Fall 2023 Honors First Year Seminars & Launches

Course times and offerings subject to change




AMST 055H.001 | Birth and Death in the United States

TR, 9:30 am – 10:45 am. Instructor(s): Tim Marr. Enrollment = 24.
This course explores birth and death as essential human rites of passage impacted by changing American historical and cultural contexts. Since both remain defining life events beyond experiential recall, studying them in interdisciplinary ways opens powerful insights into how culture mediates the construction of bodies and social identities. Readings and assignments are designed to explore changing anthropological rituals, medical procedures, scientific technologies, and ethical quandaries. Students will choose the topics for research projects and learn how to access useful resources. We will collective explore a variety of representations of birth and death in literary expression, film, and material culture as well as investigate questions about when life begins and ends, different ways of disposing bodies and remembering individuals, and how a confrontation with the impermanence of life leads to the creation of meaning, especially for students being figuratively born again as learners at UNC.



Timothy Marr is Associate Professor and Associate Chair in the Department of American Studies, where since 2000 he has taught courses on mating and marriage, captivity, cultural memory, Muslim American literature and cultures, and tobacco. His research interests include the life and works of Herman Melville and American approaches to Islam and Muslims.


ANTH 053H.037 | 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 and on Renaissance masculinity. 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, 9:30 am – 10:45 am. 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 teacher in second grade.


CLAS 057H.001 | Dead and Deadly Women: Around the World with Greek Tragic Heroines

TR, 12:30 pm – 1:45 pm. Instructor(s): Sharon James. Enrollment = 24.
In this course, we will study the great tragic heroines of ancient Greek drama, focusing on Clytemnestra, Medea, Alcestis, Phaedra, the Trojan Women, Antigone. We will also read a contemporary novel that engages many of these mythic women. We will study the Greek tragedies intensively, along with their global reception in later art, from paintings to poems, stage productions to sculptures, operas to ballets—these plays have been adapted and engaged in virtually every part of the world. Our questions will include: why does Greek tragedy focus so intensely on women? Are the playwrights misogynists or do they express some sympathy for women?  What about these female characters grabbed the imaginations not only of ancient Greek playwrights but of later writers, painters, composers, not to mention readers?  How do these characters appeal to artists and audiences from Alaska to Asia, from Latin America to Eastern Europe?  How are their stories relevant to the 21st century?  Did the ancient Athenians know something we don’t?



Professor James specializes in Roman comedy, Latin poetry, and women in ancient Greece and Rome.  She has published many articles on these subjects, as well as a book on Roman love elegy (published in 2003); she is currently preparing a large-scale book on women in Greek and Roman New Comedy (the plays of Menander, Plautus, and Terence).  She is also the co-editor of Blackwell’s Companion to Women in the Ancient World and Women in Antiquity (a 4-volume set).  Professor James regularly teaches all these subjects at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.  Her lecture courses, CLAS/WMST 240/240H (Women in Ancient Greece) and CLAS/WMST 241/241H (Women in Ancient Rome) are cross-listed between Classics and Women’s Studies. In summer 2012 she co-directed an NEH Institute on the performance of Roman comedy. She has two elderly dogs who keep her busy at home. In 2013, she won the University’s William C. Friday/Class of 1986 Award for Excellence in Teaching; in 2021, she won the Board of Governors Teaching Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching.



EMES 072H.001 | Field Geology of Eastern California

TR, 2:00 pm – 3:15 pm. Instructor(s): Drew Coleman. Enrollment = 20.
Have you ever wanted to stand on a volcano, see a glacier, trace out an earthquake fault, or see the Earth’s oldest living things? This seminar is designed around a one-week field trip to eastern California, where students will study geologic features including active volcanoes, earthquake-producing faults, and evidence for recent glaciation and extreme climate change. Before the field trip (which will take place the week of Fall Break and be based at a research station near Bishop, California), the class will meet twice a week to learn basic geologic principles and to work on developing field research topics. During the field trip students will work on field exercises (e.g. mapping, measuring, and describing an active fault; observing and recording glacial features) and collect data for the research projects. After the field trip, students will obtain laboratory data from samples collected during the trip and test research hypotheses using field and laboratory data. Grading will be based on presentation of group research projects, and on a variety of small projects during the trip (notebook descriptions, mapping projects, etc.). Students may be required to pay some of the costs of the trip (a maximum of about $500.) This course will require missing three days of classes. The course is designed to teach basic geology “on the rocks”, so there are no prerequisites. Link to Yosemite Nature Notes video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y5RQp77uVPA



Drew Coleman’s research focuses on understanding how the Earth works by determining the rates of processes (mountain building, extinction, volcanism, etc.) that occurred in the past. To accomplish this he and his students date rocks. His teaching is inquiry based and he is most happy when he is teaching “hands on” in the field or lab.


ENGL 089H.001 | The Machine Mistake from Frankenstein to the Smartphone

MWF, 10:10 am – 11:00 am. Instructor(s): David Ross. Enrollment = 24.
Science fiction supposedly pines for gleaming gadgetry. Even at its giddiest and wonkiest, however, science fiction remembers Frankenstein. It remembers that monsters develop ideas of their own; that they wind up haunting and even hunting us; that our innovations—however seemingly benign—threaten to escape our control and comprehension and embark on whole new careers of unintended consequence. Our course traces the genealogy of this machine anxiety. Our guiding questions will be: What are machines? Are machines “natural” or “unnatural”? Are their dangers inherent? How do they change us? Is an artificially intelligent “machine” really a machine?



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.


MATH 231H.01F | Calculus of Functions of One Variable I

MWF, 11:15 am – 12:05 pm; Recitation: T, 3:30 pm – 4:20 pm. Instructor(s): Ivan Cherednik. Enrollment = 35.
Math 231 is designed to provide a detailed introduction to the fundamental ideas of calculus. It does not assume any prior calculus knowledge, but the student is expected to be proficient working with functions and their graphs as well as manipulating variable expressions and solving equations using algebra.
This is the Honors section of Math 231. It offers a more demanding and deeper treatment than the regular sections as well as more involved applications. There will be more emphasis on understanding theory than in other sections, and students will be expected to understand and reproduce proofs of theorems and formulas. In addition, this section will cover extra topics, including the epsilon-delta definition of limit. Applications will be more involved and will sometimes involve real data. Homework will be more challenging, with more emphasis on creative problem solving and less emphasis on drill. Students will be expected to complete a final project.


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. His recent papers were in financial mathematics, on modeling epidemic spread, and on some aspects of AI.


PHYS 118H.02F | Introductory Calculus-based Mechanics and Relativity

MWF, 9:05 am – 9:55 am; Recitation: TR, 10:10-12:00. Instructor(s): Amy Oldenburg. Enrollment = 30.
PHYS118 is a calculus-based introduction to Classical Mechanics. The course covers motion and kinematics in one and two dimensions, forces and Newton’s laws of motion, work-energy and conservation laws, frames of reference and Einstein’s theory of special relativity, rigid-body rotations, rolling, static equilibrium, and oscillations and waves.
The honors version of this course is differentiated by requiring a final project and presentation. Early in the semester, each honors student will identify a project of interest and submit the idea to the instructor, who will evaluate and discuss changes or other details with the student to finalize the curriculum for the semester. Suitable project choices will integrate multiple topics covered in the course and will require a detailed description and a brief literature review of relevant papers. A computational aspect is highly encouraged.



PSYC 058H.001 | The Psychology of Mental States and Language Use

TR, 2:00 pm – 3:15 pm. Instructor(s): Jennifer Arnold. Enrollment = 24.
As adults we constantly make judgments about other people’s beliefs, desires, goals, knowledge, and intentions from evidence like eye gaze and inferences from their words and actions. These judgments together can be called mindreading, or theory of mind (where “theory” refers to the theory someone might hold about another’s mental state, not a scientific theory). This information is known to guide some aspects of language use — for example, you wouldn’t ask someone to hand you “that book” if they don’t know it exists. But sometimes you might ignore what someone else does or does not know – for instance asking someone for “the red book” when that person is sitting in front of two red books. This course examines how children, adults, and individuals with autism infer other people’s mental states, and how they use it to guide decisions during speaking and understanding. This seminar will follow a discussion format.


Dr. Jennifer Arnold is a Professor in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience. She studies the ways that our minds handle the jobs of speaking and understanding. How do speakers choose words and produce them? How do listeners pick out the speaker’s meaning? Her research is guided by questions about how people represent the thoughts, intentions, and mental activities of other people, and how this information influences specific linguistic processes.


PLCY 076H.001 | Global Health Policy

TR, 3:30 pm – 4:45 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.



ROML 055H.001 | Writing with an Accent: Latino Literature and Culture

TR, 11:00 am – 12:15 pm. Instructor(s): Oswaldo Estrada. Enrollment = 24.
This seminar focuses on the literary production of Latinos living in the U.S. Using a variety of materials (essays, documentaries, films, music) and English-language texts (novels, short stories, plays, poetry) we will examine works by Chicano, Peruvian-American, Nuyorican, Central-American-American, Dominican, and Cuban-American writers. Topics to be discussed include: Latino or Hispanic? What’s in a Name?; The Politics of Bilingualism; The Search for Home in Migrant, Rural, and Urban Environments; The Many Faces of Machismo; Religion and Spirituality in Latino Communities; Forms of Prejudice and Discrimination; Music as a Cultural Bridge. All readings will be in English, though knowledge of Spanish is desirable.




Oswaldo Estrada is a Peruvian-American writer and literary critic. He is a Professor of Latin American Literature at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and has authored or edited over a dozen books of literary and cultural criticism. He is the author of a children’s book, El secreto de los trenes (2018), and of three collections of short stories, Luces de emergencia (2019; International Latino Book Awards 2020), Las locas ilusiones y otros relatos de migración (2020; International Latino and Latin American Book Fair Prize 2020), and Las guerras perdidas (2021; Gold Medal, Best Collection of Short Stories, ILBA 2022). He has recently edited the short-story collection Incurables: Relatos de dolencias y males (2020; International Latino Book Awards 2020).



WGST 067H.001 | Sexuality and Salvation

TR, 12:30 pm – 1:45 pm. Instructor(s): Sarah Bloesch. Enrollment = 24.
In Christianity and Islam, bodies populate the afterlife. What those bodies look like, how they act, what they feel, and who they engage with are subjects of contentious and long-standing debates. The various answers offered in these debates deeply affect Christian and Muslim responses to the body, sexuality, race, and gender in this life. This course examines how these two religious traditions’ diversity of histories and ideas construct theories of identity. In each tradition, we will look at attempts to dictate a wide variety of sexual norms and at the creativity followers have employed in interpreting such regulations. We examine the many ways that Muslims and Christians have used sexual practices, language, and images to enhance their devotion and pose questions about living out religion. This means analyzing how the afterlife affects earthly life, including family structures, health care debates, legal choices, questions of feminist agency, and imagery of war.


Sarah J. Bloesch (she/her) is a Teaching Assistant Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She teaches feminist and queer approaches to film, popular culture, and spirituality. Her research focuses on Christianity, gender, and race in the contemporary United States and how those aspects shape our understanding of sexuality, time, and relationships. She is the co-editor of the textbook Cultural Approaches to Studying Religion: An Introduction to Theories and Methods and loves spending time with her dog: a boxer mix, who is obviously the best puppy in the world.