University Honors Program

Live, Learn, Achieve

Honors Seminars

*Seminars will be added throughout the year so check back often.

Spring 2023 

HNRS 299-01 M 11:10am-12:00pm
Puzzles and the Mathematical Process
Department of Mathematics
Above all else, mathematics is a creative and collaborative endeavor (despite the impression we might get from our grade school experiences). In this seminar we will experience the joy of mathematics in the form of solving puzzles. The only prerequisites are an intellectual curiosity and a willingness to share ideas.
HNRS 299-02 W 4:10-5:00pm
Waves of Knowing: An Introduction to Critical Surf Studies
Ethnic Studies Department

Come and dip your toe in the waters of an exciting emerging field of academic inquiry. Critical surf studies is an interdisciplinary field that examines how power, gender, race, and empire shape the contemporary cultural world of surfing. Each week we will respond to a range of readings, films, and podcasts. An optional field trip to the coast will be part of this honors seminar programming.

HNRS 299-03 W 9:10-10:00am
The Science and Technology of Timekeeping
Physics Department

The playful question of "what is time?" comes up occasionally. The answer usually involves philosophy, religion, and even Einstein’s theories.  Let’s instead ask an easier question about time, which is "How is it measured?" whose answer is simply "with a clock." In this seminar, we'll take a whirlwind tour of the past 700 years of humankind’s quest to build clocks. We'll see how human ingenuity in both science and technology has progressed from clocks that used large rocks to tell time, to “atomic clocks” of today that use atoms to tell time. We'll also see evidence of humankind's strange and persistent need to keep ever more accurate time, and how desperately our daily lives depend on it.

HNRS 299-04 R: 10:10-11:00am
A Tour of Organic Chemistry Around Us
Chemistry Department

Organic molecules are all around us. From pharmaceuticals to pheromones to polymers to petroleum products, we encounter them daily. We will take a broad look at the diverse functions of organic compounds. In this seminar we will explore a variety of questions that organic chemistry can answer, such as: How does soap work? What clever ways do flowers attract bees for pollination? How many components give Skittles their color? How are polymers made? How do we identify substances at the scene of a crime? No prior knowledge of chemistry is required. Occasional laboratory activities (such as making nylon or isolating plant components, etc.) and/or demos will be included.

HNRS 299-05 R: 5:10pm-6:00pm
Leadership without the Title (This seminar can be used to substitute for HNRS 261)
Heather Domonoske, Transfer Center Coordinator (she/her)
Being a leader does not mean you have or need a title or formal “leadership role.” Leadership from the middle is a critical skill for creating social change, completing projects, and more. In this seminar, we will explore our personal leadership style and how that can be adjusted in various contexts and roles. We will look at the symbiotic and necessary relationship between leadership and followership. Leadership theories will be explored with an equity and identity lends so as to think about the impact not intent of our leadership and followership actions. Whether you see yourself as a leader or are unsure what leadership looks like for you, this seminar will be a great space to ask questions, reflect, and learn together
HNRS 299-06 T: 3:10pm-4:00pm
Investigating the Transatlantic Slave Trade through Original Documents
Department of History
This seminar will explore the history of the Transatlantic Slave Trade through primary sources.  More than 12 million Africans were enslaved and taken across the Atlantic aboard more than 36,000 slave ships between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries.  Approximately 1,500 of these ships – containing more than 200,000 African captives – were captured by the British Royal Navy in the nineteenth century.  The documents seized aboard these ships and the interrogations of members of their crews produced in trials at Vice Admiralty courts around the British Empire reveal important details about how the slave trade operated.  In this seminar, students will work with archival manuscript sources from the nineteenth century to explore the organization and operation of the slave trade and the efforts of abolitionists and enslaved Africans to resist it.  Optional: may be taken in conjunction with HIST 308/HNRS 308 - The Transatlantic Slave Trade. 

Winter 2023

HNRS 299-01 T: 10:10–11:00am
A Beginner’s Guide to Doing Your Own Research in Psychological Science
Department of Psychology & Child Development
What questions do you have about human behavior? Doing your own research project can help you answer them. During this seminar, we will be designing our own research studies and collecting data on topics YOU choose. We can work as individuals, small groups, or as a whole group, depending on your preferences. Past HNRS 299 groups have looked at depression among pre-med students, cross-cultural time perspectives and anxiety, vaping attitudes and behaviors at Cal Poly, and the effects of COVID-19 on relationships. Our studies have been presented at professional conferences and undergraduate research conferences and have even been published in scholarly journals. If you’ve always wanted to explore your ideas scientifically, this seminar will get you started. You don’t have to be expert in psychology or in research methods. We’ll walk through all the necessary steps together.


HNRS 299-02: M 9:10-10:00am
The Business of Beauty 
Department of History

This seminar will investigate the beauty and fashion industries from a multi-disciplinary and international approaches. We will analyze the economics of selling beauty and fashion products in high and low markets, the implications for gender relations and gender identity in a beautiful world, and the historic trends in fashion and beauty.  We will look at advertisements for their artistic value, as well as their marketing strategy. 

HNRS 299-03; W 9:10-10:00am (This seminar can be used to substitute for HNRS 261)
Leadership and Group Dynamics
Department of Experience Industry Management

“A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus, but a molder of consensus.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.  This interactive, learn by doing course is focused on leadership and group dynamics. Students will gain understanding of leadership, followership, group dynamics, communication, human development, values and ethics, and much more.  Students will examine their own leadership philosophy and perspectives while applying information they learn from class into papers and projects.  Come join this thought provoking examination of leadership and group dynamics.

HNRS 299-04 W: 12:10pm-1:00pm
Rattlesnake Rebrand”: Creating an Interdisciplinary Strategy for Improving the Reputation of a Misunderstood Animal
Department of Biological Sciences
Students in this seminar will utilize the skills from their unique majors (from biology to psychology to graphic communication, and everything in between) to work together on a campaign to improve the poor reputation of rattlesnakes among members of the public. Every year, thousands of these animals are persecuted because of their undeserved bad reputation. Led by a biology professor, this seminar is about more than just rattlesnakes; it is about how to use education and creativity to change people’s minds.
HNRS 299-05; M 3:10-4:00pm
Creativity 101
Assistant Professor
Communication Studies Department
Do you consider yourself to be a creative? A non-creative with creative tendencies? A non-creative through and through? If you identify as any of these, this seminar is for you! Creative thinking is a set of skills which can be used to illuminate and expand any problem, in any subject area and in any discipline. Together we will explore what creative thinking is and how to harness, nurture, and act upon your own creativity for both personal and professional endeavors, with the goal of achieving a more creative mindset through experiencing, imagining, critiquing, journaling, creating, observing, communicating, and sensing. Learn how to think, not what to think. All majors are welcome. Artistic ability not required. Will you join us?    
Disclaimer: This class takes a hands-on approach to teaching and learning. A willingness to embrace the creative process is required. Students will not be graded beyond participation, effort, and completion of assignments; no exams or quizzes will be given.

Fall 2022

HNRS 299-01; W 3:10-4:00pm
Taking Action on Climate Change: From the Personal to the Political
 Dr. Michael R. Boswell, Professor (he/him)
Department of City & Regional Planning
In this seminar students will investigate potential solutions to the global warming crisis. Topics will include renewable energy, energy conservation, sustainable transportation, food systems, city planning, and others. Students will examine their own carbon footprint, identify solutions, and link these solutions to broader social, economic, and political change. Students will develop personal and political action plans aimed at helping solve the climate crisis. Students will also gain a basic understanding of the science and policy around climate change.
HNRS 299-02; T 10:10am-11:00am (This seminar can be used to substitute for HNRS 261)
A Roadmap for Your Career Journey
Laura Hunkler, Counselor, Cal Poly Career Services (she/her)
Career Development is a lifelong process of learning and decision-making that brings you closer to a meaningful career and lifestyle. This course will focus on the main components of career development and readiness. We will examine how your identities, values, interests, and personality connect to and help you explore careers of interest. With a focus on interpersonal communication, building professional connections, leadership development, resumes, and interview skills this course will equip students with a roadmap for their career journey at Cal Poly and beyond.
HNRS 299-03; R 10:10am-11:00am
Dead Plants Are Good Too
Dr. Jenn Yost, Associate Professor (she/her)
Department of Biological Sciences
In this seminar students will work in the Hoover Herbarium, a museum collection of dried plant specimens.  We’ll discuss biological collections, how they're made, and what they are good for.  Students will participate with the hands on creation and curation of new specimens.  We’ll discuss biodiversity, rarity, conservation, and climate change while creating a legacy that will last hundreds of years.  


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