UNIV 1784 Sections: Fall 2023

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 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, Maria, and Ian to investigate how these storms compared in terms of their wind 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.


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.


Beloved or Dangerous: History of Latin American Cities

Jennifer Schaefer

Beloved or dangerous. Ordered or chaotic. Modern or backward. What motivated these conflicting descriptions of Latin American cities? Why were cities like Buenos Aires, Havana, Mexico City, and Rio de Janeiro so important as sites of political and economic power? This course answers these questions by exploring the histories of Latin America cities from the colonial period to the present. It considers how urban spaces shaped people’s identities and daily lives and how these cities became places of national and global influence.


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.


Cultivate Your Creativity: Honing Your Creative Mind for Professional Success and Self-Fulfillment

Emily Schwab

Do you find yourself doodling in the margins of your Physics notes? Singing while you do the dishes? Spending more time formatting your Powerpoint and adding animations than practicing your presentation? These are signs not of a distracted, but a beautifully creative mind. In this course, we’ll explore how creativity is fundamental to all learning and how we can foster our creativity like any other skill. Designed for students across disciplines and for all levels of creative inclination, this class will strengthen our creativity through observation, curiosity, and practice. Class sessions will be hands-on and will primarily feature writing and art-making activities as practical tools to extend our creativity. By the end of our time, you will have a better perspective as to the role creativity can play in your life and how you might figure in creativity to your future academic and career planning.


The 2024 Presidential Election

Sam Best

Description TBA


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

Bruce Blanchard
Lauren Corso

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.


Technical Communication for Engineers

Jason Lee

Engineers do not just solve problems; strong technical skills are not sufficient. If you are not able to communicate your ideas, they will not be heard and recognized. If you are not able to effectively absorb ideas of other engineers, you will not be able to utilize the knowledge others try to share. It is as important to be heard as it is to hear others. Engineers do not work alone. In this class you will learn the basics of technical writing, drafting emails, delivering and listening to presentations, reading technical papers, and discussing ideas in a group meeting. If you consider yourself shy or an introvert this course will help you face those fears in a safe environment.


Taking control of your success and leadership development

Elaine Choung-Hee Lee

Fundamentally important skills required for success at work, strong leadership and team skills, and management of the path to goal achievement are often acquired through life experiences and great mentors, but not always formally available to students and trainees early in their careers. This course will introduce you to professional and leadership development with focus on: 1) defining and maintaining both long-term and short-term vision for your career and goal setting, 2) problem-solving at work, school, and in your life, 3) managing relationships at work and in school, 3) applying organizational/behavioral psychology principles to your life and leadership success. The topics in this course will help you navigate tough school and work situations, challenging relationships with people at work, and start the study of leadership principles and strategic plans towards excellence. The teaching approach includes lecture, guest speakers, open discussion about problem-solving in leadership, project management, and academic/work performance case studies, and case-study reviews.


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.


Introduction to the Graphic Novel: Read, Write, & Draw!

Alison Paul

The term graphic novel was coined in 1967 but did not gain popularity until the late 1980s, when works like Art Spiegelman’s MAUS and Alan Moore’s WATCHMEN were published. This was the first time mainstream comic book storytelling broke away from standard single issues printed on pulp paper. In later years the term would come to mean any long-form story that is mainly visual. We are currently in a golden age of graphic novels where anyone, regardless of age, gender identity, and/or race/ethnicity can tell their story, fiction or non-fiction. Join me as we look at the history and theory of the graphic novel, read some classic and current works, and do some writing and drawing of your own!


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.


Scales, Feathers, Bones, and Leaves: The World of Natural History Collections

Eric Schultz

Natural history collections comprise specimens of all kinds of organisms, preserved for all kinds of scholarly work. Silent and seemingly abstracted from their natural setting, these specimens are nonetheless portals and in fact essential to limitless investigation, as they contain the answers to questions we have not conceived of. Collections have an especially important role as our natural world undergoes rapid and accelerating changes, as the collections are irreplaceable representatives of life forms existing at a place in time that will not return.

This course will introduce you to the University of Connecticut’s Biodiversity Research Collections, consisting of preserved specimens of plants and all kinds of animals. We will explore how past, present and possible futures are revealed through close study of plant and animal specimens, reveal how specimens are collected, preserved and catalogued, and discuss how collections are used by scholars and the public. You will see how our collections offer ample opportunities for student research and other kinds of involvement.


From Advocacy to Policy

Sarah Croucher

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!


Dystopic fictions: Final Words or New Beginnings?

Susanna Cowan

We won’t read Divergent in this class, but it’s a great word for any conversation about dystopic fiction. On one hand, fictional dystopias depict speculative “real worlds” in which reality has diverged from the familiar in ways that usually feature dramatic structures of inequality and oppression. On the other hand (or other side of the same hand?), dystopic worlds often create opportunities for challenging that oppression, and in so doing invite us to look a little closer at “the familiar” for dystopic traces. Our case studies (as it were) will be a sampling of old and new visions of dystopias (mostly in short, digestible forms like stories or videos or images). Class discussions will be free-ranging and student-propelled. In addition to assigned readings (viewings, etc.), outside-of-class course work will include brief assignments focused on prompting class discussion and a final project.


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!


The Practice of Law & Professional Identity

Jessica Panella

This course explores the practice of law, the current legal landscape, and what it means to develop a professional identity in the legal profession. What does it mean to be a legal professional and what special responsibilities do lawyers have to their clients and society? What does it mean to be a lawyer in different settings and areas of law? This course will identify pathways and core skills to prepare for law school and will highlight a variety of possible careers in law. Students will gain practical insight, intentionally begin developing a professional identity, and have the opportunity to interact with legal professionals.


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.

UConn Stamford


Music in Writing

Gregory Pierrot

Whether we relate to music as listeners, practitioners or even composers, we often struggle to put the terms of these relations into words: what we like about what we hear, how we might convey this to others, possibly convince them. In this class we will reflect on why we write about music and how, exploring different genres and styles in both arts.


Clothing, College, and Community

Laura Bunyan

How is clothing part of our identity? How does society dictate what is acceptable in terms of clothing? What happens when people don't have access to clothing for school or work? This class seeks to address these questions and familiarize students with ways they can be active participants in solving issues plaguing our community.


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.