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Honors Program

Course Descriptions


The Honors sequence includes the following five courses, plus 8 credits of honors research:

The Travel Cluster. Honors 201C: Ancient Greek Justice and HON 520C: two-week travel to Greece in May

HON 201C focuses on the changing ideas of justice and human flourishing from the Bronze Age Mycenaean Civilization recounted in Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey to the concepts of legal justice and democracy developed during the golden age of Athens in the teachings of Socrates and Plato. We trace the ancient world’s changing ideas of justice through literature, drama, and philosophical texts, as well as through its archeological history. Honors scholars take this course in the fall semester of their first year.

In May, honors scholars take the companion travel course, HON 520C, in which they travel to Greece with faculty for two weeks and visit many of the key archeological sites featured in course readings, including Mycenae, Delphi, the theatre at Epidauros, and the centers of citizen justice in Athens—the Areopagus, Parthenon, and Agora. We collaborate closely with the Athens Centre, a highly-respected educational organization that runs programs in language, culture, classics, and archeology for many American universities, including Penn State, Colby, Vanderbilt, University of Chicago, and Colorado College. Their staff provides us with experts in archeology, art history, language and culture who lecture on site. Students are responsible for the additional fees associated with travel. Together, HON 201C and 520C meet the Religion and Philosophy (RP) IP and the College cluster requirement.

Honors 202: The Renaissance and Scientific Revolution

This course will focus 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. Meets Humanity and Culture (HC) IP.

Plus two of the following

Honors 203: The Battle for Public Memory

““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. Meets Social Thought and Tradition (ST) IP.

HON 208: Quantum Mechanics & Society

This course combines philosophical inquiry with scientific approaches in order to understand and explore the impact that quantum mechanics has had on society. The first half of the semester will focus on the history and philosophy, emphasizing the development of the scientific method within Western civilization. The second half of the course will look at the specific development of quantum theory, from the early disputes between Einstein and Bohr to modern measurements of the phenomenon of quantum entanglement. The material will include some mathematics, at a level that any student in the honors program can handle, in order to illuminate the probabilistic nature of the theory. Together, the course will examine how quantum mechanics overturned our view of fundamental reality, how the development of quantum mechanics fits within the understanding of how our society develops knowledge through the process of science, and how the effects of quantum theory rippled throughout modern culture. Meets Social Thought and Tradition (ST) IP.

HON 209: Narrative Medicine

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 illnesses represented, and study the roles of patients, families, and caregivers. Together, the class will explore how a combination of scientific and literary knowledge deepens our understanding of illness and its treatment. Meets Scientific Discovery (SD) IP.

Honors Research: The Honors Capstone

Westminster College is a leader in institutional support for undergraduate research, requiring a Capstone in most disciplines. The Honors Capstone allows honors scholars to take this experience to the next level with an interdisciplinary board of faculty and a formal defense. Independent research in the major field of study allows our students to present nationally and internationally and leads to job opportunities, prestigious internships, and graduate school. Honors scholars are required to take 8 credits of Honors Research.