Using math to understand the Netflix recommender system or investigating what prompts people to create hoaxes are topics covered in two of the innovative courses that will be developed by the inaugural class of Honors Faculty Fellows at West Virginia University.
Seven faculty were selected from a competitive field of submissions to create original courses for students in the Honors College. The Faculty Fellows program rewards professors for developing innovative curriculum while enriching the intellectual climate of the campus. The Fellows will deliver a public lecture based on their courses and participate in faculty development activities.
“We are thrilled about the high level of creativity and depth in this first set of courses from our new Fellows program,” says Ryan Claycomb, associate dean of the Honors College, who oversees the Honors Faculty Fellows Program. “These courses attest to how engaged our faculty are in tackling big ideas, and engaging our students with them from the moment students step on campus.”
The fellows and their courses are:
“Everyday Data Analysis” helps students develop critical thinking skills using math-based logic and reasoning to solve problems people face in everyday situations. They will apply math and data analysis tools to understand how recommender systems (such as Netflix and Amazon) work and to study social and environmental issues (such as crime and climate) using publicly available datasets.
Dr. Bryan C. McCannon, Economics, College of Business and Economics
“The Challenges of World Poverty” tackles a myriad of issues related to massive and persistent poverty. Students will learn about the root causes while examining questions relating to economic life at under a dollar per day, the role of government and non-government organizations. Students will have an opportunity to interact with those directly involved in reducing world poverty.
“Making Change through Politics” challenges students to connect the political process to problem solving, determining who gets what, and how allocations are made. Students will identify a problem that they are passionate about solving, connect with community resources that can help define the problem, and craft presentations designed to mobilize others in the pursuit of a solution.
Dr. Joshua Arthurs, History, Eberly College of Arts and Sciences
“The History of Now” will ask students to trace the historical roots of current problems, drawing on original research and the latest scholarship in the field. What can the history of industrialization tell us about climate change? How did colonialism and the Cold War shape today’s conflicts in the Middle East? What can past episodes of mass migration help us understand about the refugee crisis and its impact on societies? What are the roots of contemporary populism and the crisis of liberal democracy? Students will create a web-based study guide to bring their insights to a wider audience.
Renee Nicholson, Multi-Disciplinary Studies, Eberly College of Arts and Sciences
“Medicine and the Arts” makes connections between artistic production and the health sciences, examining the historical, linguistic, cultural and aesthetic contexts in which we engage in and with healthcare. The course will place particular emphasis on implementing narrative medicine approaches to health within Appalachia. Through a one-of-a-kind service-learning project tied to a grant-funded project in the cancer infusion clinic at WVU Cancer Institute, students will acquire, integrate, and synthesize knowledge of artistic expression across disciplines to see its potential to enhance medicine and healthcare.
Dr. Adam Komisaruk, English, Eberly College of Arts and Sciences
“Fakes and Frauds” poses the question, “What is authentic and why does it matter?” This course offers a series of case studies in the invention, dissemination and reception of famous hoaxes from a variety of disciplines, ranging from Thomas Chatterton’s “Rowley” poems and James Frey’s A Million Little Pieces, to Milli Vanilli lip-syncing their hit songs and the Volkswagen emissions scandal exposed at WVU. Students will explore the ways that the drive for creative expression sometimes complements, and sometimes conflicts with, the obligations of ethical citizenship.
“Whose Culture? Global Art Crime” will investigate historical and contemporary issues surrounding the destruction of cultural objects, whether for reasons of ideology, profit or simple neglect. This includes looting and the appropriation of objects for purposes of propaganda and economic gain, including illicit trafficking and selling of fakes and forgeries; and the restitution, repatriation, reconstruction, conservation, and artistic interventions of art and cultural heritage. Students will interrogate issues related to ownership of objects and competing claims to culture and the role of ethical collecting and display.
Faculty will offer these new topics within the structure of Honors Foundations courses—special topics offerings that bring cutting edge scholarship to honors students while meeting the goals of the General Education Foundations curriculum. After honing these courses in the Honors College, faculty will have the option of further developing them within the curriculum of their home departments.
“The faculty fellows program, as envisioned by Dr. Claycomb, will add another dimension to our students’ academic experience,” said Dr. Kenneth Blemings, dean of the Honors College. “Not only will students in the classroom benefit but the public lectures will engage all of our students in these timely topics.”
The Honors College enhances the undergraduate experience for high-achieving students at West Virginia University by building a community of scholars who enrich their education in the classroom and beyond.
Ryan Claycomb, associate dean,