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Honors Program

Course Descriptions

The honors curriculum at Westminster is designed to build a scholarly community that challenges students to be their best selves. All of our honors courses feature innovative opportunities for interdisciplinary and global inquiry at the same time that they foster advanced written and oral communication skills.

The First - Year Experience in Honors

The first year in honors consists of the Honors Cluster: HON 201 & HON 202, plus HON 520: In-Person Travel or Virtual Directed Study.

HON 201C: Ancient Greek Justice (4 SH)

What is justice, and who or what has authority over it? Why do humans understand and pursue justice in the ways we do today? What makes a society good? What characteristics do we find in a good leader? To answer these questions accurately, we must begin with the ancient world. In this first-year honors course, we study evolving approaches to justice in a variety of ancient texts, including Homer's Iliad and Odyssey; the lyrical poetry of ancient women writers; the plays of Aeschylus and Euripides; and the teachings of Socrates and Plato. Through our readings of ancient texts—combined with creative and critical writing assignments, presentations, and engaging class discussions—we will journey together toward an understanding of justice that is informed by literary, philosophical, and archaeological histories. Fulfills WRI 111, SPE 111, and INQ 111 requirements.

HON 202C: The Renaissance and the Age of Discovery (4 SH)

This course focuses on the transformative cultural and intellectual movements in Europe that spanned the 14th to 17th centuries. Understanding perspective and human anatomy transformed art and gave way to masterpieces such as Michelangelo's David, Botticelli’s Venus and da Vinci's Last Supper. The printing press allowed for the dissemination of information to a wide audience and encouraged discoveries in science and mathematics. New thinking about the self and authority led to the reformation of the Western church by Protestant leaders, such as Luther and Calvin. Advances in navigation led to the investigation of new worlds. This course studies contributions to the ongoing quest for knowledge, and includes the works of Shakespeare, Dante, Francis Bacon, Descartes, Galileo and Copernicus. (Fulfills Religion & Philosophy requirement as well as the College Cluster when taken after HON 201C)

HON 520: Travel (2-4 SH)

This is a short-term study abroad course that enriches students’ first year in honors by providing onsite exploration of many of the archaeological sites and cultural innovations they learned about in the classroom. Travel typically occurs in May of the first year. Grading is Pass/Fail. While travel abroad is strongly recommended, students who are unable to do so may satisfy HON 520 through the virtual directed study course, HON 520S.

HON 520S (2 SH)

This virtual version of honors travel takes students through ancient sites by way of readings and online, interactive tours. Asynchronous study is supplemented by live weekly discussions of how assignments deepen our understanding of concepts addressed in the honors cluster. The course runs for seven weeks and satisfies the travel requirement for honors. Grading is Pass/Fail.

Honors Electives

Following the first year in honors, students select two courses from the following list. Sophomore entry students select just one.

HON 203: The Battle for Public Memory (4 SH)

“He who controls the present controls the past.” This famous quotation from George Orwell draws our attention to the complicated relationship between ourselves and our history. History is not just what happened prior to the present. It is also the way we choose to tell the story of past events. How we choose to present the stories of our past is often a complicated and highly contentious process. The information that individuals choose to highlight and ignore say at least as much about contemporary social and political relationships as they do about the events being retold. This class will focus on a number of conflicts over public memory, both personal and political. Topics will include obituaries, memorials, the construction of museum exhibits, the impact of nationalism and political ideology, and the selective preservation and destruction of ancient artifacts. (Fulfills Social Thought requirement.)

HON 204: Global Infectious Disease (4 SH)

This an introductory course for honors students that explores the pathology, epidemiology, and control of infectious diseases of global importance. It includes in-depth information on the basic pathogenesis and epidemiology of selected infectious diseases of global public health importance. Students obtain a working knowledge of the biology and ecology of these diseases, epidemiology, prevention, and control methods at both the individual and public health levels. Moreover, this course explores the challenges encountered when developing and implementing strategies for their effective control and prevention. This course will emphasize seminar-style student presentations of case-studies and group discussions. During laboratory sessions, students will learn laboratory methods used to diagnose and study infectious agents and acquire skills in epidemiological research and outbreak investigations. Students that are not enrolled in the honors program will need to meet honors-level expectations set by the instructor. This course meets the Scientific Discovery Intellectual Perspective requirement. (Fulfills Scientific Discovery requirement.)

HON 209: Narrative Medicine (4 SH)

This honors seminar represents the burgeoning field of the medical humanities, which advocates a mingling of the arts and humanities with medical education and practice and explores how science and the humanities benefit one another. Biology lectures will present the molecular underpinnings of cancer biology, HIV infection and resistance, and rare diseases. In laboratory sessions, students will explore techniques related to diagnosing disease, as well as interpreting and assessing the overwhelming online content available regarding human disease. The English portion of the course will focus on human experience of the illnesses covered in biology lectures. Students will analyze literary texts spanning the seventeenth century through the present, research the cultural contexts of illness, and study the depiction of patients, families, and caregivers. Together, we will explore how a combination of scientific and literary knowledge deepens our understanding of illness and its treatment. (Fulfills Scientific Discovery requirement)

HON 210: Argumentation and Advocacy (4 SH)

This honors seminar engages students in the theory and practice in the art of oratory, oral argumentation and debate. Students will develop an understanding of argumentation as a tool for inquiry and advocacy. Students will explore argument as communicative activity, constructing sound arguments and analyzing the contribution of argument to public dialogue on contemporary issues. (Fulfills Visual and Performing Arts requirement.)

HON 211: World of Language (4 SH)

This course provides students the opportunity to look at language and its interaction with humanity—or maybe that goes the other way around: humanity and its interaction with language. Either way, we are going to spend the semester looking at how these two things interact. We will start with an exploration of language itself, answering questions like, “what is a language?” and “how do languages work”? From there we will move to discussions about how language impacts people and how people impact language. (Fulfills Social Thought requirement.)

HON 212: Nationalism (4 SH)

This course explores the topic of nationalism and national identity formation. It surveys the existing theoretical literature on nationalism and national identity formation, introducing students to the works of several significant scholars and reviews the scholarly debates over this complex phenomenon. Students examine nationalism from a broadly comparative and interdisciplinary perspective. The first half of the course reviews these major theoretical debates and examines the origins of nationalism and its historical development in the European context. The second half of the course moves beyond Europe focusing on a variety of issues related to varied contemporary expressions’ nationalism and its relations to other forms of modern political identity in an increasingly globalized world. (Fulfills Humanity and Culture requirement.)

Honors Capstone Research in the Major

HON 660-680: Honors Capstone Research (8 SH)

Westminster College is a leader in institutional support for undergraduate research, requiring a Capstone in most major fields of study. The Honors Program takes the capstone experience to the next level, offering an advanced research experience in which students are mentored by an interdisciplinary board of three faculty and conclude their research with a formal, public defense. Honors scholars benefit from extra financial support toward the development and presentation of their research at national and international conferences.