students and professors during an honors seminar canoe trip

Honors Seminars

Honors seminars are 2-credit courses that bring students and faculty from different disciplines together for stimulating conversation and discovery. They are usually team-taught and focus on subjects that are often more experimental and creative than typical disciplinary boundaries might allow.

Seminars are offered during the fall and spring semesters and classes are limited (from 10–15 students) in size to foster discussion and allow for more interaction between faculty and students.

There is no additional tuition cost for honors seminars, but seminar credits still count toward the overall number of credits required for graduation. Certain honors seminars may also fulfill the university's Integrations in the Humanities core requirement, the Writing to Learn (Writing Across the Curriculum) core requirement or both.

Most students say honors seminars are their favorite part of the program.

Recent Honors Seminars

Honors seminars are offered during the fall and spring semesters. Seminars may be offered during J-term and summer sessions if faculty are available and there is student interest. Seminars with a single instructor are not listed in Classfinder; students must contact the instructor to enroll.

Medical Matters: Becoming an Effective Practitioner or Patient

Healthcare in the US is a highly complex system that everyone will participate in as patients, and some as providers. This seminar will address issues that face professionals in delivering quality care, as well as issues relevant to patients as they make decisions that will affect their health. Topics will reflect this dual challenge: how practitioners approach the art of diagnosis, the communication and cultural hurdles that can exist between practitioners and patients, advocacy by and for patients, how best to allocate limited resources, and the challenges posed by various health disparities. This course will address aspects of health care that are often overlooked in science and content courses, and will encourage students to think about some of the challenges that patients and providers each face in our system. By the end of the course, students will be aware of key topics that affect how we develop, deliver, and experience health care. Grading will be based on pre-class preparation activities, in-class participation, engagement in health simulation activities, reflective writing, and cumulative projects that reflect each students' personal interests.

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Art and Materials Analysis

Have you ever wondered how artworks are authenticated? Or how unknown objects are identified? Or how artistic and scientific curiosity helped materials evolve? This course seeks to explore how artists, art conservators and chemists work together to analyze artworks and uncover artistic processes, production methods, materials development, as well as degradation and changes of artworks in time. Employing different disciplines and forms of inquiry can produce a deeper understanding of materials, art objects and their contexts than is possible from the perspective of a single field. Such interdisciplinary inquiry can also help answer questions related to dating, geography, culture, and authenticity.

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Seeking Meaning and Money in Life’s Work

College is a time for students to both learn skills to earn a livelihood and ask big questions about one's purpose in life. This seminar will explore alignment and conflict between these two important goals. On one hand, participants will examine personal fit within a market economy. On the other hand, they will examine the work they may feel called by their heart, faith, and/or society to do, including work that interrogates a "market economy" in the first place. In doing so, participants will become familiar with contemporary social problems as well as frameworks to address them, such as "social justice" and "social entrepreneurship." Through engagement with community partners, the seminar provides students with the opportunity to examine "common good" endeavors in the forprofit and/or non-profit sectors. In the process, students will inquire about the possibility of meaningful work that also sustains them, their families, and the "common good." While much of the course content involves philosophical reflection, much of the course outcomes are practically oriented toward personal and professional development.

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Praxis of Race and Racism

In this seminar we will explore the difficult terrain of race and racism in our contemporary moment paying close attention to the history of how we got here. We will carefully consider the various levels upon which racism operates (internalized, personally mediated, and structural) in our society, employing useful theories such as critical race theory and concepts such as colorblind racism, while also focusing on how whiteness intersects with them. The purpose of this seminar is to provoke and facilitate critical analysis of race and racism in our society and institutions while also creating space for rigorous self-reflection. Unlike many discussions of race and racism in higher education, this seminar will interrogate the construct of whiteness and consider it as a factor that animates racist logics. Students will have the opportunity to examine how theories of race and racism could interact with their various fields of interest and will encounter creative examples of social change efforts to dismantle racism.

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Mindfulness in Context

What does it mean to be aware? To what extent can we deliberately direct our own consciousness? How does awareness influence our life experiences? Although our modern culture celebrates an endless cycle of planning, striving, and multitasking, those activities do not reflect the fundamental nature of human experience. Regardless, most humans spend the majority of their waking moments in the virtual reality of their own imaginations. How would life be different if we spent more time in a state of present-moment awareness? Is there any difference between thinking and experiencing? Through contemplative practices, our attention can be directed to foster creativity, self-discovery, and social awareness. This course focuses on the philosophy, psychology, and practice of mindfulness, and how this state of consciousness can influence our personal and professional lives. Inclusive, or secular, meditation practice is an effective tool for developing such awareness. In this course, students will investigate a wide variety of mindfulness practices and consider the research and applications of these in the contexts of other disciplines. Each class period will integrate experiential learning with rigorous self-reflection and discussion of the research on attention, consciousness, and mindful awareness. Students will be expected to establish and maintain a regular meditation practice throughout the duration of the course.

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Young Adults as Changemakers

This seminar will explore the topic of young adults as changemakers. Oftentimes, when we think about social change, young adult voices are minimized or even forgotten. How influential have youth been in the past when fighting for social change? What pushback do young people face when they advocate these changes? By addressing these questions through a hands-on changemaking project, students will understand the complexities of enacting effective organizational and institutional change.

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Past Seminar Highlights

See examples of student's work from past Honors Seminars.

student shows the font they designed in class

Font Design: History and Practice

Students explored the history of typeface designs - where they come from, how they work and how the design conveys character - and then applied what they learned to create an original font design. Read an article about the Font class, which includes an overview of 3 student designed fonts.

example of student work for the suitcase art project

Talking Suitcases: Making Art & Writing About the Things We Carry

This seminar was a social art project, exploring the quesion of what you would carry in a suitcase if you had to leave home forever. Students in the seminar wrote a summary of what they learned, along with photos of the art they created for their metaphorical suitcase in this Talking Suitcases blog.

More Ways to Do More

Our students are engaging with their community and the world in astounding ways. Discover more of the activities that Aquinas Scholars Honors students participate in to create community and change the world.