The Patrick Leahy Honors College invites proposals for interdisciplinary first-year seminars focusing on contemporary social or ecological problems. We seek courses that will address pressing and often perplexing societal challenges in a spirit of collaboration, creativity, curiosity, and interdisciplinary exploration.

Any UVM faculty member may propose a course, which is typically taught as part of the faculty member’s regular teaching load.  We hope that courses will engage with a broad variety of contemporary challenges, including—but certainly not limited to—issues such as mass incarceration, the plight of refugees, health disparities, racism, social media, reproductive rights, inequities in education, and climate change.  Courses that speak to the importance of the humanities in helping to illuminate and address the problems of our time are especially encouraged. Examples of new courses taught in Fall 2023 include one on populism and authoritarianism; a second course is concerned with the opioid crisis.  

The Patrick Leahy Honors College is pleased to announce that it is able to grant an additional $500 in professional development funding to instructors who develop a new course meeting these criteria.

Evaluation of proposals will be based on the following:

Academically Challenging:  Courses must be appropriately demanding for first-year Honors College students, keeping in mind that students in the class can be from any college or school at UVM and may not have advanced knowledge of the subject area. 

Fostering Critical Thinking:  Seminars should engage with the challenges of our contemporary period, exploring the gaps between the world as it currently is and as it could be. 

Engaging with Human Diversity: The Honors College aspires to weave a recognition of human diversity throughout its curriculum.  This includes courses that are not explicitly designed to meet the University’s D1 and D2 requirements. Courses should illuminate the ways in which different individuals and communities are impacted by the topic. 

Interdisciplinary: Seminars should illustrate how contemporary problems are best understood and addressed by engaging with multiple disciplinary perspectives.  Seminars should inspire students to recognize the contributions of the various academic disciplines and learn to think across them, while at the same time gaining expertise in their chosen field of study. 

Offering Background and Context: While proceeding from present-day concerns, seminars will offer perspectives on the origins of the problem and how it has changed over time. 

Interactive: The Honors College hopes to inspire civic engagement and leadership.  Courses will be taught in seminar style—as opposed to mini lecture courses—to teach students how to engage in productive dialogue. 

Writing Intensive: All seminars offered in the fall semester are intended to meet the UVM’s Writing and Information Literacy 1 (WIL1) requirement. Spring courses, by contrast, will emphasize collaborative group work and public speaking. 

Within the general parameters set by a seminar format, faculty members are encouraged to think creatively about topics, teaching techniques, and course structure. Courses should be planned to adhere to standard teaching times.  

To propose a course for consideration please write an email to with a brief description of the topic and how you believe it meets the seven criteria listed above. Proposals will be considered on an ongoing basis but should ideally be submitted before the end of the Fall semester.  

Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you would like more information, or if you would like to discuss ideas for a course. We very much welcome conversations at any step along the way. Associate Dean Ian Grimmer and Dean David Jenemann can be reached at 656-9100 or or