UNIV 1784 Sections: Fall 2021

All first-year Honors students enroll in a section of UNIV 1784 (Honors First Year Seminar) in the fall. One portion of the class is led by a faculty member (full descriptions below), while the other portion is led by one or more peer facilitators. More details about the structure of UNIV 1784.

Students not registered for UNIV 1784 on the 10th day of classes will be eligible for dismissal from the Honors Program.

UConn Storrs


The Pursuit of Happiness: Explorations in Positive Psychology

Gregory Champion

What leads to happiness, contentment, and life satisfaction? What can psychological science tell us about well-being and joy? Traditionally psychology has focused on problems and treatment. Positive psychology examines how people can flourish, thrive, and be happy. In this course, we will examine the psychological research on positive emotions and fulfilling lives. We will explore topics like joy, life satisfaction, compassion, gratitude, mindfulness, humor, and optimism. We’ll examine pop culture and societal influences and think critically about the methods used to study happiness. We will also consider the ways we can bring joy to our own lives. Join us as we strive to be happy and explore and reflect on the positive.


An Introduction to the American Healthcare System

Philip Hritcko

This course is designed for Honors students interested in healthcare careers.  The U.S. healthcare system is characterized by paradoxes where we have the best and most advanced technology available, yet we have persistent and increasing disparities within our health system.  I will provide an introduction to what it means to be a health care professional in the 21st century, how the American healthcare system functions, and the myriad of opportunities within the healthcare industry for students to consider.  In addition, this course will allow students to explore a broad range of research opportunities that are available at UConn and specifically at the School of Pharmacy.


Cabinets of Curiosity

Clarissa Ceglio

The terms “Wunderkammer” (wonder chamber) and “cabinet of curiosity” refer to modes of ordering and displaying collected objects, from precious jewels and artworks to taxidermied birds, narwhal tusks, and “exotic” specimens. Today, these pre-modern museums of the mid-1500s through 1700s continue to spark curiosity. They have also inspired contemporary artworks that critique how many institutions today continue to structure knowledge, represent peoples, and maintain practices stemming from the museum’s historical connections to white colonial systems of racial oppression. We will connect this past to contemporary artworks and to activist movements seeking to decolonize museums so that the curiosity and creativity their collections inspire can become touchstones for equity and social justice. Along the way we will also learn about the basic functions of museums, as these occur onsite and online, by visiting UConn-based collections.

Attentive to themes discussed in this course—and the myriad ways learning takes place outside the classroom—each student will create their own digital cabinet of curiosity by collecting and curating a set of artifacts unique to their first semester experiences at UConn. Additionally, working as a group, we will draw from our collective experiences to design and install a cabinet of curiosity in the Greenhouse Studios gallery space.


The Forgotten Senses . . . How taste and smell influence your health and behaviors

Valerie Duffy

Taste and smell allow us to interact with the chemicals that drive our behaviors toward food, the environment and each other. Although these senses have not received the attention they deserve, two examples highlight their importance. One of the early symptoms of COVID-19 is loss of the sense of smell and the ability to “taste” food. Furthermore, discovery of the genetic basis of olfaction was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2004.

This course exposes students to the interdisciplinary nature of studying these senses (e.g., from basic biology, to food science, engineering, neurology, psychology, behavior, and health). Classes build on the student’s goals, making connections between their plan of study, the class content, current science and everyday examples through in-class participation with taste and smell examples from our foods and environment. The class culminates with an interdisciplinary project for which students learn how to think creatively about an issue based on their interests integrated with scientific inquiry. The critical-thinking skills developed in this class are transferrable to any field of study.


Developing Personal Creativity for STEM Majors

Jaclyn Chancey

We tend to associate creativity with fine art, and we only label certain types of writing as "creative" writing. However, high levels of achievement in any field—including the sciences—require creativity. Research publications, patents, solutions to engineering problems, and all other forms of innovation rely on your ability to go beyond what is already known: to create.

Psychological research has shown that creativity is not an innate trait. Join us as we develop the habits of creative people and see how they may be applied in your own life.


Why Read?

Jason Courtmanche

This course will explore the value we place upon reading and the role reading—especially reading literary fiction—should have in our lives. In particular, I want you all to be thinking about the role reading will have in your lives when you become engineers and mathematicians and business people. Will you continue to read literary texts? And if so, why?

We will focus on literary fiction and non-fiction that explores books, reading, and censorship. Each book we will read examines societies in which reading has been eliminated or severely curtailed, though for different reasons and through different means. I will ask you to consider if you see some of the forces in these books as being operative today in our world. (No surprise, but I think they are).

Required texts are Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood, and Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel.


Korean Culture and the Hallyu Wave

Anne Kim

Psy’s “Gangnam Style” was the most-viewed video on YouTube for nearly five years. However you feel about the song, it is an undeniable example of the “Hallyu Wave” and the rise of global interaction with South Korean pop culture. Together, we will learn about contemporary Korean culture through film, drama, music, and media representation. No background knowledge of Korean culture is necessary, but be warned – once you get swept up by a Korean drama, it’s hard to stop after just one episode!


The Art of College – Films, Fictions, and Facts

Jennifer Lease Butts

National Lampoon's Animal House is a landmark 1978 film that arguably created the genre of the "college movie." More recent examples like National Lampoon's Van Wilder (2002), Old School (2003), Accepted (2006), The House Bunny (2008), Pitch Perfect (2012) and the sequel (2015), and Monster's University (2013), among many others, follow in similar footsteps. What do all of these films have in common? They are telling a story about college and the college experience. Most of us know that these portrayals of college life are not the full picture of college life, or part of it, or perhaps not it at all. So what is the college experience? In this course we will examine representations of college life in a variety of films and deconstruct film themes. As we do this, we will discuss the college you are coming to know as a new student here at UConn and encourage you to construct your own narrative about your college experience. Assignments include short papers, a presentation, and a creative project. In addition, we will cover basic aspects of film criticism to aid you as you work with these films and their subject matter.


Climate Underground

Robert Thorson

Each day, the climate crisis floods us with a tsunami of information to process. But what do you really know about the earthly context for climate change? Do you know it that climates are always changing? That they always come from underground? That Earth isn't fragile? That global climate change is plural by definition? That climate change was invented by geologists? That climates can be chemical as well as physical? That radioactive decay allows life to exist? That petroleum is no less natural than water? That oxygen was originally an exhaust gas?

This course will be simple and fun. Once each week we will gather to discuss dramatic excerpts of Underland: A Deep Time Journey, an award-winning 2019 book by Robert McFarlane. One of Underland's rave reviews was written by your instructor for Orion, widely considered "America's Finest Environmental Magazine." By the time you finish this course, you will understand Earth's climates --past, present, and future-- in a powerful new way, and will have answered all the interesting questions above. This will make you a more effective planetary citizen.


Plagues and Peoples

Ken Foote

We are living through a pandemic that spread so quickly and will have such devastating consequences that we have hardly begun to fathom its immediate and long-term consequences. Yet human societies have faced such disasters before. This seminar looks both backward to see how societies have been shaped by past epidemics, and forward to consider how we might recover from the devastation of COVID-19. I’ve taken the title of the seminar from a book by the noted historian William McNeill. During the semester, we’ll read his book as well as writings by epidemiologists, sociologists, medical geographers, environmental scientists, experts in infectious diseases, and a range of other scientists and scholars. We’ll consider the impacts of a wide variety of diseases and epidemics such as cholera, yellow fever, flu, HIV/AIDS, plague, polio, Ebola, smallpox, malaria, potato blight, and others. The point is to consider the impacts of pandemics from a variety of perspectives—medical, historical, environmental, geographical, social—that can help our communities respond in positive ways to the current crisis. Seminar assignments will include a mix of short discussions, presentations, readings, and short papers.


A Path of Papers

Olivier Morand

Students will read a set of seminal papers and works following a path through demography, economics, cosmology, art history, literature, poetry, physics (and more), and discuss their relevance to everyday life. Readings will include “The Anthropic Principle” (Scientific American, 1981), The Tragedy of the Commons by G. Harding, “On the Origin of Religion” (Science, 2009), and extracts from Basho’s poetry.


Sex and the Campus

Amanda Denes

From hook-up culture to friends with benefits to sexting, sex is a part of the college experience. Whether or not you choose to engage in sexual activity, for many people, thinking and talking about sex and sexuality is a part of both the college landscape and of many young adults’ campus experiences. And yet, sex is often considered a taboo topic and communication about sex and sexuality can be difficult. This course will “break the ice” and explore a range of topics related to sex and sexual communication. We will cover topics such as the benefits and drawbacks of campus hook-up culture, how technology influences sexual relationships and sex education, the complexities of friends with benefits relationships, “pillow talk” or communication during sexual episodes, reasons for choosing not to engage in sexual activity, and how open and consensual non-monogamous relationships function. Assignments will include written reflections, student-led presentations, and a final project.

Online class meetings will involve open and honest dialogue about sex and sexuality as it pertains to material presented throughout the course. Students who do not feel comfortable discussing the course material, which covers topics that are sexual in nature, may prefer to choose a different course. However, some students may find that the online space is more conducive than face-to-face meetings for communicating about such topics.


Say It Loud: The Art and Impact of African American Speeches

Shawn Salvant

In this course, we will study the language and historical circumstances of some of the greatest and well-known speeches in the African American rhetorical tradition (as well as some lesser-known ones). From anti-slavery speeches through recent Ted Talks, African Americans have used their voices to move audiences and shape history. What were the circumstances under which these speeches were given, and what makes these speeches still relevant today? What are some of the rhetorical devices these speech makers use to affect their audiences?  How do these speeches contribute to the long tradition of African American rhetoric and the black vernacular tradition? We'll approach these speeches from a variety of perspectives and analyze them using a variety of methods, examining them as rhetorical performances and historical events, political statements and autobiographical acts, social events and cultural milestones. These speeches mark turning points in African American history and serve as testaments to the power and profundity of individual and collective human voices lifted for the advancement of all people.


Hellholes and Marvelous Faraways: Travel and Travelers Then and Now

Roger Celestin

What is the point of moving when you can travel so magnificently sitting in a chair?” - J.K Huysmans, Against the Grain

 “What's the point of walking when you can travel by car?” - Bernard Olivier, The Long March

The course will examine a body of travel literature ranging from the Renaissance to the contemporary period and attempt to answer the following questions, among others: has travel – its purpose, its practice, its methods, its meaning -- changed in the past few centuries? From the Romantic affirmation of Self as a means of subverting or criticizing Home, to the English gentleman’s “tour of the Continent” as “finishing school;” from the “going native” syndrome of the “ultimate travelers” to the cordoned-off “mass tourism” of today, what does travel tell us about what we do and who we are?


The Coming Storm—Hurricanes, Climate Change and Society

Lisa Park Boush

Hurricanes impact the environment and society in multiple and complex ways. As climate warms, large storms are predicted to increase in their intensity and frequency. With so many coastal communities vulnerable to hurricanes and storm surge, the economic and societal impacts will also grow in the future. We will learn about how hurricanes form and how they may be linked to climate change. We will examine case histories of recent storms such as Hurricane Katrina, Sandy, Joaquin, and Maria to investigate how these storms compared in terms of their wing and flood damage, destruction of property, environmental pollution and economic disruption. We will examine the paleorecord of storms and see how hurricanes are may have changed through history and discuss sustainability models for communities in hurricane prone areas, including Connecticut.


Aesthetically Political: Arts, Media, and Representation

Jesús Ramos-Kittrell

How does our use of media influence perceptions of who we are? How do feelings and emotions shape the mediation of messages that we send, but also those we receive? How does this communicative act forge collective ideas and values that are meaningful to us? Ultimately, how can we establish social memberships with people of different backgrounds than ours through these ideas and experiences? This course explores media as a platform with expressive potential, through which people voice out core issues affecting their lives, thereby challenging their own corporate identities (in terms of class, religion, and politics, to name a few) to find collective spaces of experience that are meaningful. In this course, students will explore how people forge ideas and feelings that define who they are, and that make arts and media central to political processes of representation.


Musical Theatre and the Psychology of Creativity

James C. Kaufman

In this class, we will explore classic musical theatre from operetta to the 1940s to the 1980’s (with a touch of modern day) while also learning about the psychology of creativity. Core concepts such as the creative process and creativity across domains interact will be discussed alongside Sondheim, Finn, Bock & Harnick, Gilbert & Sullivan, Porter, and more.


Science and Human Service

Keat Sanford

As you embrace the challenge of the undergraduate collegiate experience, you will find it is all about careful observation, experience, honesty, perseverance, reflection, and your wired and learned habits of character and mind. The purpose of this seminar is to orient you to the college experience, to get your feet on the ground, and to start you running with your interests, ambitions, goals, and promises to yourself. We will discuss biographies of exceptional people who pursued careers in the health professions. We will consider historical and inspirational figures such as Hippocrates, Galen, Vesalius, Harvey, Hunter, Laennec, Semmelweis, Virchow, Blackwell, Montessori, Taussig, Farmer and others.


To Belong We Need: Exploring the Importance of Relational Connections Through Star Wars

Shannon Weaver

The need to belong has been proposed as a fundamental motive for all human behavior.  Our relationships with others are what shapes who we are as well as drives what we do in our daily lives. This class will explore topics related to the academic field of Human Development and Family Sciences to demonstrate how our connections to people are important for health and survival using the Star Wars series as a place for these discussions. We will examine these various concepts (identity development, intergenerational transmission, attachment, parent-child relationships, friendship, nature vs nurture, love, connection, betrayal and forgiveness, kinship and family by choice) in connection to both what is viewed upon the big screen with characters in the series as well as experiences of fans in these respects.


The Thrill of Victory, the Agony of Defeat: The Experience of Being a Sports Fan

Kari Adamsons

As the name suggests, in this course we will explore the experience of being a sports fan. Those who are passionate fans of a particular sports team often come to integrate their team(s) into their personal identities and sense of self, with interesting implications for behavior (both their own and others), relationships, and physical and psychological well-being. A variety of sports as well as levels of sport (professional, college, Olympic, etc.) will be examined and discussed.


The Science and Art of Finding Your Purpose

Bradley Wright

“What should I do with my life?” Many people ask this question. Far fewer successfully answer it. Nonetheless, it is essential. Research finds that people who have a clear sense of life purpose are happier, more satisfied, are healthier, have deeper relationships, and do better at work. They even live longer! This class examines the discovery of life purpose. It surveys research on the topic across multiple disciplines. It reviews popular thought about it from thinkers throughout the ages. In addition, class participants will delve into their own experiences and perceptions of life purpose. Topics about purpose include the definition of life purpose, the expression of purpose in different life domains, the experience of purpose, and consequences of having purpose. The discovery of purpose will be explored using analysis, intuition, and experiences.


Film Noir: Blackness in Modern Cinema

Matthew Hughey

What are the major representations of Blackness on the big screen in recent years? Modern Black film challenges the dominant media stereotypes of Blackness that in 1973 film scholar Tom Bogle called “Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies, and Bucks.” But today, do movies celebrate, as filmmaker Ava DuVernay stated, “the lives of Black folk as the subject. Not the predicate, not the tangent . . . Not as sociology, not as spectacle, not as a singular event . . . but regularly and purposefully as truth and as art”? In this course, we will use a blend of social scientific and humanities research to critically interrogate recent films with predominantly Black casts, writers, and/or producers. We will examine varied genres—from horror and historical dramas to documentaries and comedies—for how they engage both mundane and “hot button” cultural and social issues and represent the complexity and heterogeneity of Black experiences.


Reproducibility, Open Science, and You: How Can We Address the Replication Crisis in Science?

Rachel Theodore

In the halls of academia and in the popular press, it's been argued that modern-day science is facing a replication crisis that threatens to undermine the established knowledge base. In this seminar, we will explore issues of replication with an eye towards individual and institutional factors that may contribute to a replication crisis, the role of the internet and social media in bringing this crisis to light, and new best practices for fostering reproducibility as outlined in the Open Science Framework.


Quantum Computers: A New Technological Revolution for the 21st Century

Diego Valente

Description coming soon! In the meantime, you can read Prof. Valente's departmental profile. He was also a 2020 winner of the UConn-AAUP Excellence Award for Teaching Innovation. (This is a big deal.)


Apocalypse Not

Tom Seery

A brief time spent with the nightly news and you will find yourself bombarded with predictions of our impending doom. The recent pandemic has tested human resiliency worldwide. But we’re still here. Not to minimize the death toll but there are still some 7 billion people on the planet and we’re still continuing the human race. In the late 1700’s Thomas Malthus predicted catastrophe would come much sooner. His theory relied on the mathematics of exponential growth in population outstripping arithmetic increases in food production. You might say he was following the science. This turned out to be short sighted and failed to consider many of the counterarguments raised by skeptics and here we are here 2 centuries later looking at the same warnings with the same logical underpinnings. How did we survive so long? This course will explore and evaluate a number of failed predictions of our species’ demise and look at the roots of why and how life keeps getting better and why you have a bright future!


We’re Not in Kansas Anymore: Other Worlds and the Stories They Tell

Susanna Cowan

The Wizard of Oz and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland are only perhaps the most famous stories describing what happens when someone stumbles (plummets, slips, is transported by tornado, etc.) into a different world. What is the appeal of these stories? Why do these stories, like the fairy tales of Grimm, Hans Christian Anderson, and others, leave such lasting impressions on us, both personally and on our culture at large? We’ll read those two famous adventures alongside some more recent depictions in written and filmed/televised form of this now-familiar plot. Although there will be, inevitably, “literary” elements to our exploration, the course will invite you to explore and make sense of these stories in historical, cultural, economic and other contexts. [And surely we all now have first-hand experience with finding ourselves in a strange world!] In addition to regular reading and a few viewing assignments, there will be frequent short written work. The longer midterm and final assignments will invite you to be both academically rigorous and creative (i.e. no essays) in approach.


Jazz Music and Social Change

Earl Macdonald

Jazz musicians, through their music, have played an important role in promoting racial equality, shaping political consciousness, encouraging political activity, and strengthening the scope of social activism in America. An appreciation and understanding of jazz music will be fostered as we examine and discuss specific recordings and the sociopolitical circumstances which inspired these artistic statements.​


Passport to Trespass

Daniel Buttrey

Well, not entirely. In this course, you’ll learn about digital photography while using your camera (phone) as a tool to explore UConn- the people places, and events that will shape the next four years. Time commitments to your coursework can at times can be daunting to say the least, this course provides you with a reason to break away from your desk and give your mind a chance flex some creative muscles. Assignments are designed to get you away from the desk and out in the world. Topics covered will be an introduction to camera operations, compositional techniques, image editing, and creativity theory. Often you’ll feel like you’re getting away with something, maybe even given a passport to trespass. 


Digital Political Communication

David Atkin

This section of UNIV 1784 provides an introduction to the role of digital media in the American political process, particularly their influence on socio-political change. Topics include the relationships among digital media and legacy media, major political institutions, and citizenry; the interplay of the media, interest groups and the policymaking process. The class encompasses contexts ranging from ongoing policy debates to empirical surveys of technology adoption and influence in the realm of politics and journalism.


Law, Lawyers & Society

Peter Kochenburger

Law shapes society and lawyers help shape the law; they are not neutral actors in its development and application.  Laws and legal systems are often authoritative expressions of social values negotiated and then put into practice.  They can, for example, protect unpopular opinions– even those most obnoxious to the majority – or serve as instruments of suppression and oppression.  Most legal systems do both, including ours.  We will explore how lawyers influence and utilize the legal system and what it means to be a lawyer in different settings and areas of law, including human rights, criminal law and representing or regulating businesses. The practice of law is described as a “profession,” but what does that really mean and how do lawyers embody this ideal?  Students will play an important role in shaping this course and selecting some of the topics and issues we will discuss.  


Foundations of Medicine and Dental Medicine

Keat Sanford

This course provides a broad survey of premedical and predental studies, the preparation for medical and dental school, residence and the professions. The class will address admissions requirements and procedures, academic coursework at the undergraduate and professional school levels, residency training, typical routines of medical and dental practice, and issues affecting the training of physicians and dentists in the United States. The course will follow the chronological sequence of a traditional student and examine how academic, experiential, interpersonal and social skills and professionalism attributes play an integral role in the development of a skilled health professional.  


Special Program in Education

Michele Femc-Bagwell

This course is designed for first-year pre-teaching students who have been admitted to the Special Program in Education through the UConn Honors Program. In addition to orienting students to UConn and Honors, this course will introduce you to the profession of teaching including pathways into teaching, educational research, and study abroad opportunities. You will be invited to participate in programs and events at the Neag School of Education to experience first-hand the artistry of teaching!

UConn Stamford


The Fall from the Ideals of Heaven

Richard Watnick

The goal of this course is to blow your mind and change the way you think. We know that the meaning of any concept is tied to a context that we must define. Despite this, we fail to internalize this principle and continue to misuse our concepts. This leads to poor personal decisions, a fractured society, and the misapplication of research in all fields. Typically, courses that address this directly are advanced theoretical courses. We keep everything accessible and informal, even when learning about advanced ideas and their historical origins. Our applications match student interest. We can choose to analyze moments in history, (During negotiations after World War I, Woodrow Wilson wished to emphasize self-determination. The lead U.S. negotiator dismissed this as nonsense…) physical therapy (How can following the advice of your physical therapist leave you unable to walk?), human development (Is your brain ready for you to behave maturely?), politics, economics, business, personal relationships, autism, identification of genes, law (why are we outraged by judicial decisions? Can a machine make better decisions?), climate change, and whatever development captures your attention during the semester. Students read one narrative, listen to and view explanations, ask questions, react, participate in classroom discussions and post comments electronically.


Memory, History, Identity, Story

Frederick Roden

Memory and history are connected to identity by the stories we tell. We interpret our DNA; we remove (or defend) monuments to the past; we contest whose narrative (and land) belongs to whom.

In this seminar, we will explore how the stories we tell define us. Individual memory negotiates with collective understandings of our cultures. These often pre-date us, come from multiple sources, and can be indirect lines of descent.

Our topics will include trauma, coming out, and science. We will experiment with different ways of telling stories about ourselves, our families, our worlds, and our heritages. When we represent the past we also chart the future.

The seminar will involve reading, writing, viewing, and listening, and may include multimedia projects of photography, videography, and oral history.  Where do *we* begin and others’ “borders” meet us?  Who gets to narrate us - and how?


Statistics in Everyday Life

Kriti Bhargava

Who was the best baseball player of all time? How does polling work (and what can go wrong)? How can we figure out what substances or behaviors cause cancer, given that we cannot conduct cancer-causing experiments on humans? How does Netflix know what kind of movies you like? Will going to Harvard change your life? Statistics can help answer these questions (or, we hope, can soon) and more. It can help summarize huge quantities of data, answer important social questions, make better decisions, evaluate the effectiveness of policies and innovations, and spot swindlers who use these very tools for nefarious ends. The paradox of statistics is that they are everywhere – from batting averages to presidential polls – but the discipline itself has a reputation of being uninteresting and inaccessible. We will use the book titled Naked Statistics: Stripping the Dread from the Data by Charles Wheelan, to introduce statistical concepts that are the most relevant to everyday life, stripped off the dreadful math (mostly). The course is designed to make statistics accessible and help you develop an intuitive way of thinking; it is for anyone interested in discussing the extraordinary power of numbers and data!