University Honors Program

Live, Learn, Achieve

Honors Seminars

An Incomplete list of 2021-2022 HNRS 299 Seminars*

*We will update course section numbers and add Spring seminars so please check back. 


HNRS 299-01; T 11:10-12:00pm
A Beginner’s Guide to Doing Your Own Research in Psychological Science
Dr. Laura Freberg, Professor
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. The studies conducted in this seminar 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; T 8:10-9:00am
Making the Most of Your Cal Poly Odyssey
Dr. Gregg Fiegel, Professor (he/him)
Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering


Have you thought about how you will make the most of this fantastic Cal Poly opportunity?  Would you like to meet and learn from peers outside your discipline?  Are you interested in learning about design thinking?  Do you like discussing interesting books?  This seminar is designed for first-year Honors students as well as a limited number of continuing students interested in serving as learning assistants/mentors.  During the quarter, we will meet each week (in-person) to reflect on two books (which will be provided to you):  Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived Joyful Life by Burnett and Evans and Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by Epstein.  The authors wrote Designing Your Life for students just like you!  It includes many fun exercises and activities designed to help you create a joyful and fulfilling college learning experience. 

HNRS 299-03; W 11:10-12:00pm
Expanding (on) Ideas of Time and Space
Dr. Louise Edwards, Assistant Professor (she/her)
Department of Physics


This seminar provides an opportunity to delve into the ideas of why time (and space) are not absolute. Spring-boarding from our own personal experiences, we will ask the following questions: How does our experience of time and space compare to what we know from today’s best scientific theories? What is light? What is nothing and everything? More specifically, we will take a qualitative approach to introducing the ideas of cosmology (the nature of the universe) through the discussion of popular articles and fundamental ideas. The main topics we cover will include selections from the following: The nature of time and light; Special relativity; The shape of the universe and general relativity; Matter in the universe (both dark matter and visible matter); The big bang and the beginning of it all; The accelerating universe and dark energy.

HNRS 299-04; R 3:10-4:00pm
Team “Rattlesnake Rebrand”: Creating an Interdisciplinary Strategy for Improving the Reputation of a Misunderstood Animal
Dr. Emily Taylor, Professor (she/her)
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 4:10-5:00
Investigating the Transatlantic Slave Trade through Original Documents
Dr. Matthew Hopper, Professor (he/him)
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, you 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.



You Can’t Pray the Gay Away”: Research Seminar on LGBTQ Religious & Political Development
Dr. R.G. Cravens, Assistant Professor (he/him)
Department of Political Science


This seminar is a research-intensive seminar in which you will actively participate in the research process by interviewing LGBTQ people about their religious and political behavior, then transcribe their interview(s). In addition to experiencing the qualitative research process, you will engage with literature from Political Science, Sociology, Social Psychology, Religious Studies, and LGBTQ Studies that focuses on the role of religion in LGBTQ identity and political development. By the end of the seminar, you will have contributed research to this body of knowledge and given voice to an understudied aspect of the LGBTQ social and political experience.


Dr. Brad Campbell, Associate Professor (he/him)
Department of English


Aristotle’s celebrated observation of an alliance between madness and creativity has enjoyed a remarkable endurance. Literary artists, in particular, seem especially keen to reinforce and riff on the philosopher’s sentiments, and writers otherwise separated by formidable degrees of space, time, and temperament find a complicated solidarity in the creative representation of mental anguish. Indeed, the history of literature may very well be history of madness, but what, after all, does an aesthetic discourse have to do with a psychiatric one? In this seminar, we will examine the mutually constitutive relationship between art and madness by engaging with a range of work from the fields of literature, cinema, history, psychology, and psychiatry, focusing specifically on the ways madness and the myriad mental illnesses it signifies are represented aesthetically and situated historically.      We will work to see the documents we examine as both reflective and productive of historically specific understandings of mental illness—ones deeply inflected by the class, gender, and racial preoccupations of their moment, and which continue to shape our understandings and experiences of madness today. Because “madness” is a richly interdisciplinary topic, this seminar should be of interest to a variety of majors, from the humanities and social sciences, to psychology, biology, and other pre-med disciplines. More broadly, this seminar warmly welcomes anyone who simply wishes to rigorously examine and discuss the histories and discourses of madness, and their impact on contemporary understandings of and conversations about theories of mental distress, competing therapeutic paradigms, juridical policies and interventions, etc.

Slave Revolt in the United States
Dr. Thanayi Jackson, Assistant Professor (she/her)
Department of History


This seminar examines revolts by enslaved people during what is commonly called The Age of Revolution. We will start in the mid-eighteenth century and move chronologically through the American Civil War as the final revolt by enslaved people in the United States. We are interested in the concept of something commonly called slave revolt. To that end, we will study revolts, but also ideas about violence, war, revolution, race, and freedom that lay at the heart of these revolts and our historical perceptions of them today. This is a history seminar, we use the historical method to understand the mechanics of change over time during the Age of Revolution.

HNRS 299-; T 3:10-4:00pm
Dead plants are good too
Dr. Jenn Yost, Associate Professor
Department of Biology
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.  
When Sports Shook the World
Dr. Stefanee Maurice, Assistant Professor (she/her)
Department of Kinesiology & Public Health

Sports are a social institution that are impacted by all aspects of society. In this seminar, we will take a critical look at some of the most important moments in the history of sports and discuss the impacts these moments have had in the world of sports and the ways we enjoy them today. One does not need to be a sports fanatic to recognize, critique, discuss and appreciate the impact of these moments on sports and their far-reaching effects in our society.


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