University of Vermont

The Honors College

Sophomore Seminars: FALL 2009

HCOL 195 A
Ecosystems & Human Health
Professors Paul Schaberg and Patricia O'Brien, College of Medicine
TR 4:00-5:15
Rowell 244

Course Syllabus (pdf)

Numerous human-associated factors are straining the ecosystem functions upon which all life depends. Through systematic analysis of a series of contemporary case studies we will explore the causes, consequences, and possible solutions of real-world threats to ecosystem and human health. Events like Hurricane Katrina will be examined to understand how factors such as social justice, communicable diseases, global warming, disaster relief planning, and environmental engineering all influenced the nature and scope of this disaster. Via discussion and written analysis students will examine environmental connections to cancer, respiratory disorders, and a host of other health threats.

HCOL 195 B
Discovering Sense of Place: Thoreau
Professor Jeffery Hughes, RSENR
TR 4:00-5:15

Course Syllabus (pdf)

Discovering A Sense of Place: A Modern Day Thoreau Experience is not for grade grinds: it's for intellectual adventurers - tomorrow's Ben Franklins, Thor Hyerdahls, Gloria Steinems, Mark Twains, John Muirs, and Chief Seattles - individuals who believe that the status quo isn't good enough. If you value intellectual risk-taking and adventure over the security of a traditional classroom experience, we'll save a cabin for you. This course embraces an age-old way of knowing - observation, exploration, personal reflection, and willingness to challenge the way you've always thought. We'll structure our time together as true "seminars" -- from the root seminorium - 'seed' or 'seedbed'. We will fertilize our seminar seedbed with readings that address place and our relationship to it -- from Walden and Civil Disobedience to Zorba the Greek and poems by David Budbill. We will provide context and inspiration through outings to different landscapes, including a weekend retreat (dates TBD) to a remote cabin in the north woods. In learning to read the landscape around us, we will learn to explore ourselves.

HCOL 195 C
Foundations and Frontiers of Science & Society
Professor Chris Koliba, CDAE
TR 11:30-12:45
UHN 016

Course Syllabus (pdf)

Since the dawn of recorded human history, the pursuit of scientific inquiry has collided with religious belief, political ideology, and personal subjectivities. Exploring the relationship between science and society leads us to ask the following questions: /What/ is science? /Why /conduct science? /Who/ conducts science? /How /are scientific discoveries used? What role does/should science play in defining and solving public problems? Are there limits to science? In this course we trace the origins of science and the scientific method, and dissect some of the contemporary controversial issues regarding "intelligent design," genetically modified organisms, designer drugs, global climate change, and the relationship between money and science. We also explore the frontiers of science, contemplate the outer limits of human potential, and consider some of the ethical issues that arise when these limits are pressed.

HCOL 195 E
Embodied Cognition
Professor Joshua Bongard - Computer Science
MWF 11:45-12:35
UHN 034F

Course Syllabus (pdf)

What do we really mean when we say that someone (or something) is intelligent? Is it some process that resides in the brain, or is intelligence rather something that emerges out of the way in which we interact with the world? In this course we will investigate these and related questions, which will take us on a journey through seemingly disparate fields such as linguistics, psychology, philosophy, evolutionary biology and robotics. Much of the course will explore emerging work in trying to create robots that exhibit seemingly intelligent behavior, although students are not expected to have a technical background.

Classes will take the form of instructor and student-led seminars, in which assigned reading will be discussed. A significant portion of the student's grade will be derived from their contribution to in-class discussion. There will also be daily class assignments, which are to be handed in on the class after they are assigned, and will summarize in one page the reading and discussion from the class before. Much of the reading will be drawn from a popular science book co-authored by the instructor (Pfeifer & Bongard (2007) How the Body Shapes the Way We Think). There will also be a major essay, and a final exam.

HCOL 195 F
Everyday Life in the Moder World
Professor Patrick Hutton, Integrated Humanities
MWF 1:55-2:45
UHN 016

Course Syllabus (pdf)

This broadly conceived seminar in cultural history deals with the changing attitudes of ordinary people toward their everyday lives in European society over the course of the modern era. We shall address such themes as the dynamics of family life, childhood and personal development, love and intimacy, reading and introspection, mourning and memory, religious devotions and popular piety, manners and sensitivity, and cuisine and taste.

Our course breaks easily into three phases: 1) the early modern period (17th and 18th centuries), dominated by the mores of the aristocracy and the piety of the church in what was still a largely agrarian society; 2) the profound social upheaval of the French Revolution (1789-1815); 3) the modern period (19th century), in which society was reshaped to conform to the conceptions of a newly ascendant bourgeoisie in an expanding urban environment. Our course will draw on the interdisciplinary perspectives of recent scholarship in both the humanities and the social sciences.

HCOL 195 G
Gender, Space & City of Rome
Professor Cristina Mazzoni, Romance Languages
TR 1:00-2:15
UHN 016

Course Syllabus (pdf)

From its mythical founding in 753 BCE, the city of Rome has been the subject of fiction and history, art and literature, and, for the past century or so, film. Since it is impossible, of course, to learn all about the Eternal City in one semester, the course takes the double and interrelated perspective of gender and space. We will consider some salient and pertinent episodes in this twenty-eight-century period - for example, the legendary birth of Rome, starring the she-wolf; the continued, recurrent prominence of rape; the first prose written by women; women pilgrims and travelers who wrote accounts of their adventures; historical and fictional figures that were both objects and subjects of violence; Baroque representations of female pleasure and female pain by male and female artists; the origins of feminism in the newly established capital of Italy; and the representation of Rome by twentieth- and twenty-first-century women writers and film-makers.

Taught as a seminar, the course will depend entirely on class discussion, and participation makes up a large part of the final grade. There will also be a midterm, a final, and a collaborative text to be compiled as a website. All readings will be in English and movies will have English subtitles.

HCOL 195 H
Professor Eric Lindstrom - English
TR 1:00-2:15
UHN 034F

Course Syllabus (pdf)

We all know that the way to become good citizens of the world is by not judging other people. Why then do humans exercise judgment? Is it a universal faculty of the mind, or just a power accorded by leisure? Are there good and bad types? This course is concerned with both the positive ethic and pitfalls of all-out "relativism"; it stems from an urgent sense that judgment is ubiquitous to the life of the mind-in moral and aesthetic (artistic) terms, as well as in its legal role. Readings aim at making spirited connections between "classic" texts of the Western literary tradition (from the Bible, Plato, and Enlightenment thinkers) and "contemporary" or popular writings (from remakes of Pride and Prejudice to review essays on food, music and other arts).

HCOL 195 I
The Problem of Experience
Professor Kevin Trainor - Religion
TR 10:00-11:15
UHN 016

Course Syllabus (pdf)

This seminar will examine the role of experience in human knowledge, with special attention to the issue of religious experience. We will investigate experience from several angles, drawing upon accounts of extraordinary states of human consciousness (sometimes called "mystical" states), reflections on the challenges of intercultural understanding, and readings on the process of knowledge construction in the humanities and in the natural and social sciences.

The topic of religious experience is of particular interest because it highlights the tension between subjectivity and objectivity in human knowledge. Many accounts of religious experience grant a privileged status to the personal and subjective. Scholarly knowledge, in contrast, is commonly marked by its "public" character, whether this is defined by the rigorous standards of empirical testing or by the broader criteria of publication and adherence to standards of rationality. We will explore this tension through a variety of texts, including a modern novel, a highly influential classic Hindu text, scholarly essays drawn from several academic disciplines, and through conversations with visiting faculty who will discuss their research. Class participants will complete a substantial research paper and present their research to the seminar.

HCOL 195 J
Global Green Politics
Professor Robert Bartlett, Political Science
MW 3:00-4:15
UHN 016

Course Syllabus (pdf)

Students will achieve a deepened insight into the importance of the global environmental movement in the twenty-first century by critically examining the significance of this movement to international politics and to the domestic politics of both advanced industrial democracies and developing nations. We will analyze the nature of global environmentalism, its history, its critics, its connections with other new social movements, and its impact on politics worldwide. Some student learning activities will be highly collaborative and interactive, others will be independent and self-directed. An objective will be for the class collectively to write a casebook on global green politics.

HCOL 195 K
Contacts, Colonies, and Capitalism
Professor Cameron Wesson, Anthropology
MWF 9:35-10:25
UHN 016

The arrival of Europeans in the Americas fostered meaningful changes in the cultures of both the colonizer and the colonized. This course examines the impacts of interactions between Native Americans and Europeans from the moments of initial contact to the present. We will consider these cross-cultural encounters with reference to the traditional meta-narratives of colonialism, capitalism, and modernization, but rather than viewing these contacts in generic, all-encompassing terms like those found in Jared Diamond's work, we will focus instead on social agency and the diverse and often contradictory sociocultural motives informing each interaction. We will examine the ways in which these cross-cultural entanglements are manifest in the cultural, historical and archaeological records, with particular attention on the impending Quadricentennial of Champlain's voyage into Vermont in 2009.

HCOL 195 L
Mr. Darwin's Legacy
Professor Joseph Schall, Biology
MWF 3:00-3:50
UHN 034F

This year we mark the 200th birthday of Charles Darwin, and the 150th anniversary of the publication of his major work, "On the Origin of Species." "Darwin Year" is being celebrated world-wild, and this course will join that celebration. The influence of Darwin's work on our culture is enormous; indeed, it is difficult to imagine the modern world without Darwinism. In life science, every discipline is structured in large part by evolutionary thinking, and in particular, by selectionist thinking.

Topics to be covered in the course include: The modern meaning of evolution; the history of evolutionary ideas; the method Darwin and modern scholars use to reveal the fact of evolution; the mechanisms that drive evolutionary change; the Darwininan perspective in medicine and human behavior; the hypothesis testing method; the history of evolutionary thinking and its misuse in social thought (slavery, social Darwinism). The course will not shy away from controversy, and will also not shy from taking a rigorous, quantitative approach. Students will use their training in science and mathematics. Modern molecular genetics will be explored. Lectures will be mixed with discussions, debates, and projects. The emphasis will be on problem solving.

HCOL 195 M
Probability & Inference, Risk & Decision
Professor William Jefferys, Mathematics & Statistics
MWF 10:40-11:30
UHN 016

Course Syllabus (pdf)

Life is full of situations where we must make decisions even though the available information is incomplete or uncertain, yet the consequences of making the wrong decision may be significant. Examples of such serious decisions include an investor deciding whether to buy a stock, a patient deciding between different treatments for a serious disease, and a juror deciding whether to convict or acquit a defendant.

Probability and decision theories are valuable tools to help us analyze and make informed decisions. They help us decide how our beliefs should depend on old and new information, and how to take into account the consequences of possible actions. The basic principles are very simple, but they can be applied in many different circumstances. In this course we will investigate how probability and decision theory can help us make important decisions in problems that arise in science, business, the law, medicine, and even daily life.

HCOL 195 N
The Enigma Machine: A Social and Mathematical History of Cryptography
Professor John Voight, Mathematics & Statistics
MWF 12:50-1:40
UHN 016

Course Syllabus (pdf)

The Enigma machine, an immensely complex series of electrical wiring and mechanical rotors, was used by the Nazi regime during World War II to encrypt secret governmental and military messages. A combination of genius, luck, and the construction of the very first computer (based on vacuum tubes) allowed a team of British mathematicians to break the German cipher.

In this course, we will discuss the many dimensions of this feat. We will begin by discussing early cryptosystems, then turn to history of the Enigma machine and the work of the Allied cryptographers (especially Alan Turing), and we will conclude with some topics in modern cryptography.

The course will be an amalgam of mathematics, history, engineering, sociology, puzzles, and computer science. The grade will be determined by weekly homework assignments and a final project.

HCOL 195 O
Our Belief Systems: Paranormal Phenomena
Professor Jay Allen, Psychology
TR 4:00 - 5:15
UHN 016

Course Syllabus (pdf)

This seminar is about thinking critically. In a format that is light on lectures and rich in discussion you will be guided through a number of salient topics dealing with our culture's current belief systems regarding science, pseudoscience, religion, psychoanalysis, alternative medicine, faith healing, evolution vs intelligent design and paranormal phenomena such as ESP, remote viewing, near death experiences, alien encounters, and hauntings (to mention a few). Terry Hines' Pseudoscience and the Paranormal, plus a series of articles drawn from Skeptical Inquirer, Free Inquiry and other sources will supply the meat for lively in-class discussion, where Professor Allen will act as mediator and facilitator.

Last modified October 01 2009 11:30 AM