No matter their format or discipline, Honors classes all involve close engagement between instructor and students. Honors students are actively involved in the learning process as they develop advanced communication, leadership, and thinking skills.
While our academic program is designed to emphasize our first-year focus on wellness and writing, each semester we offer a variety of classes that are unique to Honors along with Honors sections of existing university courses. Students can also convert a non-Honors section to an Honors course through a contractual arrangement with the instructor, or design an independent study! We have courses for everyone—engineers, artists and students of humanities and social sciences.
The Art of the Narrative: Advanced Creative Writing
In Advanced Creative Writing, an intensive survey of the architecture and techniques of good storytelling, students will write multiple stories, all of which will be workshopped by the instructor and the students, developing their editorial skills alongside their abilities as authors.
Psychology of Sexual Diversity
This course focuses on the psychological perspectives of sexual orientation, including underserved sexual minority populations. The theories, research and concepts presented will focus on sexual orientation and expression with a particular emphasis on the impact and short- and long-term effects on the emotional, psychological and social development and well-being of LGBTQ populations.
Rise of Civilization: Prehistory to Islam
The course examines the origins of the great civilizations of Eurasia and Africa: that is, Chinese, Indian, Mesopotamian, Egyptian, Greco-Roman and Islamic. History is about questions. What is civilization? What is the relationship between geography and climate and civilization? What is the role of religion in the rise of civilization? From Cro-Magnon man to Muhammed, ancient men and women made little distinction between the visible world of their daily lives—or daily grind—and the theological or supernatural world. Supernatural beings—be they forest demons or the one true god—were an ever present reality, divinities to be feared and offered sacrifice and prayer.
Social Media Research
In this course, Honors students develop and carry out research projects to study the impact of social media in mass communications and related fields. Students will apply quantitative and qualitative research methods, such as content analysis, in-depth interviewing and survey, to answer research questions about social media that derive from the current state of the field. Students will review the academic literature on social media as well as the theoretical concepts, develop research methodologies, and carry out and write academic research studies.
Survey of Art
Learn about the major two-dimensional, three-dimensional and architectural styles and techniques of Europe, Africa, the Americas and Asia from the Prehistoric period (beginning around 30,000 BCE) through the 13th century CE. This study of art history will emphasize the recognition and identification of major works of art produced in the mediums of painting, sculpture and architecture, as well as the associated styles from each period. We will work to gain a contextual understanding of what these examples of art and architecture reveal about the cultures and societies that produced them through illustrated lectures, reading assignments and class discussion.
Why are some presenters bad, some good and others great? Why do some people have more “presence” than others? What leadership skills work in a room full of people who are not on the same page? How does one pitch an idea in less than two minutes? Presentation skills involve more than just speaking in public. Good presentation skills require an understanding of yourself, your subject and your audience. This course explores the skills involved in mastering all of these.
Module: Leadership in Modern America
This module gives insight about the history, current status and future of leadership in modern America. It runs as a seminar with reading, writing, guest speakers and class reports throughout the course.
Social, Economic Changes in American Cities and Suburbs, with Prof. John Palen
This module (meeting on Jan. 2-5 at 9 a.m.-1 p.m.) will provide a synoptic view of the processes and consequences of American urbanization. In our discussion, emphasis will be placed not only on what has occurred and is occurring, but also on its causation and implications for American society. The module will have three overlapping sections: historical emergence of American Suburbs up to World War II; mass suburbanization, suburbs and popular culture, suburban lifestyles and the impact of government policy; and contemporary and future patterns including minority suburbanization, the emergence of edge cities and malls, and the new neo-traditional new urbanism communities. We will look at the new census and other data and note where it contradicts contemporary myths regarding suburbanites.
Topics course (3 credits), Prof. Manika Avasthi; M/W 1-2:15 p.m., Honors College 572
This course serves as an introduction to the basic concepts, principles and skills for improving verbal and nonverbal communication with persons from different cultures. Using a “culture-general approach,” topics discussed include the concept of culture, barriers to intercultural communication, verbal communication processes, and nonverbal communication aspects. The goal is to foster YOUR own intercultural communication competence.
Molecular Basis for Human Disease
Topics course (3 credits), Prof. Keith Baker; T/R 8-9:15 a.m., Honors College 450
This class will examine the biochemical and genetic basis for common and rare human diseases, and consider the clinical pathways that lead to diagnosis and treatment for patients suffering from them. We will discuss how lessons learned at the research bench dramatically impact patient care through greater understanding of condition, leading to increased specificity of targeted treatment. Students will be expected to take an active role within this class, often working in small teams for discussions, presentations and even quizzes. In order to be successful, students should have a fundamental understanding of biochemistry, molecular
Survey of Art II
(Art History; 3 credits), Prof. Carolyn Phinizy; T/R 9:30-10:45 a.m.
Learn about the major two-dimensional, three-dimensional, and architectural styles and techniques of Europe, Africa, the Americas, and Asia from the 14th century to the present. This study of art history will emphasize the recognition and identification of major works of art produced in the mediums of painting, sculpture, and architecture, as well as the associated styles from each period. We will work to gain a contextual understanding of what these examples of art and architecture reveal about the cultures and societies that produced them through illustrated lectures, reading assignments, and class discussion. Students will leave this class with a strong foundational knowledge of art history and the ability to express their own reactions to works of art, from any period, with the visual language used throughout the course. The course assignments are designed to expand visual literacy by emphasizing both critical reading and writing skills.
Data Visualization: Illustrate Statistics with Eye-Catching Infographics
Module: March 29-May 1 (1.5 credits), Prof. Jeff South; T/R 2-3:15 p.m., Temple 1118
We live in a world inundated with data that can shape public opinion, impact decision making and influence the policies of governments and organizations. We can present data in ways people can easily understand with data visualizations: charts, maps, timelines and other infographics that portray the essential interpretations of complex realities. The tools for creating such visualizations have proliferated in recent years, along with the availability of “open data” from government agencies and other public sources. In this hands-on course, we will focus on finding open data, cleaning it and creating engaging visualizations, which we then will circulate on social media with appropriate context. Students will create visualizations based on data related to their majors and careers.
Drivers of Global Change
Module: Jan. 30-Mar. 1 (1.5 credits), Prof. William Godfrey; T/R 12:30-1:45 p.m., Honors College 642
Global challenges are accelerating the demand for sustainable change in every aspect of our lives. This module will provide a framework for understanding the major drivers and prioritizing critical strategies to address them.
Social Political Drama
Module: Jan. 22-Feb. 19 (1.5 credits), Prof. Addie Barnhart; Monday 7-9:40 p.m., Honors College 1303
This course module is designed around conversations spurred from contemporary plays and social issues that inspire one another. Using source material as the jumping-off point, we will discuss how life affects art and vice versa. This module focuses on how textual elements influence theatrical practices and conversations, and how theatrical events can be a way in for community change. We will tackle a number of questions, including "Why theatre, why now?"
The Honors College faculty and staff are dedicated to developing a unique program of courses that challenges and stimulates students while encouraging open discussion and individual responsibility. At times it may be appropriate for an Honors student to convert a non-Honors course into Honors by working closely with a faculty mentor to develop an Honors plan of study. The student and faculty member collaborate to adjust the standard class syllabus into an Honors version that includes more advanced work. The Honors work may be done in place of regular assignments, or could be completed in addition to the regular assignments. You and the instructor should determine and specify on the course contract what percentage of your final grade this Honors-caliber work will comprise. No more than six of the total credit hours required for graduation with Honors may be taken as contract courses.
If you are considering this option, you should first speak with your Honors advisor about the process. Your Honors advisor will alert you to typical pitfalls that students encounter as well as common reasons proposals are returned for revision. After you have identified a class that you’d like to contract as Honors, you should approach the instructor and request that he or she work with you to convert the class into an Honors class. The faculty member is under no obligation to agree. You must be prepared for the possibility that the instructor does not have time or that the instructor feels that the class is not a good option for this contract process.
Once you have made arrangements to integrate advanced study, you must submit the non-honors to honors contract, including the details of your plan and the signed approval of your instructor, to your Honors advisor. The contract must be approved by the Honors College Associate Dean prior to the first day of classes for the given semester. Proposals are due at the end of the semester prior to the semester of the contract course.
Please note that course contracts are not allowed for any of the core Honors curriculum courses. In addition, because summer courses are considerably compressed due to time constraints, they are not eligible for the Honors course contract option.
The Honors Independent study (HONR 492) provides an opportunity for you to learn more about a specific topic of interest that is not included among existing VCU course offerings. Study is conducted under the guidance of a VCU faculty mentor who assists in planning and implementing the course of study. The independent study topic should be selected in consultation with your academic advisor to ensure that the proposed course of study is relevant to your educational goals.
The number of independent study credit hours for a single HONR 492 course may range from one to four credits. The number of credits are determined by the student’s advisor and the dean of the Honors College. Any single independent study class may not exceed four credit hours. Honors students may not register for more than nine total credits of HONR 492. Independent study credits may count toward graduation with University Honors.
If you are considering this option, you should consult your Honors advisor, who can review the general procedure and go over typical pitfalls that students encounter as well as common reasons proposals are returned for revision. After you have identified a topic that you’d like to explore independently, you should research which faculty members might be available to oversee and evaluate your work. You should then reach out to the faculty member and request that they serve as your faculty mentor. It is important to note that the Honors Independent Study is designed to provide you the opportunity to pursue your own research questions, not to assist with the research of another. Although some major departments offer independent study for serving as a lab or research assistant, earning Honors independent study credit requires you to take ownership of the research process.
The role of the faculty mentor is to guide the student in the study of the topic, meeting with the student to discuss progress, working with the student’s Honors advisor as needed to develop criteria for evaluating the student’s work, and communicating the grade for the course to the Honors dean. The faculty mentor must agree to be available to the student throughout the duration of the course. The faculty member is under no obligation to agree to serve as your faculty mentor. You must be prepared for the possibility that the instructor does not have time or that the instructor feels that he or she is unable to evaluate your work.
Any assignments required for the project must be submitted to a faculty mentor at least two weeks prior to the end of the semester. The structure of the assignments will depend on the type of project and must be determined in detail as part of the proposal process. The faculty mentor will determine the grade for the course based on the evaluation criteria stated in the independent-study proposal. To obtain credit and a grade for your independent study, you must submit the outcome materials specified in your proposal to a faculty mentor. The faculty mentor will communicate your final grade via official VCU email to the Honors dean, who serves as the instructor of record for all HONR 492 courses.
Once you have made arrangements to integrate advanced study, you must submit the Independent Study proposal form, including the details of your plan and the signed approval of your faculty mentor, to your Honors advisor. The proposal must be approved by the Honors College Associate Dean prior to the first day of classes for the given semester. Proposals are due at the end of the semester prior to the semester of the contract course.