What can comedy tell us about who we are and how we think? How can popular science fiction stories teach us about our anxieties around technology? What does the Federal Reserve actually do? What does it mean to be a caring person? These are just a few of the questions that honors students will investigate in new, innovative courses designed by the next cohort of Honors Faculty Fellows at West Virginia University.
Selected from a competitive pool of applications, these seven faculty are the second group to participate in the program. The Faculty Fellows Program encourages curricular innovation, giving faculty the opportunity to design new Honors College courses that also fit within the General Education Foundations course framework.
“Our students embrace the opportunity to ask new questions, and think a little differently,” says Dr. Damien Clement, assistant dean at the Honors College, who oversees the Honors Faculty Fellows Program. “These distinguished scholars have developed an exciting array of courses that will no doubt attract our students’ attention.”
In designing their courses, faculty were encouraged to think across disciplines and incorporate opportunities for leadership and service. Service, leadership and innovation are all integral to the Honors Foundations Program experience.
The courses will be offered during the 2018-2019 academic year. Fellows will each deliver a public lecture based on their courses, providing all WVU students and the broader community with an opportunity to engage with these topics. Fellows will also participate in interdisciplinary faculty development activities throughout the program.
The fellows and their courses are:
“Children, Families, and Public Policy” will provide students with a nuanced understanding of the role of public policies in the lives of children and families. Topics will include the policy process, policy and science, poverty, social indicators, welfare reform, teenage pregnancy, marriage and families, early childhood education, housing and juvenile justice. How effectively do public policies meet the needs of children and families? Students will explore and evaluate one issue in depth.
“Perspectives on Caring” will ask students to explore the concept of caring using theoretical, ethical, socio-political and interpersonal lenses. What does it mean to be caring? How is caring lived in the human experience? Engaging in discussions and reflections, students will learn to embody this concept, creating a personal philosophy of caring that will address how to put this philosophy into action.
“Black Mirror: The Dark Side of New Media and Technology” challenges students to explore the psychological underpinnings of people’s often troubled relationships with media and technology, using examples from the popular dystopic science fiction television series, Black Mirror, and other science fiction works. Students will receive a crash course in film analytics, applying communication and media psychology theory and research to explain the depictions of emerging technology and human behavior. Based on what they have learned, students will ultimately create a pitch for their own Black Mirror episode.
“Banking and Politics in America” will explore how politics and banking have interacted throughout American history. It will explore such areas as the politics of inflation and deflation, the debate over the powers of the Federal Reserve and the political reaction to bank bailouts. Focusing on the 2008 financial crisis, students will perform a group research project on a single large, contemporary bank, tracing the bank’s public relations, lobbying, financial statements, and other aspects before, during and after the crisis.
Derek Johnson, research assistant professor, Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering, Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources
“Energy and Its Implications” will introduce students to energy’s broader implications within multiple social contexts. Students will explore hotly debated topics such as energy efficiency, emissions, economics, ethics and climate change. The course will include lectures, trips, group discussions, experiments, project based learning, technical writing and debating. Students will also have the opportunity for exposure to ongoing research topics at the Center for Alternative Fuels, Engines and Emissions, and to collaborate with graduate students from various fields of study.
“Comedy and Cognitive Dissonance” will provide alternative take on the psychological/neurological framework through the lens of the arts and creativity. What makes people tick? How do creative artists frame the discourse and how do scientists? Students will use many kinds of comedy as their “laboratory” to examine the problem of cognition, cognitive dissonance and how the arts (specifically comedy) exploit the machinery of thought and reason for their own purposes.
From fairy tales to world building, “Storytelling with Archives” is an immersive experience in storytelling, combining elements found in theater, creative writing and journalism. Students will practice storytelling and creative journaling, ultimately using historical archives including photos, music, oral history and personally conducted interviews to build fictional stories of West Virginia that are steeped in deep historical context. Students with different majors and backgrounds will collaborate in an exciting creative experiment to design an interactive online storytelling experience.
The courses designed by the 2018-2019 Faculty Fellows provide faculty the opportunity and space to develop new curricular and teaching ideas—ideas they can later bring back to their home departments, and make available to the wider WVU student body.
“The Honors College encourages students to embrace the Honors College values of leadership, exploration and service,” said Dr. Kenneth Blemings, dean of the Honors College. “Through the Faculty Fellows program, we hope students will take the opportunity to apply these ideas within the classroom, and beyond.”
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
CONTACT: Damien Clement
Assistant Dean, Honors College
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