Fall 2024 Honors First Year Seminars & Launches

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 in the past and now; and recent attempts to understand why we get sick, how we respond to disease, why we get old, when and why we fight or help one another, 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.



CLAS 051H.001 | Greek Drama on Page & Stage

MWF, 3:35 pm – 4:25 pm. Instructor(s): Alexander Duncan. Enrollment = 24.

Taking a participatory approach to ancient Greek drama, this course pairs readings from three Athenian playwrights (Aeschylus, Euripides, and Aristophanes) with performance-oriented activities and scholarship.

At its most traditional, this course surveys the historical and cultural context of the so-called “classical” Athens of the fifth-century BCE, emphasizing the political, religious, and aesthetic forces that gave rise to humankind’s first recorded theater. More innovatively, this course probes the dual nature of theater, its distinct but intertwined existences as codified script and socially-embedded performance, through sustained investigations of some of its most influential texts and their modern reception in a global context with case studies focused on post-Apartheid South African and 21st-century Chicanx experiences.

Through a variety of original compositions (including Tweets, TikTok/FlipGrid videos, character backstories, stand-up routines, director’s notes, and scholarly analyses), students gain practical experience and theoretical insight into the ways text, performance, and culture interact. Through improvisational activities, recorded videos, and scene rehearsals, students become thespians in their own right, pressing the limits of how far performance might extend beyond the traditional stage. Class trips to Davis Library and the Forest Theater introduce first-year students to some of the academic and cultural resources UNC offers.


Al Duncan holds a B.A. in English and Classical Languages & Literature from the University of Michigan, and a Ph.D. in Classics and the Humanities from Stanford University.  Having previously taught in Classics and Comparative Literature at the University at Utah, he joined the Carolina faculty in 2015, where he teaches a variety of courses on ancient Greek language and literature and ancient Mediterranean culture.
Professor Duncan’s research focuses on performance, aesthetics, cognition, and embodiment. His first book, Ugly Productions: An Aesthetics of Greek Drama, comes out this year, and he is working on projects concerned with spectatorship, creativity, and interactions between humans and materials in the ancient Mediterranean world.



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 101H.01F | Introduction to Economics

TR, 2:00 pm – 3:15 pm; Recitation: F, 12:20 pm – 1:10 pm. Instructor(s): Sergio Parreiras. Enrollment = 30.
Introduction to fundamental issues in economics including competition, scarcity, opportunity cost, resource allocation, unemployment, inflation, and the determination of prices.

Sergio O. Parreiras research focuses on game-theoretic models of contests, tournaments, and relative performance evaluation.


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 (typically, 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.


EXSS 089H.001 | Brain Matters: The Human Computer

TR, 11:00 am – 12:15 pm. Instructor(s): Jason Mihalik. Enrollment = 24.
Brain Matters: The Human Computer will explore one of the greatest anatomical and physiological mysteries known to us: the brain. The brain contains over 100 billion neurons allowing the human brain to serve as the hub for everything we do, say, or feel. It is by far the most complex and sophisticated ‘computer’ in existence. Together, we will explore this vast unknown. We will discuss and explore topics ranging from anatomy, neurodevelopment, decision-making, maturation, disease, and other topics related to our cerebral computers. The seminar will use examples from research and mass media to complement the teaching materials in the seminar. You will have opportunities to work together, present your work, submit reaction papers, and participate in class discussion on these topics. The seminar is intended for all first-year students—regardless of intended major—interested in neuroscience.


Dr. Jason Mihalik (he/him/his) is a professor in EXSS where he directs the Matthew Gfeller Center. In these roles, he has studied civilian and military traumatic brain injury (TBI) for the past 20 years, publishing over 170 peer-reviewed publications on these topics. His work has contributed to changing rules and policies in several major sports, concussion legislation in our state, clinical programs to help Veterans and first responders, and has secured congressional funding to support ongoing military research. He is looking forward to the opportunity to translate high level neuroscience concepts into an engaging learning experience for first year Carolina students.




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

MWF, 9:05 am – 9:55 am. Instructor(s): Dmitri Khveshchenko. Enrollment = 24.
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.



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

MW, 1:25 pm – 2:40 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 of Public Policy at UNC-Chapel Hill. He also serves as Director of the Honors Seminar in Public Policy and Global Affairs (Washington, DC).


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.


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 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; animal studies; place and space; and pilgrimage.
Fun fact: she holds a fourth-degree black belt in Shotokan karate and serves as the faculty advisor for the UNC Shotokan Club.


SOCI 089H.001 | Gender Equity in STEM

TR, 12:30 pm – 1:45 pm. Instructor(s): Lauren Valentino. Enrollment = 24.
Although women now attend and graduate from college at a higher rate than men in the US, they remain underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). This course explores the causes and consequences of why women – and other gender minority individuals – are less likely to pursue education and careers in the STEM fields. To do so, we will draw on sociological insights from the study of gender, education, work and occupations, and science and technology studies. Throughout the course, students will engage with social science research as well as contemporary news articles, films, and podcasts on these topics. They will also have the opportunity to meet experts who actively work on promoting diversity in STEM as well as established women and other gender minority individuals who have pursued STEM careers. This course is open to students of all backgrounds, majors, and genders.


Dr. Lauren Valentino is an Assistant Professor in the Sociology Department at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Previously, she was an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the Ohio State University, and a postdoctoral associate at the Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University. She earned a PhD in Sociology from Duke University, a Masters degree in Sociology from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and a Bachelors degree in Sociology and French Studies from Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut. Her National Science Foundation-funded research has examined reasons for the gender gap in STEM at the undergraduate level, using longitudinal data from public school attendees in North Carolina. Based on this research, Dr. Valentino co-founded an intervention program for local students in the Triangle that aims to connect undergraduate mentors to STEM-interested middle schoolers. She has earned a Certificate in College Teaching and is the recipient of a teaching award for excellence in undergraduate instruction. You can read more about Dr. Valentino, her latest research, and the courses she teaches at her website: www.laurenvalentino.org.


WGST 067H.001 | Sexuality and Salvation

TR, 2:00 pm – 3:15 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.