Honors Program

Honors Course Descriptions

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Course Descriptions (listed by USM Core curriculum category – all standard Core prerequisites apply)

College Writing:

HON 100 Thinking and Writing in Honors

This course combines the basic mechanics of a college writing course with the development of skills fundamental to all other work in Honors. The course is recommended for all entering Honors students. Prerequisite: honors student status (or permission). Cr. 3

Entry-Year Experience (EYE):

HON 101 Honors Entry-Year Experience

Each instructor uses a theme listed below to engage students in exploration of significant questions about human culture and the natural world. The course facilitates student transition to college by engaging students in active and collaborative learning that enhances their inclination and ability to view complex issues from multiple perspectives. During fall semesters students participate in the Honors Plenary Conference. Prerequisite: honors student status (or permission). Cr. 3    


Myth, Monsters, and Metamorphoses: What does it mean to be human? What is the difference between a human being and an animal, a human being and a god, a human being and the natural world? How does technology challenge our assumptions about what it means to be human? The course approaches answers to these questions from the ancient and modern worlds, including texts recognized as “foundational” or “canonical” in western intellectual tradition but expanding to include modern, post-modern, and non-western perspectives as well. As its title implies, the course interrogates texts of metamorphosis, texts whose characters challenge and in some cases transgress boundaries among the categories proposed.


Literature & Medicine: In this course, we will read literature as the basis for examining concerns of health, illness, and healing. These include the health care worker/patient relationship and its accompanying moral and ethical issues, historical approaches to healing and their implications for modern medical practices, and the cultural, racial, and gendered dimensions of these issues.The primary question that this course seeks to address is “How can literature and medicine relate to each other?” It invites us to explore similarities as well as differences among the sciences and humanities with respect to methodology (rules and procedures) and cognitive claims (claims involving thinking and perception). Finally, this course aims to make us more reflective about our own perceptual and cognitive experiences related to literature and medicine.


Culture, Identity & Education: This course focuses on the interrelationships among group affiliation, a quest for inquiry and learning, one's role in society, and one's personal identity. The course explores the basic questions of "Who are you?" and "What/who has influenced who you are and whom you wish to become?" Students will engage in a personal examination of culture and education as components of personal identity. Drawing from concepts borrowed from sociology and educational psychology, students will be asked to analyze educational materials, settings, aims, and procedures, compare these to their own successes or challenges with institutional learning, and frame their future learning goals.


Nature, Society & Self: How do I relate to the natural world? How do I relate to civil society? How do I act resolutely, self-reliantly, ethically, and in concert with nature? These questions are central to the course. Answering these questions requires being awake to the world, being capable of close observation and measurement, being self-consciously thoughtful and able to make meaning of the world around you, and being disciplined in self-reflection.


Race, Reflection, and Reality: This course draws on literature, history, law, sociology, and anthroplolgy to explore evolving conceptions of 'race' in the United States. Students will contemplate perspectives of multiple writers, theorists, and community members. Special emphasis will eb given to changing conceptions of 'race' in Maine and New England.
Experiential activities [may] include a field trip to Malaga Island, a walking tour of the Portland Freedome Trail, and participation in New Mainer's Day.

Cultural Interpretation:

HON 102 Confrontation and Cross-Fertilization among Medieval Cultures  [Also meets Core Diversity requirement]

This interdisciplinary seminar will explore the intersections between Judaic, Christian, Muslim, and non-monotheistic religious-based cultures during the Middle Ages. Prerequisite: honors student status (or permission). Cr. 3

Socio-Cultural Analysis:

HON 103 Cultural and Historical Perspectives on Poverty

In this course students will examine a wide range of texts from classical culture, early American legal and religious sources, as well as from contemporary economic and political theory about poverty--who is affected by it, what its causes are, and why it persists. Students will engage in analysis of the spiritual, political, ethical, and legal aspects of what it means to be poor. Seminars will prepare students to critically assess the historical and social attitudes towards poverty, and will include work with primary historical texts regarding the use of town farms in 19th century southern Maine as a response to chronic poverty. Required service learning at the Parkside Neighborhood Association will serve to familiarize students with contemporary controversies regarding work and poverty, public and private assistance, education and empowerment. Students will demonstrate effective communication skills through frequent writing, a researched essay, and a group presentation. Cr. 3

Quantitative Reasoning:

HON 105 An Interdisciplinary Introduction to Logic and Mathematics

This course is an introduction to logic and mathematics. It is an unusual introduction, since it transforms history, philosophy, social thought, literature, and the arts into paths for understanding logical and mathematical concepts and systems. Therein lies the course’s interdisciplinarity. These concepts and systems will be deployed to solve basic problems in everyday life and in academic research, from formally representing arguments found in scholarly texts to determining the odds of winning a hand in a game of chance to assessing scientific hypotheses. Special emphasis will be placed on developing the skill of detecting logical and statistical fallacies. Finally, the scope and limits of logical and mathematical systems will be studied. Prerequisite: successful completion of the University’s mathematics proficiency requirement and honors student status (or permission). Cr. 3

Honors Elective:

HON 198 Honors Dialogue

Students engage in thoughtful dialogue on a weekly topic (e.g., What is friendship? What is success? What does patriotism mean? Should gender matter?). We collaboratively examine the issues from multiple perspectives. Rather than reach concensus, the goal is for students to clarify their personal thinking and values. Emphasis is placed on questioning, listening, identifying-and-suspending assumptions, and developing shared meaning.  Cr. 1

Scientific Exploration:

HON 200 Honors Science Exploration:  Interdisciplinary Inquiry in the Sciences 

This seminar provides an interdisciplinary introduction to scientific discourses and practices;  topics vary by semester (e.g., the human body or water).   It combines concepts and methods of inquiry from multiple disciplines such as biology, chemistry, psychology, anthropology, ecology, history, or public policy.  These explorations are synthesized by students in an independent project.  HON 200 students must co-register for HON 201.  [Students with credit for an approved college-level lab related to the topic should register for HON 210 to take the seminar without the lab.]  Students without prior honors credits are encouraged to contact the Honors Office for permission to enroll.  Corequisite: HON 201.  Prerequisites: Any EYE course;  any Quantitative Reasoning course;  and Honors Student.   Cr. 3


HON 201  Honors Science Exploration Lab

This laboratory section is required for students taking HON 200.  The integrated sequence of weekly lab sessions enables students to apply methods of scientific inquiry from disciplines addressing that semester’s topic.  The combination of HON 200 and HON 201 fulfills USM Core's Science Exploration requirement.  Cr. 1.


HON 210 Honors Science Seminar:  Interdisciplinary Inquiry in the Sciences 

This seminar provides an interdisciplinary introduction to scientific discourses and practices;  topics vary by semester.  It combines concepts and methods of inquiry from multiple disciplines such as biology, chemistry, psychology, anthropology, ecology, or history.  These explorations are synthesized by students in an independent project.  Students without prior honors credits are encouraged to contact the Honors Office for permission to enroll.   Note: This seminar does NOT fulfill USM's Core Science requirement.  Prerequisites: Any EYE course;  any Quantitative Reasoning course;  approved science laboratory credit; and honors student.  Cr. 3

Creative Expression:

HON 175 Oral Interpretation

A course in the assimilation and analysis of literary material (poetry, prose, drama) with emphasis on the techniques used in reading written material aloud to an audience. Designed to stimulate an understanding and responsiveness to literature and to develop the ability to convey to others, through oral reading, an appreciation of that literature. Prerequisite: College Writing and EYE (either may be concurrent); honors student (or permission).  Cr. 3  Students may not receive credit for both HON 175 and THE 175.


HON 207 Illuminated Autobiography

An introduction to two creative processes – the visual and the literary – the course explores the means (shared, specialized, and complementary) by which they communicate thematic content, and the transformation through which subjective discovery becomes accessible form. Students will develop a control of structural elements within and between the two disciplines sufficient to write, illustrate, design, and publish a limited autobiographical narrative. Prerequisite: honors student status (or permission). Cr. 3

Diversity and International:

HON 310 Honors Global Ethical Inquiry [meets Core International requirement] 


Hon 102 Confrontation and Cross-Fertilization among Medieval Cultures [meets Core Diverstiy requirement]


Ethical Inquiry, Social Responsibility, and Citizenship:

HON 310 Honors Global Ethical Inquiry   [Also meets Core International requirement]

Each instructor selects a semester-long theme to engage students in critical reflection on their responsibilities for informed decision making and action in their public and private roles. Prerequisite: honors student status (or permission). Cr. 3


(HON 310) Africa, Social Justice & Exile: This course will address issues of social justice in the context of Africa and its recent Diaspora (the disbursement of its people outside of the continent). The immediate reason for our interest and concern is that all of us live together African refugees, refugees and exiles from earlier immigrations. But the stories of recent exile allow us to connect with social, economic, intellectual, and cultural issues around the world. Our examination of refugees and exiles will concentrate on certain parts of West Africa, East Africa, and Southern Africa. Many recent immigrants to Portland are from East Africa and come here as refugees. Some issues of social justice, which arise in the cases of refugees, come from the nature of the laws in the countries where they seek asylum. Cr. 3


(HON 310) Nine Billion People, One Damp Rock: Imagine nine billion consumers vying for the limited resources provided by one damp rock (Earth).  As population and consumption expand, challenges such as climate change and water scarcity intensify.  This course explores workable solutions for sustainable use of natural resources.  We consider actions for individuals, corporations, and nations, including Swedish and Indian ideas that embrace the principles of sufficiency and equity.   Prerequisite: sophomore standing (ideally 2nd semester sophomore) and honors student (or permission). Cr. 3

Miscellaneous Core Requirements or General Electives:

HON 299 Honors Topics (most sections meet a USM Core requirement) Honors program electives include departmental courses that embody the honors experience.   Honors students typically share the course with students majoring in course-related disciplines.   The course may be repeated for credit when topics differ.   Prerequisites vary by course topic, but include honors student (or permission).

HON 321 Honors Directed Research

This optional course allows an Honors student with interests in a particular subject area to research that area under the direction of a faculty supervisor. The research may be carried out in any subject area. Prerequisites: honors student status and permission. Cr. 1-3

HON 331 Honors Directed Study

This optional course allows an Honors student to design a reading course in collaboration with a faculty supervisor. It is of particular value to students with self-designed majors who may need to supplement existing courses with additional material. Prerequisites: honors student status and permission. Cr. 1-3

Capstone (six- to nine-credit thesis experience fulfills the three-credit Core capstone and provides general elective credit):

HON 311 Honors Thesis I: Workshop

To graduate with General University Honors, a student completes a multiple-semester thesis project. In the first-semester workshop, each student develops research skills, shapes a preliminary idea into a formal thesis proposal, and organizes a faculty committee to advise the student in HON 411/412. Course may be taken for credit twice. Prerequisites: three credits of honors coursework, junior standing, and Honors student status; or permission. Cr. 3

HON 411 Honors Thesis II

In the second semester, students independently execute the plan developed in HON 311, under the guidance of the thesis committee. The emphasis is on in depth reading, field work as applicable, and completion of the introductory thesis chapter and literature review. Note: it is possible to complete the thesis in HON 411, without proceeding to HON 412. Prerequisites: HON 311 (B- or higher grade) and Honors student status (or permission). Cr. 3

HON 412 Honors Thesis III

In the third and final semester, still working with their thesis committee, students write their remaining chapters; submit a completed draft; substantially revise that work based on feedback; and present their work in an oral, public defense. Prerequisites: HON 411 and Honors student status (or permission). Cr. 3

USM Honors Program

The USM Honors Program is a long-time institutional member of the National Collegiate Honors Council, the professional organization devoted to honors education.

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