Fall 2021 Honors First Year Seminars

Course times and offerings subject to change




ANTH 053H.001 | Darwin’s Dangerous Idea

TR, 9:30 am – 10: 45 am. Instructor(s): Paul Leslie. Enrollment = 24.
Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection is central to one of the most profound revolutions in the history of thought, generating stunning insights but also some misunderstanding and tragic abuse. This seminar aims to provide a clear understanding of how natural selection works, and how it doesn’t. We will examine objections to the theory; how the environmental and health problems we face today reflect processes of natural selection; and recent attempts to understand why we get sick, how we respond to disease, why we get old, why we choose mates the way we do, and more. Class sessions will feature a mix of lecture and discussion of concepts and issues. Students will also engage in small group projects—cooperative explorations of problems raised in class or in the readings and/or designing mini research projects.


Paul Leslie’s professional interests focus on human ecology, and he has pursued this primarily through research among nomadic peoples in East Africa. His most recent project entails studying (while nursing an aged Land Rover across the African savanna) human-environment interactions in northern Tanzania, especially how the changing land use and livelihood patterns of the Maasai people living there affect and are affected by wildlife and conservation efforts. When not teaching or practicing anthropology, he enjoys bicycling, motorcycling, woodworking, and jazz.


ARTH 055H.001 | Art, Gender, and Power in Early Modern Europe

TR, 9:30 am – 10: 45 am. Instructor(s): Tania String. Enrollment = 20.
What did it mean to be a man or to be a woman in the Renaissance? This seminar will explore the ways in which constructions of gender are critical to understandings of the visual arts in the early modern period (c. 1400-1650). We will discuss and analyze a focused group of representations of men and women: portraits, mythological and biblical paintings and sculptures, and even turn our attention to the buildings these men and women inhabited. We will study the work of artists such as Michelangelo, Donatello, Titian, Holbein, and Rubens, amongst others, to find ways of understanding how masculinity and femininity were central concerns in early modern society and in the art produced in this period.


Dr. Tania String is an art historian specializing in the art of the Tudor period in England, and the Renaissance more broadly. She is the author of numerous books and articles on the portraits of Henry VIII. Before coming to UNC in 2010 she taught in England at the University of Bristol.


BIOL 062H.001 | Mountains Beyond Mountains: Infectious Disease in the Developing World

TR, 11:00 am – 12:15 pm. Instructor(s): Mark Peifer. Enrollment = 24.
In this course we will examine the challenges of treating infectious disease in the developing world, and explore the root causes of global health care inequity.


Mark Peifer is the Michael Hooker Distinguished Professor of Biology at UNC, where he and his lab study how the animal body is assembled during embryonic development, using genetic and cell biological tools.  He was raised in Minnesota and is a first generation college student.  His interest in global public health was stimulated by a desire to help students take a closer look at the world around them, and by the experiences he has had with the people of Haiti.  He and his spouse live in the woods west of town, and his two daughters are both UNC grads, one a social worker and one a student teacher in second grade.


CLAS 055H.001 | Three Greek and Roman Epics

MWF, 9:05 am – 9:55 am. Instructor(s): James O’Hara. Enrollment = 24.
The course will involve a close reading of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey and Vergil’s Aeneid, and as a transition from Homer to Vergil, we will also read several tragedies of Sophocles from fifth-century Athens. Epic and tragedy wrestled with topics central to Graeco-Roman civilization and provided (for good or bad) influential models of heroism and human values for later ages—along with raising fundamental questions about the individual’s relationship to society. We will analyze, discuss, and write about these works both as individual pieces of literature in a historical context, and in terms of how they position themselves in the poetic tradition; after reading the Iliad and Odyssey, we’ll see how heroic myth gets reworked for democratic Athens, and then how Vergil combines Homer, tragedy and other traditions to make a new poem for his time. We will look at aspects of structure and technique, questions of overall interpretation and values, and the interplay of genre and historical setting. Requirements: discussion, short online readings in addition to the primary texts, several short papers during the term, and a 6-10-page term paper.


Professor James O’Hara received his A.B. in Classics from the College of the Holy Cross in 1981, and his Ph.D. in Classical Studies from the University of Michigan in 1986. From 1986 to 2001, he taught at Wesleyan University; since 2001 he has been the George. L. Paddison Professor of Latin at UNC, where he has also been department chair. His research and teaching interests are in Greek and Latin poetry, with special interests in Homer, Vergil, and the literature written during the reign of Rome’s first emperor, Augustus; other interests include Roman Civilization, Hellenistic poetry, didactic poetry, and satire.


DRAM 081H.001 | Staging America: The American Drama

TR, 2:00 pm – 3:15 pm. Instructor(s): Greg Kable. Enrollment = 24.
This seminar examines our national drama from its colonial origins to the present. Participants read plays and criticism, screen videos, engage in critical writing, and consider performance as related means of exploring the visions and revisions constituting American dramatic history. We will approach American drama as both a literary and commercial art form, and look to its history to provide a context for current American theater practice. Readings are chosen for their intrinsic merit and historical importance, but also for their treatment of key issues and events in American life. Our focus throughout will be on the forces that shaped the American drama as well as, in turn, that drama’s ability to shed light on the national experience.


Gregory Kable is a Teaching Professor in the Department of Dramatic Art, where he teaches dramatic literature, theatre history, and performance courses and serves as an Associate Dramaturg for PlayMakers Repertory Company. He also teaches seminars on Modern British Drama and American Musicals for the Honors program. He has directed dozens of productions at UNC and throughout the local community, and is a graduate of the Yale School of Drama.


ECON 055H.001 | Economics of Sports

MWF, 9:05 am – 9:55 am. Instructor(s): Rita Balaban. Enrollment = 24.
This course uses real-world sports stories to introduce students to the study of economics.  Through readings, lectures, discussions, personal experiences, and different activities we will use the sports industry to learn about the economic way of thinking, competitive and noncompetitive market structures, labor markets, contest design, market failure, and public finance.


Rita Balaban is a Teaching Professor in the Department of Economics at UNC-Chapel Hill where she has been a faculty member since 2006.  She earned her Ph.D. from the Department of Economics at the University of Pittsburgh in 1999 and prior to her arrival at UNC-CH, she taught at Samford University and the College of Charleston.  Rita is an experienced teacher whose teaching interests are in Applied Microeconomics, specifically the Economics of Sports.  She has won several university-wide teaching awards including the Chapman Family Award (201) and the Tanner Award (2015) for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching.  Her research interests are in economics pedagogy and she has presented her work at conferences in Wilmington, Philadelphia and San Diego.

ECON 058H.001 | Researching the Tools for Success in College

TR, 2:00 pm – 3:15 pm. Instructor(s): Jane Cooley Fruehwirth. Enrollment = 24.
In this Course-based Undergraduate Research Experience (CURE), we will study the barriers and tools for success in college. This semester we will focus on the growing mental health crisis on college campuses.  Students will synthesize existing evidence in the related literature and brainstorm potential solutions with classmates. They will choose a focal determinant/potential solution and create their own evidence on the topic.

Along with answering questions related to success that they may apply to their own college experiences and share with their peers, students will also learn the following skills:

  1. Data-story telling to effect policy change,
  2. The danger of mistaking correlation for causation,
  3. The rewards and challenges of doing research,
  4. How to synthesize findings in the primary literature without becoming overwhelmed,
  5. The power of economics to inform a range of questions.

Our discussions about causality will be grounded in economic theory and economic models will be taught as relevant to the research questions the class develops.
This course meets the Research and Discovery objective of the IDEAs in action curriculum. Students immerse themselves in a research project and experience the reflection and revision involved in producing and disseminating original scholarship or creative works.

Questions for Students

  1. How do I establish my point of view, take intellectual risks, and begin producing original scholarship or creative works?
  2. How do I narrow my topic, critique current scholarship, and gather evidence in systematic and responsible ways?
  3. How do I evaluate my findings and communicate my conclusions?

Learning Outcomes

  1. Frame a topic, develop an original research question or creative goal, and establish a point of view, creative approach, or hypothesis.
  2. Obtain a procedural understanding of how conclusions can be reached in a field and gather appropriate evidence.
  3. Evaluate the quality of the arguments and/or evidence in support of the emerging product.
  4. Communicate findings in a clear and compelling ways.
  5. Critique and identify the limits of the conclusions of the project and generate ideas for future work.


Jane Cooley Fruehwirth is an economist with research interests in the determinants of social, economic and racial inequality. A central theme to her research is the role of social context in shaping disadvantage, particularly in the context of schools and friendships. She studies education policies that are aimed at improving disadvantaged students’ outcomes, such as teaching practice, accountability and grade retention. More recently, her research delves into the determinants of mental health in adolescence. She is now teaming up with undergraduate researchers to help tackle the mental health crisis on college campuses.


ENGL 057H.001 | Future Perfect

TR, 2:00 pm – 3:15 pm. Instructor(s): Matthew Taylor. Enrollment = 24.
What will our world look like in ten years? Fifty? One hundred? Will the future be a utopian paradise or a dystopian wasteland? Through a wide-ranging survey of popular science writing, novels, and films, this first year seminar will examine fictional and nonfictional attempts to imagine the future from the nineteenth century to the present. We will explore everything from futurology and transhumanism to warnings of imminent environmental collapse. Our focus will be less on assessing the accuracy of these predictions and more on determining what they tell us about the hopes and fears of the times in which they were made. The course will culminate in a short research paper on a future-oriented topic of your choosing.


My research focuses on the intersections among environmental humanities, critical theory (including posthumanism, biopolitics, science and technology studies, and critical race theory), and nineteenth- and twentieth-century American literature. My first book, Universes without Us: Posthuman Cosmologies in American Literature (Univ. of Minnesota Press), examines cosmologies that challenge the utopianism of both past and present attempts at fusing self and environment.

ENGL 089H.001 | Close Encounters: The Science Fiction of the Shared Universe

MWF, 11:15 am – 12:05 pm. Instructor(s): David Ross. Enrollment = 24.
Darwin’s theories shattered humanity’s sense of solitary enthronement, of removal from a creation different in kind. Humanity had suddenly to think of itself in relation to a world—possibly even a universe —teeming with fellow accidents of evolution. The universe ceased to be something possessed and became something shared. But shared with whom? Shared on what basis? According to what hierarchy? Shared with creatures essentially like or unlike ourselves? Science fiction is preeminently the literature of the Darwinian universe. It emerged co-extensively, struggling to imagine the taxonomies of a universe that had been startlingly redefined as evolutionary and infinite in four dimensions. “O brave new world that has such people in it!” exclaimed Shakespeare. Science fiction uttered these same words, but with trepidation, wondering about the human place and future. Our course will consider the meanings, ramifications, and anxieties of a “shared universe,” drawing on a selection of science-fiction classics from H.G. Wells onward.


David A. Ross is a graduate of Yale and Oxford. He has been a member of the Department of English & Comparative Literature at UNC–Chapel Hill since 2002. He is the author of A Critical Companion to William Butler Yeats (2009) and the co-editor/co-translator of The Search for the Avant-Garde, 1946–1969 (2012), the descriptive catalogue of the Taipei Fine Arts Museum. A collector and amateur scholar of traditional Chinese paintings and Japanese woodblock prints, he has served as president of Southeast Conference of the Association for Asian Studies and as both editor and book review editor of the Southeast Review of Asian Studies.


GLBL 087H.001 | The Migratory Experience

TR, 11:00 am – 12:15 pm. Instructor(s): Carmen Huerta-Bapat. Enrollment = 24.
This course presents a critical analysis of the migrant experience in North America and Europe. In addition to examining theoretical explanations for migration, this course will ensure that students develop a deep, personal, and practical appreciation of migration rooted in a social justice framework. To do so, we will utilize storytelling, documentaries, and my own firsthand lived experiences as a Latina immigrant. By the end of the course, students will:

  • Develop a clear understanding of the theories driving migration and the various motivations (forced or voluntary) of individuals embarking in this journey.
  • Become familiarized with the policies implemented by sending and receiving countries.
  • Understand the reception and backlash migrants face.
  • Assess whether media portrayals of immigrants via shows such as TLC’s 90 Day Fiancé accurately represent the empirical reality of the migratory experience.

FIRST YEAR STUDENTS ONLY.. For Global Studies majors: Course can be submitted to count for the international politics or transnational cultures themes OR the Latin America or Western Europe/European Union world areas.

Huerta-Bapat holds a PhD in sociology from the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, an MA in sociology from the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, and an MA in political science from Rice University. She proudly ‘sampled’ multiple PhD programs before settling on sociology, which gives her a multi-faceted understanding of how knowledge is generated, as well as various methodological techniques. Her current research takes an interdisciplinary approach to understanding how institutions work to incorporate underrepresented racial and ethnic groups, with a particular focus on immigrant communities. Specifically, her work examines how schools, universities, and police agencies react to the arrival of new migrant communities. She is currently pursuing projects that examine police behavior toward Latino immigrants in North Carolina, the social and health impacts associated with persecutory immigration policies, the negative impacts of microaggressions on first-generation college students, and parental involvement of Latino families in public education. Dr. Huerta-Bapat is currently drawing on her social science training and lived experience as a Latina immigrant in a project with the School of Public Health at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. Her work aims to design health interventions with marginalized communities to ensure that these actions are grounded in mutual understanding and respect.


HIST 072H.001 | Women's Voices: Twentieth Century European History in Female Memory

TR, 3:30 pm – 4:45 pm. Instructor(s): Karen Hagemann. Enrollment = 24.
The seminar examines twentieth century European history through the lens of women’s autobiographical writings. It explores women’s voices from different generational, social and national backgrounds. We will read and discuss autobiographical texts by six women, who grew up in middle class families in Austria, Britain, France and Germany and wrote about their lives in the first half of the twentieth century. They all tried to make a difference in society and politics: Emmeline Pankhurst (1958-1928), a leader of the militant British suffragette movement; Alice Salomon (1872-1948), a liberal Jewish-German social reformer and activist of the German middle class women’s movement; Vera Brittain (1893-1970), a British volunteer nurse during World War I, who became after the war a peace activist and writer; Toni Sender (1888-1964), a German-Jewish socialist and one of the first female parliamentarians in Weimar Germany, who like Salomon after the Nazi’s takeover in 1933 had to flee Germany; Genevieve De Gaulle-Anthonioz (1920-2002), a French resistance fighter during World War II and a survivor of the women’s concentration camp Ravensbrück; and Ruth Klüger (1931-2020), an Austrian-Jewish student who survived Auschwitz and became a professor in the U.S. The overarching theme of the seminar is the struggle of women for equal economic, social and political rights. We will explore what effects social and political changes, revolutions and wars as well as the Holocaust had on this struggle and the lives of women in Europe more general. Through intensive discussions of the reading in class, group work and the opportunity to do research on an autobiography written by a European women born between the 1850s and 1920s of their own choice, the seminar offers students a unique approach to twentieth century European history, will introduce them to research and writing, and the resources UNC-Chapel Hill offers.


Karen Hagemann is the James G. Kenan Distinguished Professor of History and Adjunct Professor of the Curriculum in Peace, War and Defense. She published widely in Modern German, European and Transatlantic history combing political, social, cultural and military history with women’s and gender history. Her most recent English books are: Revisiting Prussia’s Wars against Napoleon: History, Culture, and Memory (Cambridge University Press, 2015); Gendering Post-1945 German History: Entanglements, ed. with Donna Harsch, and Friederike Brühöfener (Berghahn Books, 2019); and Oxford Handbook on Gender, War and the Western World since 1600, ed. with Stefan Dudink and Sonya O. Rose (Oxford University Press, 2020) (http://history.unc.edu/people/faculty/karenhagemann) and (https://hagemann.web.unc.edu/).

HIST 089H.001 | Race and Rights in the American Legal System: The Case of the Japanese American “Internment”

TR, 2:00 pm – 3:15 pm. Instructor(s): Eric Muller. Enrollment = 24.
This seminar introduces students to the workings of the American court system and examines the historical development of the constitutional norm of equal protection of the laws, using one notorious historical episode – the removal and confinement of Japanese Americans in World War II – as its central example.  Rather than presenting constitutional law as a group of static, binding pronouncements, it shows how constitutional principles evolve as a conversation among the branches of the federal government, between the federal and the state governments, and between ordinary citizens and their governments.  Along the way, the seminar offers an overview of the ways in which the law treated Asian immigrants and Asian Americans in the late nineteenth and the twentieth centuries, and poses questions about the legacy of the Japanese American imprisonment for later problems of individual rights and liberties.


Eric L. Muller is Dan K. Moore Distinguished Professor of Law in Jurisprudence and Ethics. Muller joined the UNC faculty in the fall of 1998. He has published articles in the Yale Law Journal, the Harvard Law Review, and the University of Chicago Law Review, among many other academic journals. His book “Free to Die for their Country: The Story of the Japanese American Draft Resisters of World War II,” was published in August of 2001 by the University of Chicago Press, and was named one of the Washington Post Book World’s Top Nonfiction Titles of 2001. His second book, “American Inquisition: The Hunt for Japanese American Disloyalty in World War II,” was published by the University of North Carolina Press in October of 2007.  His most recent book, “Colors of Confinement: Rare Kodachrome Photographs of Japanese American Incarceration in World War II”, published by the University of North Carolina Press in association with the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University, was profiled in the New York Times in June of 2012. It won the Joan Patterson Kerr Book Award from the Western History Association in 2013.

From 2008 through 2011, Muller served at the law school as Associate Dean for Faculty Development.  In both 2010 and 2011, he received the Frederick B. McCall Award for Teaching Excellence, voted by the graduating classes.

Muller serves as Chair of the Board of Governors of the University of North Carolina Press and is a member of the university-level Faculty Executive Committee at UNC-Chapel Hill.

From January of 2012 through December of 2015, Muller served as Director of UNC’s Center for Faculty Excellence, the campus’s faculty development center.


MATH 062H.001 | Combinatorics

TR, 12:30 pm – 1:45 pm. Instructor(s): Ivan Cherednik. Enrollment = 20.
A leading expert in Modern Combinatorics wants to share his vision of the subject with the students. The seminar is a perfect background for future specialists in mathematics, physics, computer science, biology, economics, for those who are curious what statistical physics is about, what is cryptography, and how stock market works, and for everyone who likes mathematics.

The course will be organized around the following topics:

  1. Puzzles: dimer covering, magic squares, 36 officers
  2. Combinations: from coin tossing to dice and poker
  3. Fibonacci numbers: rabbits, population growth, etc.
  4. Arithmetic: designs, cyphers, intro to finite fields
  5. Catalan numbers: from playing roulette to stock market

The students will learn about the history of Combinatorics, its connections with the theory of numbers, its fundamental role in the natural sciences and various applications.

It is an advanced research course; all students are expected to participate in projects under the supervision of I.Ch. and the Graduate Research Consultant (the GRC Program). This seminar is partially supported by Honors Carolina.

The grades will be based on the exam, bi-weekly home assignments and the participation in the projects. The course requires focus and effort, but, generally, the students are quite satisfied with the progress they make (and their grades too).

From the Course Evaluation: “A difficult but wholly worthwhile course: I feel more competent for having taken it”, “I would recommend this FYS to others ONLY if they have a VERY strong affinity for and ability in Algebra (I thought I did, but I was wrong)”.


Professor Cherednik is Austin H. Carr Distinguished Professor of Mathematics. Trained at the Steklov Mathematics Institute of the Soviet Academy of Sciences and at Moscow State University, his areas of specialization are Representation Theory, Combinatorics, Number Theory, Harmonic Analysis, and Mathematical Physics. Cherednik’s particular affection for Combinatorics is well known: he proved the celebrated Constant term conjecture in Combinatorics.


PLCY 061H.001 | Policy Entrepreneurship and Public/Private/Non-Profit Partnerships

TR, 12:30 pm – 1:45 pm. Instructor(s): Daniel Gitterman. Enrollment = 24.
This seminar will define a policy entrepreneur and examine strategies used by policy entrepreneurs to achieve policy change or innovation in the policy making process. This course also aims to explore ways that public, private, and non-profit sectors collaborate to address problems that cannot be solved by one sector alone. There is growing recognition that sustainable solutions to some of the most complex challenges confronting our communities can benefit from these collaborative or “intersector” approaches.


Daniel Gitterman is Duncan MacRae ’09 and Rebecca Kyle MacRae Professor and Chair of Public Policy at UNC-Chapel Hill. He also serves as Director of the Honors Seminar in Public Policy and Global Affairs (Washington, DC).

PLCY 076H.001 | Global Health Policy

TR, 11:00 am – 12:15 pm. Instructor(s): Benjamin Meier. Enrollment = 24.
Global health policy impacts the health and well being of individuals and peoples throughout the world. Many determinants of health operate at a global level, and many national policies, social practices, and individual health behaviors are structured by global forces. Concern for the spread of infectious diseases, increasing rates of chronic diseases and the effectiveness of health systems to provide quality care are among the daunting challenges to health policy makers.

With profound social, political and economic changes rapidly challenging global health, the aim of this course in Global Health Policy is to provide students with a variety of opportunities to understand the epidemiologic trends in world health, the institutions of global health governance, and the effects of globalization on global and national health policy.

This course provides an introduction to the relationship between international relations, global health policy and public health outcomes. The focus of this course will be on public policy approaches to global health, employing interdisciplinary methodologies to understand selected public health policies, programs, and interventions. Providing a foundation for responding to global health harms, this course will teach students how to apply policy analysis to a wide range of critical issues in global health determinants, interventions, and impacts.


Professor Meier’s interdisciplinary research—at the intersection of international law, public policy, and global health—examines the human rights norms that underlie global health policy.  In teaching UNC courses in Justice in Public Policy, Health & Human Rights, and Global Health Policy, Professor Meier has been awarded the 2011 William C. Friday Award for Excellence in Teaching, the 2013 James M. Johnston Teaching Excellence Award, the 2015 Zachary Taylor Smith Distinguished Professorship in Undergraduate Teaching, and six straight annual awards for Best Teacher in Public Policy.  He received his Ph.D. in Sociomedical Sciences from Columbia University, his J.D. and LL.M. in International and Comparative Law from Cornell Law School, and his B.A. in Biochemistry from Cornell University.


RELI 073H.001 | From Dragons to Pokemon: Animals in Japanese Myth, Folklore and Religion

TR, 2:00 pm – 3:15 pm. Instructor(s): Barbara Ambros. Enrollment = 24`.
This seminar examines the cultural construction of animals in Japanese myth, folklore, and religion. We will discuss various kinds of animals: those that occur in the natural world, those that are found in myths and folklore, and those that have appeared in popular media such as animation. We will explore how images of various animals were culturally constructed as tricksters, gods, monsters, or anthropomorphic companions; how animals were ritualized as divine, demonic, or sentient beings in Buddhism, Shinto, and folk religion; and how animals could serve as metaphors that embodied collective ideals or anxieties. Most of our readings will focus on primary and secondary texts from the Japanese tradition (in English), but we will also read theoretical texts on human-animal relationships and historical studies on animals in the larger Asian context. We will also view and analyze several Japanese films, both anime and documentaries, that deal with animals and environmental issues.


Field of specialization: Religions of Asia Research interests: Religions in early modern through contemporary Japan; gender studies; critical animal studies; place and space; and pilgrimage. Fun fact: she holds a third-degree black belt in Shotokan karate and serves as the faculty advisor for the UNC Shotokan Club.