) and Dr. Brad Stone (Sociology)
Spring 2010

Friedrich Hayek (1899-1992) was a Nobel-prize winning economist whose work spans evolutionary biology, political philosophy, moral theory, historiography, psychology, and sociology. He has been called “the greatest philosopher of liberty in the twentieth century.” In the Road to Serfdom and other works, Hayek argued that economic systems prosper when they encourage diverse and divided knowledge through spontaneous and unplanned action, while economies that centralize decision making falter and encourage totalitarian political regimes. The issue at the center of Hayek’s work--the contexts encouraging enlightened decision making--is a perennial one but we will consider this issue in light of the pressing political concerns of the age of Obama.


Imagining the Future: Science & History in Speculative Fiction
Coordinated by Dr. Nick Maher (History) and Dr. Michael Rulison (Physics)
Spring 2010

In this seminar we will examine how changing understandings of the relationship between Theoretical and Applied Science and theories of the Development of Human Societies are explored in speculative fiction. Science fiction as a genre provides a window to the way we understand our social history and its relationship to available technology by imagining the implications of specific changes in some detail of human circumstance. Science fiction poses the question “what would the world be like if our science and technology were different from what we have today”? Related genres of speculative fiction pose similar questions that explore the implications of social scientific knowledge in narratives based on counter-factual imaginings of a world with slightly different resources or biological requirements or histories. From this vantage, speculative fiction explores the assumptions of our understanding of contemporary reality as well as suggesting how the future may well differ from the present as we learn more about the ourselves and the universe we inhabit. We will employ a variety of sources including print, audio, video, and electronic. The seminar emphasis will be on student participation.


Exploring Identity in Contemporary Japanese and Indian Fiction
Coordinated by Dr. Seema Shrikhande (Communications) and Dr. Robert Steen (Japanese)
Spring 2010

Identity is defined in multiple ways, and is always in flux. It can be defined in terms of gender, ethnicity, and various notions of one’s ‘home.’  In this seminar we will explore the way notions of identity are evolving in two rapidly changing Asian societies, Japan and India. We will consider the role of such factors as economic change and globalization in shaping identity in the works of contemporary writers including Haruki Murakami and Jhumpa Lahiri. 


Tom Wolfe’s Narrative of a Self
Coordinated by Dr. Joseph Knippenberg (Politics) and Mr. Timothy Doyle (Dean of Student Affairs)
Spring 2010

In I Am Charlotte Simmons, Tom Wolfe turns his formidable analytic and literary gifts on contemporary college life.  Charlotte Simmons is a bright first-year student at an academically prestigious university with an extraordinarily good basketball team.  She encounters all sorts of personal and intellectual challenges as she navigates her way through her first year.  Wolfe uses the story to explore not only the obvious pitfalls of identity maintenance and formation in the contemporary university, but also the challenges to the very notion of a “self” posed by contemporary thought.


Spanish Roots and North African Routes: Culture and Economic Development Across the Strait of Gibraltar
Coordinated by Dr. Mario Chandler (Spanish) and Dr. Cassandra Copeland (Economics)
Fall 2009

This Honors seminar will analyze through selected readings, engaging discussions, lectures and films, the history, culture, and economic development of Iberia and Northern Africa in an effort to explore the contrasts as well as the rich interconnections that unite the two regions.  Specific topics of the course will include the implications of language, geography, war, occupation, religious, ethnic and political ideologies, and market orientation in order to understand the evolution and nature of homegrown development in Spain and Morocco through careful study of the fascinating roots and routes manifested across and through the Strait. 


Whence Great Music?
Coordinated by Dr. John Orme (Politics) and Dr. W. Bradford Smith (History)
Fall 2009

How and why is great music made? What does it mean? Genius may not be fully explicable. Nonetheless, we seek to understand how personal experience, historical circumstances and the human condition might inspire or influence those of exceptional talent. These questions will be addressed through a study of the lives and selected works of J. S. Bach, Beethoven, Schumann, Brahms, Wagner, Bartok, and others.


Globalization: Its Promises and Its Discontents
Coordinated by Dr. Lynn Guhde (Management) and Dr. Seema Shrikhande (Communications)
Spring 2009

Globalization has been one of the driving forces of the late 20th and early 21st century and is changing our understanding of the world.  In this seminar we look at globalization from a variety of perspectives—economic, political, cultural—and analyze the ways in which it privileges certain groups and activities at the expense of the others.  The course will consist of class discussions, group presentations and guest lectures.


Life Amid the Madding Crowd: Traffic in Atlanta and Beyond
Coordinated by Dr. Keith Aufderheide (Chemistry), Dr. John Cramer (Physics), Dr. Lynn Gieger (Math Education), Dr. John Nardo (Mathematics), and Dr. Michael Rulison (Physics)
Spring 2009

People frequently labor under the misconception that the practice of science and mathematics is confined to the classroom or lab.  In an effort to dispel the notion a team of math and science faculty members has developed a two-hour interdisciplinary course to study traffic in Atlanta,  the problem is wide-ranging in its details, and traffic is studied by many different academic specialties.  Mathematics gives a language and framework from which to model traffic flow patterns and to make predictions.  Engineering considerations necessitate certain design choices that affect basic roadwork infrastructure and pollution.  Chemistry, Physics and Biology examine the physical and psychological consequences of traffic, all the way from heat islands and local weather to hypertension and asthma, the social science investigate an extensive manifold of social and psychological components and ramifications.  The “traffic problem” is capacious and interdisciplinary, as are the stakeholders.  In addition to regular classroom meetings and discussions, students will participate in several self-designed experiments involving data collection and analysis, as well as hypothesis testing.  There will also be regular outside guest speakers and fieldtrips.  There is no requirement that a student be majoring in mathematics or science in order to enroll in the course, nor are there any prerequisite.


Can the Chattahoochee River Slake Atlanta’s Growing Thirst?
Coordinated by Dr. Cassandra Copeland (Economics) and Dr. Roarke Donnelly (Biology)
Fall 2008

The Atlanta metropolitan region supplies nearly four million people with water from the Chattahoochee River. Protection of the quantity and quality of the river's water is a priority due to the recent drought and the expectation that the population will grow by 3 million people by 2030.  Students in this seminar will investigate such disparate topics as the economic motivations and water supply ramifications of Atlanta's location, the economic and ecological costs of poor storm water management, imminent changes to the metro water districts management plans, and recent state legislation affecting stream water quality.  This exploration will be directed by an urban ecologist and an economist. Course activities and assignments include readings, short lectures by the faculty, student presentations, class discussion and debate, and field excursions.


Fun & Serious Math – It’s All One and The Same
Coordinated by Dr. Michael Rulison (Physics) and Dr. Philip Tiu (Mathematics)
Fall 2008

The goal of this Honors Seminar is to enhance mathematical literacy in its broadest sense.  On the one hand, J. A. Paulos’ “A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper” tries to get the reader to see the mathematical aspects of newspaper stories that, at first glance, have little or nothing to do with math.  On the other hand, J. G. Koomey’s “Turning Numbers into Knowledge” is more concerned with gathering, sifting, presenting, and analyzing numerical data, all with a view to developing the reader’s critical thinking faculties.


Engaging Narratives
Coordinated by Dr. Stephen Herschler (Politics) and guest lecturers
Spring 2008

Oglethorpe University's motto "make a life, make a living, make a difference" might be construed as denoting three features of an Oglethorpe education. "Make a life" connotes the aims of the Core Curriculum, namely to foster a well-rounded flexible intellect able to undertake critical analysis of oneself and the world. "Make a living" suggests building expertise through one's major, thereby preparing one to undertake more specialized modes of inquiry and professional endeavors. "Make a difference" suggests civic engagement, going beyond the confines of the university to engage with and hopefully constructively impact individuals and communities in Atlanta and beyond. This course seeks to combine these three elements of an Oglethorpe education. Students will examine a narrative from just beyond Oglethorpe's gates from a variety of disciplinary perspectives.


Microfinance and the Poor
Coordinated by Dr. Peter Kower (Economics) and guest lecturers
Spring 2008

Students will study the underlying cultural, political, and technological conditions commonly associated with poverty in Lesser Developed Countries (LDCs). The course will focus on a relatively new innovation aimed at alleviating poverty - microfinance. Microfinance, the practice of making small loans to the poor, especially women, was developed in part by the work of Dr. Mohammad Yunus and Grameen Bank, the co-recipients of the 2006 Nobel Prize for Peace.

This honors course is being taught in conjunction with the seminar series entitled Microfinance and Social Investing. The series is the result of a unique collaboration between Atlanta-based Gray Matters Capital and Oglethorpe University. The seminar series was designed and will be facilitated by leading members of the Gray Ghost Funds and its associated network of microfinance practitioners and the faculty at Oglethorpe as well as other leading academics in the field.


 

 

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