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Honors College

Colloquium 24-25

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Required for all first-year Honors College 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, all classes take a required active-learning trip during Fall Break; travel costs, accommodations, tickets, and some meals will be paid for by the Honors College.

HON 111 (Fall)

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.

HON 112 (Spring)

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.

Sense

As humans, we commonly think about sense as perception or consciousness. This said, the earliest recorded use of the word in English is from the fourteenth century, and our initial use of the term focused on meaning and interpretation—to make sense of something. However, the term is more far reaching than awareness or making meaning. We have all likely been told by a well-intentioned parent to “use good sense” in our everyday lives and decision making, and politicians have appealed to the notion of “common sense” for centuries. Sense is also part of our biology and how we experience life through touch, taste, smell, sight, and hearing. And terms such as nonsense, sensation, and sensitivity enrich our understandings of how “sense” shapes our lives.

Across its various sections, Honors Colloquium 2024-2025 will examine the concept of “sense.” Whether looking at specific moments in history and how we make sense of these moments; physical, psychological, and social theories of sense; the science of sense, literature and meaning making; or even cultural sensations, Colloquium 24-25 will explore the significance of sense in our world.

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 Aimee Nezhukumatathil’s World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, and Other Astonishments.

 

Section H001
Professor Hali Black
Community, Stewardship, and Belonging: Making Sense of the World Around Us 

Community, Stewardship, and Belonging: Making Sense of the World Around Us 

“The land knows you, even when you are lost.” ― Robin Wall Kimmerer

“Hope is ‘that virtue by which we take responsibility for the future.’ Not just responsibility for our individual futures but also for that of the world.” — Lyanda Lynn Haupt

In Braiding Sweetgrass, Robin Wall Kimmerer challenges readers to (re)consider their relationships with the human and more-than-human world, examining language that bridges biological sciences and human societies such as “native,” “naturalized,” and “invasive.” Kimmerer also engages with dynamic ways of thinking about citizenship and what it means to belong to a place or a community, stressing the shared responsibility humans have to make sense of the world they inhabit while also prioritizing diverse worldviews and insights as necessary to productive and sustainable communities.

In this section of Colloquium, we will explore concepts of environmental reciprocity, environmental stewardship, moral obligations to the Earth, and how humans have impacted the environment—in good and bad ways—by examining the very language we use to describe and think about nature. In the fall semester, we will begin our year together by exploring modern society’s complex relationship with nature and our environment. Together, we will engage in service to our communities to gain a deeper understanding of the value of community and civic involvement as well as the importance of environmental stewardship. In the spring, we will shift our focus to investigate our relationships with human and more-than-human kin, as well as the effects these connections have on ourselves as individuals, our society, and our environment. Together, we will traverse the crossroads of science, nature, and spirit, a place where we can begin to sense true hope and wonder. 

Potential Readings: Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass; Lyanda Haupt, Rooted; Lauren E. Oaks, In Search of the Canary Tree; Elisabeth Bailey, The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating

 

Section H002
Professor Leah Parker
Making Sense: Embodied Epistemologies

Making Sense: Embodied Epistemologies

How do we know what we know? 

In this section of Colloquium, we will question how we know anything at all. We will engage in the study of epistemology, questioning how we know what we know, with special focus on how we use our bodily senses to make sense of the world. We will examine sensory knowing through the academic lenses of history, literature, linguistics, biology, psychology, philosophy, and more, fueling our practice of one of the core genres of academic writing: evidence-based arguments.

In the Fall, we will practice making sense of the world—how do we know what happened in history or how natural phenomena work? We will debate philosophical models for knowledge-formation, analyze how historians make arguments about what happened in the past, and explore scientific processes for understanding the natural world. Participants will practice advanced writing skills through short weekly writing activities, analytical and reflective papers, and a culminating research project analyzing how we know what happened in the historical event of their choice. In the Spring, we will consider how we make sense of and through our bodies, by exploring linguistic, literary, medical, and historical approaches to cognition and subjective experience. 

Potential Readings: Susan A. Crane, Nothing Happened: A History; Mikki Kressbach, Sensing Health: Bodies, Data, and Digital Health Technologies; George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, Metaphors We Live By; Laila Lalami, The Moor’s Account; Jonah Lehrer, Proust was a Neuroscientist; Judy M. Melinek and T.J. Mitchell, Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner; Jennifer Nagel, Knowledge: A Very Short Introduction; Oliver Sacks, Awakenings 

 

Section H003
Professor Jacob Cotton
Unveiling Authenticity: Navigating Self-Discovery and Developing a Sense of Self in the Digital Age

Unveiling Authenticity: Navigating Self-Discovery and Developing a Sense of Self in the Digital Age 

We are consumers. We're the by-products of a lifestyle obsession.” — Tyler Durden from Fight Clubby Chuck Palahniuk

In today's hyperconnected world, the journey to self-discovery can feel like navigating a maze obscured by the constant bombardment of social media and advertising. This course delves into the intricacies of unraveling one's authentic sense of self amidst the noise of modern society and the silent scrolls of our smart phones.

This course is meant to transcend mere academic discourse; but to also become a sanctuary for exploration and growth, where individuals are encouraged to challenge preconceived notions, confront internalized biases, and cultivate a profound understanding of themselves. Through this process, participants are encouraged to not only emerge with a clearer sense of identity but also develop the resilience and self-assurance to navigate the complexities of modern life in the digital age with authenticity and purpose.

Participants will embark on an exploration aimed at peeling back the layers of societal expectations, digital facades, and cultural influences that obscure genuine self-awareness. Through a blend of theoretical frameworks, readings, and reflective discussions and exercises, students will develop the tools and insights necessary to reclaim and/or develop their authentic identity.

Potential Readings: Rick Poyner, Obey the Giant: Life in the Image World; Nathan Jurgensen, The Social Photo: On Photography and Social Media; Irina Nevzlin, The Impact of Identity: The Impact of Knowing Who You Are; Dannagal Goldthwaite Young, Wrong: How Media, Politics, and Identity Drive Our Appetite for Misinformation; Brené Brown, I Thought It Was Just Me; M. T. Anderson, Feed

 

Section H004
Professor Candice Salyers
Sense of Wander

Sense of Wander

“Exploring the world is one of the best ways of exploring the mind.” — Rebecca Solnit

“Above all, do not lose your desire to walk: every day I walk myself into a state of wellbeing and walk away from every illness. I have walked myself into my best thoughts, and I know of no thought so burdensome that one cannot walk away from it.” — Søren Kierkegaard 

“I soon realized that no journey carries one far unless, as it extends into the world around us, it goes an equal distance into the world within.” — Lillian Smith

This section of Colloquium will explore how wandering can be a site of physical, philosophical, environmental, activist, and artistic research. Traversing geographies, histories, cultures, and disciplines, the practice of walking/wandering has a rich legacy in scholarly discourse, artistic activism, and human discovery. Visual artists, performers, writers, environmentalists, activists, theologians, and philosophers have engaged in these movement practices to further understand and reckon with the human mind as well as to propel individual and social transformation. We will begin our journey from cognitive philosopher Andy Clark’s concept of extended cognition—the idea that thinking itself is not isolated within the “mind” but occurs through brain, body, and world moving together.

Throughout the year, our work together will include expeditions in nature, within urban settings, and into the landscape of our own imaginations and interests as scholars. We will consider and engage in many different intentions for walking in conjunction with reading pivotal texts from around the world that explore this movement and its results from diverse perspectives. We will experience wandering as a metaphor for, embodiment of, and way of engaging in research processes. Integrating sense, perception, and proprioception, we will enjoy wandering and the sense of wonder that comes along with it.

(In this class, wandering/walking will be considered movement of the human body through both living and constructed environments but is not limited to moving on two feet. Students of all embodiments and with disabilities will be fully included in this course).

Potential Readings: Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: A History of Walking; Shane O’Mara, In Praise of Walking: A New Scientific Exploration; Elena Biserna, Walking from Scores; Ernest Pujol, Walking Art Practice: Reflections on Socially Engaged Paths; Francesco Careri, Walkscapes: Walking as Aesthetic Practice; Thích Nhất Hạnh, How to Walk; George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, Metaphors We Live By

 

Section H005
Professor Clay Tucker
Sense of Place: Loving Somewhere

Sense of Place: Loving Somewhere

“It is not down on any map. True places never are.” — Herman Melville, Moby Dick

I still remember the house I grew up in. It was a small ranch-style house with an open kitchen and living space, a short driveway, and a small backyard with huge oak trees. Our family dog had a kennel in the yard, my father had a shop for all his hunting and fishing wares, and my mother loved when we lit the large brass-and-glass fireplace in the winter. I remember Christmases as a child with new matchbox toy cars, visits with my grandmothers, the week the power went out from Hurricane Andrew, and the blue boat that didn’t really fit in the driveway. It had an address: Marcel Avenue in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA. But it occupied more than its space on a map.

When we create powerful emotional bonds to a space, it becomes a place – our recollections of the space are built by the senses we used to perceive it. We taste mom’s cooking; we hear paw paw’s voice; we feel the cold tile floors. These experiences are lodged in our memory as a sense of that place. While this sense of place is powerful and distinct, each one of us retains a sense of some place, and that feeling can be prominent or distant, positive or negative, tangible or ethereal.

In this section of Colloquium, we will explore the physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual elements of place, as well as our complex understandings of the role of place. We will contemplate how to talk about place in our own lives, as well as how to ask others about their sense of place. I will bring my expertise as a geographer and my own strong sense of place to our explorations, and, together, we will consider the harmonious and dissonant relationships to place(s) that most humans experience in their lifetimes.

Potential Readings: Ryan Orgeron, The Louisiana Field Guide; Earnest J. Gaines, Mozart and Leadbelly; Mike Tidwell, Bayou Farewell; Gwen Roland, Atchafalaya Houseboat; Sam Keith, One Man’s Wilderness; Willa Cather, O Pioneers!; Sarah M. Broome, The Yellow House

 

Section H007
Professor Mac Alford
Sense of Limitation

Sense of Limitation

“Magic is really only the utilization of the entire spectrum of the senses.” — Michael Scott, The Alchemyst

This section of Colloquium will focus on the challenges of understanding our world given the limitations of our senses. We will explore the breadth of senses in the living world and will consider how we know things about the world that are beyond human senses. Our class will spend the fall semester exploring the senses of plants and other animals and how their senses are related to, yet still different than, our own. In the spring semester, we will attempt to understand how changes in human senses relate to how we interpret the world and where our limitations in epistemology lie. How can we understand anything at all if our senses are so limited? How might the tuning of our senses help us to better understand the world? Can we reasonably make hypotheses about the future, even when we don’t have the tools (yet?) to test them?

We will engage with a series of books that address senses from different perspectives. We will challenge each other in discussion of these books, learn to build strong arguments in narratives, and complete a research project, from question through primary research to presentation, that builds on our explorations of the senses.

Potential Readings: Daniel Chamovitz, What a Plant Knows: A Field Guide to the Senses; Ed Yong, An Immense World: How Animal Senses Reveal the Hidden Realms Around Us; Susan Barry, Coming to Our Senses: A Boy Who Learned to See, a Girl Who Learned to Hear, and How We All Discover the World; James Gleick, Chaos.

 

Section H006
Professor Rebecca Tuuri
Common Sense: What Do We Know and Why

Common Sense: What Do We Know and Why

What are things that we just “know” by existing in the world? What part of this knowledge is innate and what comes from our environment? Has the notion of “common sense,” or what is commonly known or understood, served more as a model for progress and inclusion or resistance and exclusion?

In this section of Colloquium, we will focus on the idea of common sense as it relates to people and their communities. In the Fall, we will explore how we as individuals come to understand the world around us in ways that we believe to be normal. We will grapple with what role inherent qualities (such as genetics) verses external experiences (such as birth order) play in the development of ourselves as everyday people, or common folk. We will think through how humans sense the world around them and what distinguishes us from other animals, plants, and even robots. In our Spring semester, we will study how that same phenomenon of being common can be inclusive or exclusive, by examining social and political group behaviors, especially how appealing to “common sense” can be liberating and/or exclusionary. We will also consider the tradeoffs as minorities bend to the will of the majority out of an appeal to “common” good. We will come to better understand ourselves, our communities, and the world around us through what makes us similar to and distinct from others.

Potential Readings: Daniel Chamovitz, What a Plant Knows; Jennifer Eberhardt, Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What We See, Think, and Do; John Kabat-Zinn, Coming to Our Senses: Healing Ourselves and the World Through Mindfulness; Ed Yong, I Contain Multitudes; Thomas Payne, Common Sense; Gary Nash, Forgotten Fifth; Heather Ford, Writing the Revolution

 

Section H007
Professor Joe Weinberg
Political Sense: What Do We Know and Why

Understanding and Navigating American Democracy

“I submit, therefore, that the fruition of democracy, on aught like a grand scale, resides altogether in the future.” – Walt Whitman

The last time we had a Presidential Election…. Well, it didn’t go smoothly. As we prepare ourselves for the historic 2024 Presidential election, it is important to understand how we got to this point and where we may be headed next. 

To some, recent political events suggest a harbinger of doom and gloom to our democratic form of government. To others, these are just normal “growing pains” of any nation. Is this the end of America as we know it? If so, is that necessarily a bad thing? As the leaders (and voters) of tomorrow, it is important for you to make sense of these changes and navigate your way through the future of our country. 

In this section of Colloquium, we will explore concepts of democracy, economics, and citizenship from a variety of academic and cultural perspectives. Terms like “populism,” “authoritarianism,” and even “patriotism” seem to have taken on new meanings in the 21st century, and it’s up to us to question citizens and leaders as we define and pursue the goals of this democratic nation moving forward. From history, to philosophy, to current events, to dystopian fiction, we will blaze this trail together—asking questions and practicing different methods of answering those questions along the way.

Potential Readings: Heather Cox Richardson, Democracy Awakening; Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale; Ray Dalio, Principles for Dealing with the Changing World Order: Why Nations Succeed and Fail; Michael Lewis, The Real Price of Everything: Rediscovering the Six Classics of Economics; Philip K. Dick, The Man in the High Castle; Joseph D. Connelly, The New Prepper's Survival Bible: The Definitive Long-Term Survival Guide to Be Prepared for Every Scenario

 

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