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Honors Seminars


Fall Quarter 2013

“The History, Culture, and Economics of Wall Street”

Honors 350 CRN 40164

MW 1200-1320

Polly Myers, History

This seminar examines how Wall Street has operated on social, economic, and cultural levels, with particular focus on the period between the 1970s and the present day. Using the Wall Street Journal, films such as Wall Street (1987 & 2010), memoirs, and interdisciplinary academic studies (including ethnographic investigations, historical analyses, and business studies), the seminar analyzes Wall Street from multiple vantage points. We also will study the influence of Wall Street in shaping economic policies. We will also investigate how Wall Street operates, both in practice and symbolically, and explore the experiences that ordinary people have had with Wall Street, which includes an analysis of gender and race norms and resistance to Wall Street as expressed by the recent “Occupy” movements. Students will conduct comparative analyses of films and memoirs about Wall Street, as well as interrogate the legacies of the Occupy movements in light of the historical perspectives of Wall Street that we have traced.

“Energy: Sources, Issues, and Alternatives”

Honors 351 CRN 43877

MW 1330-1450

Michael Burnett, Fairhaven College

We will examine human uses of energy, survey major energy sources up to the Industrial Revolution, investigate the growth of fossil fuel use, and discuss the biological origins of coal, oil, and natural gas. We will study evidence concerning climate change in geologic times, track global warming over the last one hundred years, and project the effects of increased burning of fossil fuels. We will then discuss the scientific, political, cultural, and geographical variables, and the economics of a range of alternative, relatively sustainable sources of energy, including wind, solar, hydro, wave, tide, geothermal and--though not technically a renewable source--nuclear energy as well. Most importantly, we will talk about conservation of energy, for energy that is not used is the most sustainable energy of all.

“Regnerative Design: Systems Thinking and Appropriate Technology”

Honors 352 CRN 43875

TR 1300-1420

Paul Kearsley, Engineering Technology

As various aspects of sustainability become more common, we have to ask the question; “What comes next”? Conserving energy, buying local and composting our coffee cups are all steps forward, but there exists an entire industry of professional designers who are pushing the envelope beyond consumer practices. Regenerative Design produces systems that restore, renew or revitalize their own sources of energy and materials, creating sustainable systems that integrate the needs of society with the integrity of nature.This skill set will apply to many different disciplines, including engineering, environmental sciences, environmental studies, biology and more. Our work will explore the concept of systems thinking, survey available and appropriate technology and culminate in a service-learning project. Topics will include, but are not limited to; systems thinking, harvesting rainwater, processing grey water, designing edible landscapes, increasing biodiversity, holistic land management practices, ecological literacy, and ethnobotany. Course work will include readings, presentations, mapping assignments and a service-learning project.


Winter Quarter 2014

“Systems of Metaphors, Memes, and Myths-Making Meaning Matter”

Honors 355 CRN 13768

TR 1400-1520

T.J. Olney, Finance & Marketing

Metaphors, Memes, Myths and Meaning -- Adventures in Epistemology: As a meta-class, we will draw from a variety of disciplines to reveal tools of thinking that facilitate new and powerful approaches to problems in any field. Theoretical readings by some of the most important thinkers of the last 40 years will provide the catalyst as we explore the meta-question: “How do we know what we know?” In this Seminar, grounded in systems theory, we will explore the ways in which meaning develops and adheres to events, ideas, and objects. We will consider how conceptual metaphors binds us to certain ways of thinking and how changing metaphors can alter everything that we know. We will experiment with turning our ordinary sense of how we come to have ideas on its head as we consider the ramifications of memetic thinking. We will follow meanings as they travel from experience to object and from object to symbol, to rest finally in our selves. Finally, we will regroup and attempt to synthesize these seemingly disparate avenues into a better way to understand our universe. For more information, see http://voyager.cbe.wwu.edu/courses/honors

“Art & Ecology”

Honors 356 CRN 12662

TR 1500-1620

Barbara Miller & Cynthia Camlin, Art

Art and Ecology is a seminar and “hands-on” linked course in which students attend biweekly meetings meant to raise questions and motivate critical discourse, and work across disciplines, in cluster groups comprised of honors, art history, and studio students. We have the unique opportunity to work directly with nationally recognized environmental artist, John Grade, and to interface with members of the local community, specifically curator Barbara Matilsky whose Vanishing Ice exhibition at Whatcom Museum is highlighted. The goal of the course is to inform and enable students to assess their complex relationship to the ecological realm and to learn how everyday practices affect the sustainability of our shared environment. The course will culminate in an informational exhibition at WWU's Western Gallery.

“From Modern to Modernism”

Honors 357 CRN 12171

MW 1500-1620

George Mariz, History, Honors Program

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Europeans began to sense that their era was more than a simple departure from the immediate past and instead represented a qualitative change from any previous age: life moved more quickly, there were more new things that collectively threatened to overwhelm the individual, and the props that supported the old verities were being knocked away in virtually all fields, science, religion, and the norms of social life among them. A familiar term, “modern,” began to yield to the notion of “modernism.” Modern as a usage had been around since the later sixteenth century, and “modern women” had appeared in English in the late seventeenth century, usually in a disparaging way. “Modern” as a means to characterize the age had been common in all European language from the middle of the nineteenth century onward. However, by the turn of the twentieth century “modernism” was also coming into being as a way to describe this new sense of speed, change, and uncertainty. This seminar will look at the sources and manifestations of this new sense of life and more specifically at the ways in which artists, philosophers, writers, and more-or-less ordinary people viewed their age and the possible futures they faced. Class work will consist of readings and student presentations, and a major paper will be required.


Spring Quarter 2014

“Postcolonial Tricksters and Outlaws as Subversive Humor”

Honors 353 CRN 22614

TR 1400-1520

Jeanne Armstrong, Wilson Library

This seminar explores how themes of tricksters and outlaws in films and literary works about historically marginalized, colonized peoples --the Irish, Chicano/as, and American Indians-- are used as subversive strategies to challenge the post-colonial consequences of occupation and relocation. Tricksters and outlaws inhabit a realm of possibility, a borderland from which s/he can engage or ridicule the dominant socio-cultural order. We will begin by examining relevant critical theory and folklore for background on the cultural traditions of trickster and outlaw themes. Then through discussion and writing, we will concentrate on close readings of novels and films which use trickster and outlaw characters or “trickster discourse” to interrogate hierarchical oppression.

“Spacetime Physics”

Honors 354 CRN 21521

MWF 1200-1250

Kristen Larson, Physics/Astronomy

The ideas of special relativity sound fanciful and outrageous: moving sticks are shorter than stationary ones, and moving clocks run slower than those not moving. Einstein discovered these ideas by starting with a few statements that must be true, then let strongly-held concepts of absolute time and the intrinsic nature of objects go, and simply followed where the few true statements led. To understand Einstein's relativity, you must be willing and ready for a challenge that will stretch your ability to reason and ultimately deepen your understanding of how science works. Relativity is true not because it makes intuitive sense (it doesn't) or because we like it (although I think you will) but because our observations of how the universe works confirm it over and over again. Students in this seminar will gain understanding of the conceptual foundation and quantitative methods of special relativity. Students will be able to use interval invariance and the spacetime diagram to solve real-world problems and to unravel the apparent paradoxes of classic thought experiments.

“The Orient Expressed”

Honors 358 CRN 23066

MWF 1400-1450

Tom Moore, Liberal Studies, Honors Program

This course will illustrate—through novels, films, and criticism—how Occidental writers and artists have constructed an Orient for their own consumption, amusement, and exploitation. This will be done by contrasting the work of those who adopt—perhaps unthinkingly—a Eurocentric perspective and those whose work reflects the ideals and aspirations of the indigenous populations. Using Edward Said’s Orientalism (1978) as a foundation, students will become familiar with the principal historical developments of the 19th and 20th centuries as well as the critical vocabulary necessary to recognize how the colonized were persuaded to accept the domination of the colonizer as ‘common sense.’


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