Required for all first-year HC students, this two-semester sequence lays the foundation for your development as an Honors Scholar. Focused on a common theme, this class will encourage you to think creatively, be curious and investigative, and ask rich and complex questions.
In the belief that action and experience are a critical part of the learning process, Honors Colloquium embraces the principles of “active learning.” In that spirit, and COVID-19 permitting, all classes will take a required active learning trip during Fall Break; travel costs, accommodations, tickets, and some meals will be paid for by the Honors College.
In HON 111, you will learn how to encounter and interact with different kinds of writing and texts; how to become a better analytical reader; how to collaborate with your fellow scholars; how to engage in academic debate and discourse; and how to improve your communication skills, both written and oral.
In HON 112, we will go from a focus on asking questions to a focus on answering them. While you continue to hone the skill of asking rich and rewarding questions, you will also begin developing the tools you need to find answers. In short, in HON 112 you will learn how to undertake “research,” broadly defined, what research looks like in various disciplines, the ethics of research, and how research develops organically.
Humans need connection: we seek connection with others, in both physical and virtual worlds. We find connection in the places we live and travel. We attempt to forge connection between words, thoughts, and ideas; and we constantly recognize the roles connection and disconnection play in material matters and in the world in which we live.
It is no wonder, then, that the first written record of the term “connection” being used in the English language is from the early seventeenth century; connection is necessary, but it can also be elusive. Across its various sections, Honors Colloquium 2023-2024 will examine the concept of “connection.” Whether looking at specific moments in history evidencing connection, social and psychological theories of humans and connection, the science of connection, artifacts of connection, or analysis as a means of making connection, Colloquium 23-24 will delve into the significance of connection and the realities of disconnection in our day-to-day lives.
While each section of Colloquium will approach this topic differently and will make use of different texts, all sections will begin the year by reading, discussing, and writing about Kristen Radtke’s graphic memoir, Seek You: A Journey through American Loneliness.
Professor Brad Phillis
At the climax of Stephen Sondheim's musical Assassins (1990), all of the men and women who have ever attempted to kill a President of the United States assemble on stage to convince Lee Harvey Oswald to go through with the assassination of JFK. After Oswald kills Kennedy, the play ends with the assassins singing a final, defiant reflection on their deeds. "Everybody's got the right to be happy," they sing: "'Free country' means you get to connect. (That's it!) Means the right to expect that you'll have an effect, that you're gonna connect!"
Connection is a double-edged phenomenon. Human beings are hard-wired for it: connections with other people (or their absence) play a major role in our development as children; we make decisions based on our ability to connect past occurrences with present and future possibilities; even the way our brains work depends on connections between cells. However, connection is also dangerous. The people and institutions to which we yoke ourselves can disappoint and even harm us. The brain's propensity for finding patterns (and making meaning out of them) leads us to judge other people, often without realizing we are doing so. And research shows us that we will compromise our moral and ethical values in the face of pressure from our communities.
In this section of colloquium, we will explore connection as a phenomenon. In Fall 2023, we will investigate different types of connections that influence our experience as humans, ranging from the social, political, and ideological connections that shape our communities to the neurological connections that determine our ability to perceive and make sense of the world. This work will prepare us to investigate stories about connection in Spring 2024. Our goal throughout the academic year will be to gain a more nuanced understanding of the role connection plays in our lives so that we can manage our connections wisely.
Potential Readings: Abū Zayd al-Sīrāfī and Aḥmad ibn Faḍlān, Two Arabic Travel Books; Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism; David Badre, On Task: How Our Brain Gets Things Done; Celeste Becky Chambers, A Psalm for the Wild-Built; Vaughan Curington, Jennifer Hickes Lundquist, and Ken-Hou Lin, The Dating Divide: Race and Desire in the Era of Online Romance; Christopher Oldstone-Moore, Of Beards and Men; Tom Stoppard, Arcadia
Professor Kelli Sellers
Maybe I should try to find the old me
Take me to the places and the people that know me
Tryin' to disconnect, thinking maybe you could show me
If there's so many people here, then why am I so lonely?
Can I get a connection?
One Republic, “Connection”
In this section of Colloquium, we are going to explore places of connection in our own lives and those around us. Have you ever heard a song that takes you back to a specific time in your life? Or ever heard a story that’s been passed down from generation to generation? Do you have a place that always reminds you of the experience you had there? We spend our lives making connection through the stories, places, music, and art we create. They become signposts for who we were, who we are, and who we are becoming. We will begin this course by looking at the ways that music becomes the soundtrack of our lives. We will take a closer look at the connections between songwriting and storytelling. Then, we will examine the ways that places inform the stories we read, live, and tell.
Throughout the year, we will engage with a variety of genres: music, poetry, novels, memoir, podcasts, photo essays, and documentaries. We will create personal music history projects, songwriting projects, multimedia analysis projects, and research projects that allow us to take a deep dive into a topic related to our course theme.
Potential Readings: Hanif Abdurraqib, They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us; Brandi Carlile, Broken Horses; Sarah M. Broome, The Yellow House; N.K. Jemisin, The City We Became; and Yaa Gyasi, Homegoing
Professor Hali Black
Humans have long recognized that being in nature is good for the mind and body. From indigenous adolescents completing rites of passage in the wild, to modern East Asian cultures taking “forest baths,” to the record numbers of visitors that flock to U.S. National Parks, humans have sought and continue to seek out the great outdoors as a place for healing, connection, and personal growth.
So why nature? While no one knows for sure, evolutionary biologist E. O. Wilson’s “biophilia” theory suggests that there are evolutionary reasons why people seek out nature-based experiences. Additionally, there is a large body of research documenting the positive impacts of nature on the human condition, including our social, psychological, and emotional well-being. Overwhelmingly, this body of research has shown that living in nature, experiencing the great outdoors, or even viewing artistic representations of nature can have positive impacts on our brains, bodies, feelings, thought processes, and social interactions. These experiences, in turn, help us to cultivate greater openness, creativity, connection, generosity, and resilience.
In this section of Colloquium, we will explore humankind’s historic and modern connections to nature as well as the effects of these connections. In the fall, we will begin our year together by exploring society’s complex relationship with nature and our environment, including social, technological, scientific, political, and ideological phenomena that affect our connections, or lack thereof, with nature. Through science fiction, eco-poetry, and artistic representations of nature, we will explore the surreal and the sublime as we seek to uncover and understand humankind’s complex relationship with our environment. In the spring, we will shift our focus to investigate the ways in which humans seek and find connections to nature as well as the effects these connections have on ourselves, our society, and our environment. Focusing on real-world stories, we will explore first-hand accounts from botanists, ecologists, climatologists, and others as we investigate the concept of environmental consciousness and ask questions of nature with the tools of science.
Professor Candice Salyers
To understand the world, you must first understand a place like Mississippi.
— Author unknown, wrongly attributed to William Faulkner
Great conflict produces great art, and Mississippi has its share of both.
—W. Ralph Eubanks
Service is a form of human connection that reminds us of our value and purpose in
Embodying a powerful legacy of artistic expression and service orientation that collides with economic and social justice challenges, the state of Mississippi magnifies a mixture of complex forces at play around the world. In this section of Colloquium, we will investigate connections between Mississippi and the larger world through the intertwining of artwork and service. We will explore how the arts and service can be connected through a sense of humanity and question the concept of humanity itself as both a noun and an adjective. By partnering with two organizations in Mississippi and two international organizations, we will gain real-world experience applying the arts in humanitarian service.
Throughout the year, our work together will include writing, performance, visual art, and storytelling as a means of engaging our imaginations to help create more positive connections between our individual and collective worlds. Through this work, we will develop relationships with artists and peers in Mississippi and two international locations. We will consider what we can do for Mississippi with our skills as thinkers, writers, and artists, and then what we can do from Mississippi in service to the larger world.
Potential Readings: W. Ralph Eubanks, A Place Like Mississippi: A Journey Through a Real and Imagined Literary Landscape; Natasha Trethewey, Theories of Time and Space; Vivek Murthy, Together: The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World; Neil Gaiman & Chris Riddell, Art Matters: Because Your Imagination Can Change the World; Richard Grant, Dispatches from Pluto: Lost and Found in the Mississippi Delta; and Adrienne Maree Brown, Pleasure Activism: The Politics of Feeling Good
Professor Iliyan Iliev
You have power over your mind—not outside events. Realize this, and you will find
To connect with our past, those around us, and the world we inhabit, we must first create connections within. Daily pressures of time, work and responsibilities leave little room for reflection and reassessment. In a world more interconnected than ever, we can sometimes feel completely disconnected. Without the connection within, the connection without cannot exist. Our actions and imagination can extend our self in outward directions, linking us with those around us and allowing our consciousness to travel both through past and future. In this section of Honors Colloquium, we will explore and develop our minds, discuss ways to connect with the outside, and develop our inner strength. Through the class readings, movies, and music, we will build the necessary connections to develop our ideas into scientific research that we will share with our community of scholars. We will also find out why fish don't exist, learn from emperors, explore entropy, talk to someone without an inner voice, and see what comes after the end of the world. And have fun doing all of the above!
Potential Readings: Marcus Aurelius, Meditations; Brit Bennett, The Vanishing Half; Franz Kafka, Metamorphosis, Brene Brown, Atlas of the Heart: Mapping Meaningful Connection and the Language of Human Experience; Octavia Butler, Kindred; Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teaching of Plants; Lulu Miller, Why Fish Don’t Exist; Emily St. John Mandel, Station Eleven
Professor Joseph Cheatle
History is all about stories, what they tell us and what they reveal about us. In this section of Colloquium we will explore how we individually and collectively remember and connect to the past. From controversies over Civil War battlefields and the Enola Gay exhibit to the Vietnam War memorial and how to remember American history, our connection with the past is important to how we understand the present and how we shape the future. But the stories we tell about the past are constructions that we ourselves create. A collective memory of the past often involves the intentional erasure or exclusion of someone else; memory is also frequently built on intentional acts of forgetting. We not only remember and connect to the past in the stories we tell, but also memorialize the past in physical ways through museums, monuments, films, and books. Recent examples include the creation of the 9/11 memorial and the removal of confederate statues from public spaces. How we create, change, connect with, or erase history tells us about who we are today.
Throughout the Fall semester, we will be examining how we remember and connect to the past nationally, as well as locally and individually. We will have the chance to interrogate how we remember the past in a variety of different ways. We will explore sites of memory (like monuments, memorials, and museums), as well as artifacts about memory and connection (including films and textbooks). During the Spring semester, we will examine how we remember. We will be reading about how memory is created, contested, and changes over time. In addition to books, we will be reading essays, articles, and listening to podcasts about history and storytelling.
Potential Readings: Edward Linenthal and Tom Engelhardt, History Wars: The Enola Gay and Other Battles for the American Past; Tom Stoppard, Arcadia; Leslie Marmon Silko, Ceremony; Julija Sukys, Siberian Exile: Blood, War, and a Granddaughter’s Reckoning; Mabel Wilson, Begin with the Past: Building the National Museum of African American History and Culture; and Michel-Rolph Trouillot, Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History
Professor Ashley Allen
When other students asked where I was from, I said, 'I'm from Idaho," a phrase that, as many times as I've had to repeat it over the years, has never felt comfortable in my mouth. When you are part of a place, growing that moment in its soil, there's never a need to say you're from there. I never uttered the words 'I'm from Idaho" until I'd left it.
Tara Westover, Educated
The fear and bleak reality of being boring and dying having never connected with anyone is vastly underestimated.
Jessica Pan, Sorry I'm Late, I Didn't Want to Come: One Introvert's Year of Saying Yes
A brilliant woman raised isolated from the world through location, education, and socioeconomic status. An expat who chooses to combat loneliness by purposefully challenging her social comfort. A caregiver who learns of her parents’ “humanness” while sorting through their estate.
We all have a unique story, comprised of multifaceted and complex levels of connections to ourselves, those we love, our roots, and society beyond our immediate circle of influence. This section of Colloquium will examine elements of what makes us who we are and how those facets influence the way we connect to ourselves, others, places, and ideals. We will fuse the personal stories conveyed in autobiographical memoirs with related scholarship concerning topics such as identity, role strain, personality, the way we develop relationships, family history/genealogy, the role of education, socioeconomic structures, and culture. Together we will reflect on these topics and the role of storytelling in understanding connection. We will write memoirs of our past lives, memoirs of places we will visit, and conduct research that better helps us understand connection.
Potential Readings: Sarah Broom, The Yellow House; Plum Johnson, They Left Us Everything: A Memoir; Paul Kalanithi, When Breath Becomes Air; Jessica Pan, Sorry I’m Late, I Didn’t Want to Come: One Introvert’s Year of Saying Yes; Tara Westover, Educate: A Memoir; Stefan Zweig, The World of Yesterday
Professor Allen Chen
Connection is a powerful way to see our shared reality. Biologically built with over one hundred billion neurons, our brain makes one to ten thousand connections call synapses per neuron. Mathematically substantiated with over one million billion connections per second, the brain is a connection machine powering each of us to create, explore and connect with even more connection machines.
In this section of Colloquium, we will create, explore, and connect the idea of connection through examinations of how our ideas are formed. We will conduct these inquiries through class discussions, reading and writing assignments, and ceramics/sculptural projects. Understanding what drives our behaviors will help us analyze the rationale and consequences of our choices.
In the Fall semester, we will introduce connection with the common read, examine our behavior and explore consciousness. In the Spring semester, we will learn about the outliers, explore the afterlife, and confront our fears.
Potential Readings: David Bayles and Ted Orland, Art and Fear: On the Perils (and Rewards) of Art Making; David Eagleman, Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives; Desmond Morris, The Naked Ape; V.S. Ramachandran, A Brief Tour of Human Consciousness; Oliver Sacks, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat
Truly, we live with mysteries too marvelous
to be understood.
How grass can be nourishing in the
mouths of the lambs.
How rivers and stones are forever
in allegiance with gravity
while we ourselves dream of rising.
How two hands touch and the bonds
will never be broken.
How people come, from delight or the
scars of damage,
to the comfort of a poem.
Let me keep my distance, always, from those
who think they have the answers.
Let me keep company always with those who say
‘Look!’ and laugh in astonishment,
and bow their heads.
—Mary Oliver, “Mysteries, Yes”
Are you the type of student who revels in the unknown? Do you like to take chances? When you review the Crumbl Cookie menu each week, are you excited when you learn there is a mystery cookie that week? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then this is the Colloquium section for you! We cannot reveal the details of this section yet, but we can tell you, it will be awesome. Trust us. Take a chance on this section. You will be glad you did!