Course Offerings

Spring 2021 Honors Courses


HIST 170: American Pasts (Race Riots) (Section HR)


CCC: American History & Fredonia Foundations: American History / Critical Thinking & Analysis

Dr. Jennifer Hildebrand

TR 9:40 a.m.-11:00 a.m. (14972); 25 seats

Modality: Remote

Course Description: This past summer has been full of tensions and protests in response to the police killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Dominique "Rem'mie" Fells, Tony McDade, and many others.  Politicians and commentators are applying the labels that they think will help them get votes and ratings: depending on who is speaking, we might be witnessing peaceful protests aimed at remaking an unjust society or violent riots led by an amorphous group called antifa. 

Though this may feel new and unprecedented for many of us, the United States actually has a long history of protesting, uprisings, and riots that are particularly triggered by racial and ethnic injustice.  In San Francisco in the mid-nineteenth century, what began as ethnic violence directed towards Irish immigrants soon expanded to include violence against Mexican, Chilean, and Asian immigrants who sought to take advantage of opportunities presented by the Gold Rush. In 1919, 36 episodes of white violence towards black persons and property occurred across a span that includes the period that came to be known as the "Red Summer." For several days in 1992, Los Angeles burned following racial violence that is often remembered as the result of black and white tensions, but in fact represented a much more complex series of eruptions that also included Latinx individuals and Korean immigrants. The causes of these various explosions were myriad; in some cases, individuals in the majority population saw the rights of minority groups expanded in ways that they found threatening, so they turned to violence to try to uphold the status quo.  In other cases, minority populations, feeling that they had no other way to make their voices heard, took to the streets.  We will examine a narrative of American history that focuses on why and how tensions along racial lines have so frequently spilled over into mass violence and mass protest to develop a better understanding of larger processes like segregation and immigration and to ask what role whiteness has historically played in the definition of American identity.

Class Materials:  All readings for this class will be uploaded onto OnCourse.  Should you choose to print them out, your copy card will take a bit of a hit - but you will not be buying any books at the bookstore.

Assignments: Students will demonstrate their engagement with lecture and assigned readings through short writing assignments and online discussions throughout the semester.  They will prepare one presentation to share with the class on a riot/uprising in history (selected from a list provided by the instructor).  The class will culminate with a paper on the Los Angeles Riots of 1992. 


ENGL 132: Word and Sound--Songwriting (Section HR)

WATCH VIDEO (FROM 30:40 TO 38:20)

CCC & Fredonia Foundations: Arts / Creative Thinking & Innovation 

Prof. Alison Pipitone

Modality: 100% ONLINE (15049); 20 seats

Course Description: This arts-based course draws both from literary scholarship and from an understanding of the ubiquitous presence of music in our modern, interconnected society. This course will ask students to consider songwriting in several ways. First, students will explore some fundamental aspects of the sound of songwriting, including rhythm, meter, tempo, hooks, arrangement, and production. We will also consider the lyric with a focus on word choice, image, tone, voice, and patter. Next, the class will explore the role that songs have in reflecting and influencing a culture. To that end, we will consider the concept of resilience as is evidenced by influential songs of the 1930s, the 1960s, the 1980s, and into the 21st century. What do songs across so many decades have in common? What themes emerge that help to define a uniquely American sound? In addition, how is that American sound influenced by--and some would argue, created by--the technology used to create and disseminate the song? (The textbook will  serve as our jumping off point for this conversation.)

In short, the course aims to help students become skilled in decoding the role that sound plays in popular music, as well as to take on active creative roles as practitioners of sound use (and re-use) in their own texts. These experiences will help them be connected to—and critically aware of—the ways in which sound itself can be used to construct inclusive communities.

Class Materials:  

Natty, Mala (DMZ), Benjamin Zephania, “Word and Sound” (song and interviews)

“We Mean It, Maaan!: the Lost Art of the Pop Manifesto.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 29 Apr. 2010,….

Witt, Stephen. How Music Got Free: A Story of Obsession and Invention. Viking, 2016. (available for free at

Various videos, articles, other materials  TBD

Assignments: Grading is based on four major assignments along with discussion participation. Assessments include an Artist’s Statement; a Manifesto on Sound; an “answer” song (lyrics and/or music); and a collection of peer-review reflections and discussion posts based on various articles and videos.


ENGL 260: Intro to Creative Writing (Section HR) 


CCC: Arts & Fredonia Foundations: Arts/Creative Thinking & Innovation

Dr. Michael Sheehan

MWF 10:20-11:10 a.m. (13798); 20 seats

Modality: A/B/C

Course Description: This class serves as an introduction to what creative writers do. We will be working on the foundations of creative writing across genres—poetry and fiction, as well as creative nonfiction, playwriting, graphic narrative—and doing so via frequent, short exercises. The class will also include readings, discussions, and in-class peer review (workshops). One of the goals of the class is to introduce you to the tools and vocabulary you’ll need to pass on to Intermediate Creative Writing, and to make you better readers, better writers, better collaborators, and better critics (of both your own work and the work of others). The class will provide you with a writing community and will, hopefully, inspire you to challenge yourself and take risks in your own writing. The aim of this class is to introduce you to the process and the craft of creative writing while instilling a sense of play and experimentation. 

Class Materials: Heather Sellers, The Practice of Creative Writing (2nd edition); Laura van den Berg, I Hold a Wolf by the Ears (stories); Meg Day, Last Psalm at Sea Level (poems) 

Assignments: Students will complete frequent, short writing exercises; regularly update a journal with reading responses, craft analyses, and reflections on the writing process; submit completed works of creative writing in a chosen genre; read and analyze a literary magazine; attend craft talks and readings with visiting writers and write short reflective responses; and provide feedback on peers’ works-in-progress.


GEO 165 – Planet Earth (Section HR)


CCC - Natural Sciences & Fredonia Foundations - Natural Sciences / Critical Thinking and Analysis

Prof. Kim Weborrg-Benson

MWF 9:10 to 10:00 a.m. (10182); 25 seats

Modality:  Face-to-face

Course Description:  What first attracted me to Geology was looking at both large-scale models for how the Earth works as well as at the tiny details--surprises like sand under a microscope--and to see how it is all connected in this multidimensional system we call Planet Earth. We will explore large-scale tectonic movement and the unique suite of rare minerals that form as continents collide. We will explore Earth materials in the context of what they tell us about the geologic past: yes, we learn to read rocks.  This course introduces students to the many features and phenomena that help us understand Earth’s geologic history and its future. The wide range of internal and external processes operating on Earth will provide students with a heightened awareness of natural resources, climate change, and geologic hazards--increasingly important as we make our way through the 21st century.  The content is important but equally important is answering “How do they know that?”   Planet Earth is intended to emphasize how emerging facts and curious coincidences, when properly analyzed, can trigger important new concepts such as “deep” geologic time and plate tectonics and also overturn established paradigms.  

Class Materials:  Textbook, OER; Additional Reading:  The Man Who Found Time: James Hutton And The Discovery Of Earth's Antiquity by Jack Repcheck.  


WGST 201: Topics in Gender Studies (Section HR)

WATCH VIDEO (0:25 to 7:55)

CCC: Social Sciences &  Fredonia Foundations: Social Sciences / Creative Thinking & Innovation

Dr. Jeffry Iovannone

MW 4:10-5:30 p.m. (CRN 15122); 25 seats

Modality: Remote 

Course Description: This course is designed to introduce students to major topics and concepts in the study of gender and sexuality (as well as related forms of oppression such as racism, classism, and ableism) from an interdisciplinary perspective. 

The course will be structured around an exploration of four contemporary social justice movements and the central concepts or issues these movements address: (1) MeToo; (2) LGBTQ rights; (3) Body Liberation/Health at Every Size; and (4) Black Lives Matter. 

We will also question how we, as engaged citizens, can apply the knowledge gained in the classroom to work for social change in ways that are most meaningful to us. 

Class Materials: Alicia Garza, The Purpose of Power; Christy Harrison, Anti-Diet; Wendy C. Ortiz, Excavation; Alok Vaid-Menon, Beyond the Gender Binary; and various other short readings that will be available to you on OnCourse.

Assignments: Weekly reflective posts on our course blog, an online gender observation project, and a research-based final project based on Alicia Garza “Visioning” exercise (where Garza asks activists to envision the world in which they want to live, and to then work backwards to articulate the logical steps needed in order to arrive there). 


HIST 161 – Western Patterns (Citizenship & Identity in 20th-century Europe) (Section HR)

WATCH VIDEO (9:55 TO 20:53)

CCC: Western Civilization; Fredonia Foundations: Western Civilization / Creative Thinking & Innovation

Dr. John Staples

MWF 1:50 to 2:40 p.m. (14971); 25 seats

Modality: Remote

Course Description: In this course we will explore complex human problems rooted in the relationship between citizenship and individual identity from a historical perspective. We will consider divergent and contradictory perspectives that defined the scope of personal freedoms within the framework of civic responsibilities in Europe in the 20th century, while evaluating the consequences and benefits of a variety of European political systems.

Our focus is 20th-century Europe, but as you will soon realize, the challenges of European identity and citizenship offer a way to think about our own identity and citizenship. What are our obligations as citizens? What are the consequences of making bad choices? What are the consequences of failing to become involved and letting others make our choices for us? 

Class Materials: TBD

Assignments: Grades will be based on three elements:

  1. Short analyses of the relationship between specific examples of European culture (music, paintings, film, propaganda, etc.) and political movements
  2. One essay, examining the relationship between culture and politics more deeply
  3. Two exams



HONR 301: The Genius of Hamilton (Section 01)

Upper-Level Honors Seminar: The Arts

Dr. Natalie Gerber

TR 1:00 to 2:20 p.m. (15105); 25 seats

Modality: Hybrid

Course Description: Living legends from Oskar Eustis, the artistic director of the Public Theater,  to former First Lady Michelle Obama have compared Hamilton!: An American Musical to Shakespeare’s plays or simply called it “the best piece of art in any form that I have ever seen in my life.” Maybe you feel the same or are just curious why you couldn’t (can’t) get it out of your head. In this course, we’ll explore one aspect of Hamilton: its brilliant play with words--their sonic arrangement, resonant conceit, and social function. We’ll explore Miranda’s wildly complex use of rhyme and other forms of sonic pattering in context of a long tradition of such intricate effects in hip hop. We’ll also consider how the songs of Hamilton not only play brilliantly with aspects of language from sound patterning to phrasing but also pointedly critique dialectal and linguistic differences that foreground gender, socioeconomic class, race/ethnicity, and national origin (Work!). In short, we’ll see ourselves through Hamilton while learning a lot about the nature of language and dialect and their relationship to “We, the people.”

Class Materials: Hamilton!: An American Musical (soundtrack and the book); assorted materials on hip hop, language and on rhyme, including perhaps one book title. I will try to keep materials costs to $60 or less but will assume that just about everyone already owns the soundtrack.

Assignments:  annotations of songs from Hamilton; comparison of a Hamilton song to another hip hop or Broadway song; use digital tools to mark up and alter sonic features of songs; final project  (multimedia?) that is a critical, creative, or performative response to the show’s verbal artistry and its brilliant use of language to foreground differences in identity among characters. (or pitch me an equivalent idea).


HONR 303: Technology and Society (Section 01)

WATCH VIDEO (FROM 15:00 TO 23:00)

Upper-Level Honors Seminar: Social Science

Dr. Reneta Barneva

TR 2:40 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. (15106); 25 seats

Modality: Remote

Course Description: There has always been a strong, synergistic relationship between technology and society. More specifically, several technological inventions have led to deep changes in the society. For example,  the invention of the plough changed the society of hunters and gatherers to an agricultural society. The invention of the steam engine led to the Industrial Revolution. Today, we live in the Information Age. Things, which seemed impossible only two decades ago--for example, talking from any point of the world to people in other continents and seeing them--are now the norm.

In this course we will explore a number of modern technologies, such as the computer, the Internet, social networks, artificial intelligence, data mining, virtual reality, blockchain, image analysis, data analytics, the Internet of things, and others, and will discuss their impact on the society. The classes will be offered on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Every Thursday the instructor will introduce a new technology, explaining its principles and how it works. The students will research applications of the technology and on the following Tuesday some of the students will present these applications in class. A discussion on the possible benefits for society as well as the potential issues will be held. 

The objectives of the course are to stimulate the students to find the causes, reflect on the consequences, identify the societal impact of the technological changes, and evaluate the implications of technological adoption. Students will become familiar with key inventions, inventors, and entrepreneurs in the modern world; and elucidate technology’s influence in various areas, such as health services, safety and security, science, education, entertainment, transportation, and everyday life. Through this course, students will also improve their research, critical thinking, and oral communication skills.

Class Materials: A computer with a microphone, earbuds, and possibly a camera. A quiet place during class sessions (to participate in discussions). If the student does not have a computer, computers in Reed Library or Media Center (Thompson Hall) could be used. No textbook will be required.

Assignments: Presentations and participation. Depending on class size, students will present at least four times for about 10 minutes each time. If enrollment is lower, students may present more times. Students will choose presentation topics; the only requirement is for the topic to be related to the presented technology. Students must participate at least 10 times in class discussions throughout the semester. 


NEW!! HONR 303: The Supreme Court and the Constitution (Section 02)

Upper-Level Honors Seminar: Social Science

Dr. Jonathan Chausovsky

MW 3:00 p.m. to 4:20 p.m. (CRN 15177); 25 seats

Modality: Remote

Course Description: As the Election of 2020 and the battles over the appointment of Amy Coney Barrett have played out, the power of the Supreme Court may seem inestimable. But we can understand the role of the Court. In this course, we will examine the origins of the powers of the American government, especially the ability of the Supreme Court to shape national policy by limiting powers of Congress, or redefining rights--such as individual rights, states' rights, LGBTQ+ rights, or gender rights--that make sense only when we understand the power structure. We will learn to read Supreme Court opinions to explore how its interpretations of constitutional law have shaped the path to our present conflicts, and place these in the context of their political moments. Topics will include the law of slavery, civil rights, economic rights, and Presidential power. The rights issues will make sense after we establish the base structure; forum posts will provide an opportunity to connect the readings to our contemporary concerns throughout the semester.

Class Materials:  Howard Gillman, Mark Graber, and Keith Whittington. American Constitutionalism, Vol I: Powers of Government, 2nd ed. Oxford University Press. 2016. ISBN-13 : 978-0190299477 (used and rented copies are available)


Assignments: TBA


HONR 304: Evolution and Creation (Section 01)

WATCH VIDEO (FROM 23:30 to 29:30)

Upper-Level Honors Seminar: Science and Society

Dr. Thomas Hegna

MWF 11:30 a.m.-12:20 p.m. (15107); 25 seats

Modality: Hybrid

Course Description: This course investigates the often acrimonious contest between evolution and creationism as explanations for the origin of life on Earth. Judeo-Christian creationism, the dominant form of creationism in the U.S., holds that life began on Earth as recorded in the book of Genesis and has been static since that time. Evolution holds that life changes organically in response to external conditions through time. In this course, we will read primary sources, like the book of Genesis, to contemporary accounts of creationism and evolution. We will consider what both positions entail, the history of the debate, and the demarcation problem of science. We will also explore various scientific points of disagreement in depth. Activities will include reflective essays, oral presentations, surveys, discussions, and potentially a (virtual) trip to the Museum of the Earth in Ithaca, NY.

Class Materials: God’s Word or Human Reason? An Inside Perspective on Creationism, edited by J. Kane, E. Willoughby, and T. M. Keesey (2016); and Intelligent Design Creationism and Its Critics, edited by R. T. Pennock (2001)

Assignments: Students will be assessed through weekly reflective writing assignments, two short research projects, and presentations based on those projects. Students will be expected to lead at least one class discussion.


HONR 304: Spring in Fredonia (Section 02) 


Upper-Level Honors Seminar: Science and Society

Dr. Jonathan Titus

W 2:00 to 6:00 p.m. (15108); 20 seats

Modality: Face-to-face

Note: This class consists of field trips to local natural history locations -- all of which are within walking distance.  This schedule may change due to unexpected weather.  Masks must be worn at all times.  

Course Description: During spring semester in Fredonia, winter transitions into spring. Nature “awakens” and a lot of fascinating things happen out there in the fields and forests that can be seen if one takes the time to look. We will explore and take the time to look in the varied natural areas within walking distance. We will also learn the species and ecological interactions that we observe in spring time.

Class Materials:  Warm clothes, good shoes, rain coats, canteen for water, notebook for writing and drawing.  Weekly readings will be available on OnCourse and two natural history books will be read over the semester as well.  Masks must be worn at all times.  

Assignments: Assignments will be based upon journaling and presentations. The journal is a reflective document where the student will write and draw their natural history observations and integrate the weekly readings (both from articles and books) into their journaling.  In addition, on each field trip two students will give a presentation on the readings and on the site.  We will then discuss. At the end of the semester, each student will give a  20- to 30-minute presentation on a relevant topic of their choice.  


HONR 305: Heading North: Latin American Migrations to the U.S. (Section 01)


Upper-Level Honors Seminar: The Human Past

Dr. Ignacio Sarmiento Panez

TR 11:20 a.m. to 12:40 p.m. (15109); 10 seats (cross-listed with SPAN 307)

Modality: Hybrid

Course Description: Immigration is one of the most crucial aspects of present-day North America. The U.S. “migratory crisis” makes headlines in the news daily, showing ICE raids, children in detention centers, separated families, untraceable detainees, and missing children under U.S. custody. In 2019, almost one million people were apprehended by U.S. Border Patrol on the Southwest Border, including 76,000 unaccompanied minors. While today most of the Latin American immigrants originate from Central American countries, primarily from the so-called Northern Triangle (El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras), the Hispanic migration to the U.S. is a historical issue that can be traced even to the mid-19th century, to the U.S. intervention in Mexico and the Gold Rush. Today, there are over 60 million Hispanics in the U.S. (and counting), and projections say that by 2050 there will be over 100 million, which will represent 30% of the total U.S. population.   

This course aims to explore the complexities of Latin American immigration to the U.S. from a historical and cultural perspective. In particular, we will study the migration of three Hispanic communities: Mexicans, Dominicans, and Central Americans. Through the study of a variety of sources, such as film, fiction, testimonials, journalistic works, and scholarly research, students will learn about the cultural differences among these communities, the social, political, historical, and economic reasons that led to the migration of these peoples in different times in history, and also the struggles these communities face in the present day. In addition to the study and discussion of selected topics in class, this course also engages with Hispanic communities in Western New York. 

Experiences: This class aims to engage with at least three local organizations working with the Hispanic population: the International Institute of Buffalo, which assists immigrants in Western New York; Panorama Hispano, a regional newspaper for the Hispanic community; and Latino Unidos, a SUNY Fredonia student organization. We will virtually meet with them and learn about their work.

Assessments: This course includes different assignments where students can work on their synthetic, evaluative, and creative skills. Students will develop synthesis skills by writing 3- to 4- page reports by the end of each unit (three reports in total). For these reports, students must synthesize and condense studied materials and class discussions and demonstrate their understanding of each of the migration experiences studied in class. Students will develop their evaluative skills through two projects. In the first, students must choose one of the sources studied in class (a novel, a film, a poem) and produce a critical reflection, where they have to propose a hypothesis and sustain it with a body of argument. Also, students must produce a comparative analysis of two of the three communities studied. For this analysis, students must consider cultural and historical differences and similarities between these communities. For their final project, students will conduct research within the local Hispanic communities. They should interview at least one person of Hispanic origin and hear their personal story as an immigrant. Then, students will produce a reflection where they will analyze the testimony and explain it within a social and historical experience. For this assignment, students will submit a written report, and they will also find a creative form for sharing their findings with the class. Some potential choices are a video, a photo exposition, a podcast, or a performance.

Grading: synthesis reports, 30%; analysis of a source, 15%; comparative analysis, 15%; final project: 30%; class participation: 10%  


HONR 306: Applied Leadership (Section 01)


Upper-Level Honors Seminar: Interdisciplinary

Dr. Susan McNamara

TR 4:20 p.m.-5:40 p.m. (15110); 25 seats

Modality: Face-to-face

Course Description: Leadership is both an art and a science.  There are skills and models which help us understand how leaders can inspire and motivate teams to reach success.  In this course, students will increase their own leadership capacities through feedback, reflection, and practice.  Through the process, each student will be encouraged to define their own style, drawing from evidence-based models and feedback. Depending on the conditions of the semester, students will be engaged in practical applications of leadership with supportive coaching and real-time feedback.   

This class will run like a seminar, with an informal meeting atmosphere where we share excellent discussions about our thoughts and experiences from these sources. Opportunities that arise during the semester will be seized if they offer a teachable moment. Leaders in business, athletics, nonprofits, and higher education will be invited as guest speakers to share their lessons in leadership.  Students will also use readings, experiential exercises, and self-reflection to integrate their learning. Students from all majors are welcome!

Class Materials: Readings will be shared through OnCourse. A 360 survey tool will be utilized in class with an expected cost of $20 to $50.

Assignments: Assessments will be based on class and event participation, reflection journals, and presentations.


Take the next step