UNIV 1784 Sections: Fall 2022

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


A Guide to Living Well

Robert Thorson

To live well is to live your life, not the life others expect of you. It is to live simply, sustainably, and equitably within human communities within Nature. It is to live in the present with open and hopeful expectations for the future.

The guideposts italicized above are from Henry David Thoreau's 1854 literary masterpiece Walden, the fountainhead of America’s environmental consciousness. From it flowed seven subsequent generations of thinkers and writers from John Muir to Drew Lanham, with Rachel Carson and Terry Tempest Williams along the way. The intellectual gravity of Walden can act as a stable anchor against the stormy politics of the climate crisis, environmental injustice, and the human makeover of the Anthropocene Epoch.

Daily discussions will pair excerpts of Walden with those from other writers and influencers. The end goal is for you will have a better sense of who you are, where you are going, and how you can become a more effective planetary citizen.


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.



Introduction to the Great Books of the Western World: Discovering your Identity, Values and Voice

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. It is also about wonder, fulfillment, and common sense. It is about keeping an open mind, defining your interests, embracing your values, expressing your ambitions and aspirations.

The Great Books is a phenomenal collection of great authors and the Great Books experience is organized around The Syntopicon – an index to the Great Ideas (including 102 great ideas). Examples of great ideas are: BEAUTY, DEMOCRACY, HAPPINESS, JUSTICE, TRUTH, WISDOM. Other examples are: GOVERNMENT, HISTORY, MATHEMATICS, PHILOSOPHY, PHYSICS, THEOLOGY. Often, the best way to consider the IDEAS is how to relate to other ideas and how they differ, so one might want to look at and compare DEMOCRACY, MONARCHY, OLIGARCHY, TYRANNY and DESPOTISM. You might want to compare writings on LOVE, HAPPINESS, DESIRE, TEMPERANCE, VIRTUE and VICE. You might want to read the ideas about MEDICINE, LAW, ART, HISTORY, POETRY, SCIENCE.

If you are thinking about the health professions, the “calling” usually comes from a confluence of the ideas of science and service. You have a fascination to learn and know as much as you can about the magnificent machinery of the human body, from cells to tissues to organs to organ systems to populations. You have a desire to discover new science. You also have a thirst for personal fulfillment
through service to others. All callings and professional inclinations emerge from the comingling, juxtaposing, or clash of great ideas.

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. Through exploration of The Great Ideas, each of you will open windows to recognizing your own interests, strengths, ambitions, and dreams. There are so many wonderful historic and inspirational figures to hear from and to contemplate on their contributions to the great conversation that is in each of us.


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.


Designing Your Future: More Than Just Your Major

Tom Scheinfeldt
Brooke Foti Gemmell
Carly Wanner Hyde

Do you know exactly what you want to be when you grow up? Have you mapped out the right path to get there? Did you pick the perfect major for the dream career that you’re going to have for the rest of your life? Fret not, because for most people…none of these things actually exist! This course will help you break through all of these dysfunctional beliefs and more, while giving you the tools to imagine a life that extends beyond your academic major.


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).


Following Da Vinci: Putting the A in STEAM

Edward Weingart

In addition to being a polymath and widely regarded as the archetype of the renaissance man, Leonardo da Vinci defined the intersection of Arts and Engineering. This course will explore Da Vinci’s artwork and inventions, how the two fit together, and examine how we can apply the two together in today’s world. Projects will include recreating a scale version of one of Da Vinci’s machines and creating your own design inspired by his work.


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

Did you know that Earth isn't fragile? That petroleum is as organic and natural as spring water? That radioactive decay allows life to exist? That climates come from underground?

Each day, the climate crisis floods us with a tsunami of information and misinformation through media hyperbole, partisan politics, and the clicks we share. Staying afloat without going bonkers requires knowing how the Earth works, what its history has been, and how this knowledge can be put to good use. This course provides the whole-earth context needed for dealing with the uber issue of our times.

Once each week we will gather to take campus field trips, discuss podcasts, read excerpts, synthesize thinking, and support one another toward the goal of becoming more effective planetary citizens.


Racial Health Disparities

Ryan Talbert

The World Health Organization defines health as a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. As such, racial health disparities are systematic, inequitable, and avoidable differences in health across socially defined ethnoracial populations. This course will explore the study of racial health disparities using insights from sociology, public health, medicine, and social epidemiology. This course will include discussion of (1) theories, arguments, and methods of the sociological study of health; (2) the social distribution of health, illness, and access to care; and (3) the promotion of health equity and amelioration of health disparities.


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.


Social Media and Health

Molly Waring

How can researchers, health care providers, and public health professionals use social media for health promotion? How can we as individuals and professionals engage on social media in ways that enhance our physical and mental health and deepen our social connections? This course will explore answers to these questions through personal reflections, critical evaluation of scientific literature, investigations of public social media content, and an interdisciplinary group project in students’ areas of interest. This course is designed for Honors students interested in public health, health care, or psychology but the critical thinking skills developed in this course are relevant to any course of study.


The 2022 Midterm Elections

Sam Best

This course will explore the 2022 Midterm Elections. It will examine key contests around the country and the nationwide issues shaping the races. It will conclude by examining the results of the midterms as well as considering the implications for the country moving forward.


Stop Looking for Monsters Under Your Bed…… Order a Laboratory Test Instead

Bruce Blanchard
Lauren Lamberti

College students often encounter new, and sometimes scary, health issues. This course will discuss health issues relevant to college students and the role of the clinical laboratory in unmasking these medical monsters.


Money Talks: Business News and Personal Finance

Alina Lerman

Whether you are a scientist or an artist, knowing business vocabulary enables you to understand important current issues, engage in interesting conversations, and make educated choices in your own financial journey. The course will introduce common business concepts and terminology, including basic company structures, corporate leadership, the role of regulators, and financial performance metrics. We will discuss current events focusing on publications such as The Wall Street Journal and The Economist. The course will also introduce the building blocks of personal finance for college and beyond. We will talk about budget tools, consumer credit, investments, and common financial goals, fears, and mistakes.


Finding Your Inner Neanderthal, or, Learning to Think Like a Paleolithic Archaeologist

Christian Tryon

Much of our history is written in our genes, and analyses of ancient and modern DNA have revealed that all living humans share recent African ancestry, and furthermore, retain the genetic legacy of extinct evolutionary cousins from across Africa and Eurasia, the most famous of which are the Neanderthals. In this course, we will work together to help you find your own ‘inner Neanderthal.’ We will do this through a discussion of the Paleolithic archaeological record from Africa and Eurasia, and will practice a hands-on approach to understand the evolution and diversity of past behaviors. Activities will include, (1) a consideration of the fossil evidence for changes in the human lineage through examination of high-resolution casts of key fossils, (2) learning to make your own stone tools and to interpret those made in the past, (3) making and studying a variety of personal ornaments and other examples of ‘art’ that are the hallmark of major social and maybe cognitive changes beginning at least 70,000 years ago. The class should provide the ability to think critically about how we interpret the past, and provide a basic introduction to aspects of the discipline of anthropology.


World’s Fairs, Theme Parks, Utopias & Imaginaries

Mary Donegan

If you were to build a perfect city: what would it look like? Who would live there and what would life be like?

This course examines past and present examples of planned, utopian "cities of the future." We’ll study well-known examples, including the White City from the 1893’s World’s Fair, Ebenezer Howard’s Garden Cities, and Walt Disney’s EPCOT. We’ll discuss how these planned built environments addressed contemporaneous concerns and yearnings, and then analyze successes and limitations in their implementations. Students will pick a modern example and explore how plans reflect current crises as well as hopes and dreams for the future. By definition, utopia is not attainable. Still, imaginaries can be liberating ideals. We’ll conclude by asking questions such as: what are the benefits to this type of visioning? How we can push liberating ideals into current policy and plans—while avoiding pitfalls?


Chemistry in Our Lives: From Literature to Food and Beyond

Dafhne Aguirre
Alfredo Angeles-Boza

From the vaccines and drugs developed to combat the latest pandemic to the colors of the clothing we wear, chemistry is all around us. It is in literature, it is in your food, it is nature. During the semester, we will explore a variety of topics that will remind us why chemistry is the central science. We will put aside math and we will focus on molecules and the qualitative component of chemistry. The assignments will include a mix of short presentations, readings, discussions and short papers.


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.


Mental Health Literacy

Rachel Tambling

Mental health literacy refers to knowledge and beliefs about mental health and well-being, including knowing how to recognize mental health problems and symptoms, knowing where to seek help and information, and understanding that mental health problems can, and should, be treated. In this course, we will examine mental health literacy in scientific literature, pop culture, and in our own social circles. We will not only raise our own awareness, but explore ways that we can contribute to the well-being of those around us by increasing mental health literacy.


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.


Bede, Britain, and the Beginning of Rhyme

Frederick Biggs

This course will introduce students to some ways in which research is carried out at a university by asking questions about an image and poem preserved at the beginning of a manuscript now in Harvard’s Houghton Library (https://library.harvard.edu/sites/default/files/static/onlineexhibits/booksinbooks/202.html). What do we know about the poetry of pre-Christian England and Ireland? What changes occurred when these peoples became Christian? What do we know about Bede’s life and education? What was his relationship to Acca, the person he is giving his manuscript to in the illustration at Harvard? What role did the poem written above his head play in the change from the alliterative poetry of Beowulf to the rhyme of Shakespeare’s sonnets? You do not need to agree with the professor’s view that the write-up on the Harvard page, which reflects current opinion on answers to many of these questions, is wrong. But you’ll learn something about making scholarly arguments.


From Advocacy to Policy

This course explores the pathway from advocacy through to the implementation of policy, with a focus on Connecticut state policy. We will use recent examples such as the campaign for paid family and medical leave to look at the effectiveness of messaging and how this may shape eventual policy outcomes. This course will also provide a general introduction the policy process in Connecticut, and to key policy actors such as legislators and lobbyists. We will engage with current issues that are of interest to you, enabling you to deepen your engagement with advocacy and policy.


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

Diego Valente

We live in a world where quantum information technology is more ubiquitous than ever, penetrating new areas of multidisciplinary research and industry such as data security, telecommunication systems, banking and financial markets. This course aims to develop basic literacy and basic understanding of concepts, ideas and the terminology utilized in the field of quantum information and quantum computing. We will review at first some of the underlying principles of quantum mechanics and the weirdness that challenges our intuition and observations of the macroscopic world we live in, but that also helped propel us into the 3rd Industrial Revolution: The Digital Revolution. We will then introduce some of the basic principles of a quantum computer and review what makes them fundamentally different from their classical counterparts. The last part of the course will survey applications of quantum computing and quantum information in various areas of society.


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!


Oz: Over the Rainbow or In Our Own Backyard?

Susanna Cowan

“Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.” We hear you, Dorothy! After 2 years through a pandemic that is over-not-over, many of us no doubt feel like we’ve joined Dorothy on a trip through unknown lands, winging it the whole way (and somehow surviving, helped by luck, good friends, a little science maybe, and that handy bucket of water!). Oz has had amazing staying power: from the original 1900 short novel all the way up through Wicked (the 1995 novel, then the musical) and other popular culture adaptations (anime, manga, games, TV, etc.). Perhaps it’s the case that stories which “stick” (like fairy tales, for example) do so because they are endlessly malleable, allowing us to stretch them to mirror our own worlds and concerns. We’ll use the two novels as anchors to explore this, but there will be ample opportunities to risk leaving the yellow brick road to go in directions that interest us.

Assignments will include regular short assignments and a final analytical and/or creative project of your own devising. There will be plenty of room for imaginative reflection in this course.


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.


Molecules of Murder

Nicholas Leadbeater

Did you know that molecules that are used as life-savers can also be life-threatening when placed in the wrong hands? With components of forensic science and criminal investigation, in this course we will take a look at the nefarious side of well-known chemicals like adrenaline. No chemistry, forensic science, or law background is required – just an inquiring mind. We will work our way through a book of case studies and, in so doing, make some startling discoveries about human nature and the astounding capability of chemists to put the pieces of a puzzle together leading to the conviction of people who thought they had committed the perfect crime!


Building a More Perfect Union: Advocacy & Law in Public Service

Don Bell

What does the law mean in our representative democracy? What is the role of policy advocacy and legal enforcement in a nation that still struggles to effectively represent, and equally protect, all constituencies? What does the intersection of law, policy, and politics look like in an increasingly diverse, complex, and polarized America? In this course, we will explore these questions and learn how lawyers make a difference in public service. The course will utilize focused discussion, guest speakers, and selected readings to introduce the American legal and political systems, and the inherent tension that both strengthens and strains law as the underpinning of the American Republic.


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 throughout the university Honors program. In addition to orienting students to UConn and the Honors program, 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 Lives and Times of Political Activists

Ingrid Semaan 

We will focus on biographies of U.S.-based activists. These biographies will serve as an entry point for examining various inequalities in the United States, how and why some people are motivated to dedicate their lives to social change, and what activists' lives look like. We will explore these themes by watching documentaries as well as reading articles, book chapters, and graphic non-fiction. Some activists we may study include Angela Davis, Cesar Chavez, Winona LaDuke, Bayard Rustin, Sylvia Rivera, Grace Lee Boggs, and Judy Heumann.


The Psychology of Culture, Art, Food, and Travel

Lori Gresham

How does experience shape us? This course will explore culture, art, food, and travel from a psychological perspective. Why is food an important part of our cultural identity? Can a work of art change how we see the world? Does the brain re-wire itself when we travel? What happens when we are suddenly embedded in a culture that is not our own? We will try to answer these and many other questions over the course of the semester. This is a sample of what you can expect from this course: We will read about Viennese “coffee culture” and it’s influence on the field of psychology in the 1800s. We will watch documentaries on how African American cooking and cuisine shaped America. We will view and discuss art in its many forms. And finally, we will experience the food from many cultures.


An exploration of mainstream media: Are we what we watch?

Anne Borsai-Basaran

How does media shape our lives? How does media teach us how to love, dress, make friends, work, and be healthy? In this course we’ll explore the role media plays in our everyday lives. First, we’ll start by discussing seminal mass communication theories and their applicability to the media landscape today. Furthermore, we will identify and critically analyze the influence of media artifacts from mainstream culture (i.e. social media platforms, TV streaming services, podcasts) on our worldview. Lastly, we will discuss ways through which we can improve our own and other’s media literacy skills.