The following criteria will be considered for registration for all Honors Seminars:

  1. Seniors will be given priority to register for Honors seminars.
  2. We will consider the student’s progress towards the completion of their Honors Baccalaureate (i.e. number of Honors credits taken, second language fulfillment status, and a cumulative GPA of 3.5 and above).
  3. The seminar is advantageous towards the student’s field/s of study and/or future career plans.

SPECIAL NOTE: Please call or email our office to indicate your seminar preferences. We recommend selecting at least two to three seminars that interest you to ensure seminar placement.

Fall 2021 Honors Seminars

Death Becomes Us: The Mystery of Mortality and the Need for Meaning

HONR 494-001 (4 credits)

Prerequisites: HONR 201 & HONR 202, or HONR 301
Time: W/F 9:00 – 10:50 am
Place: NAH 337
Instructor: Dr. Thomas P. Donovan, Honors College

Course Description

This seminar seeks to critically explore the role of mortality awareness in the creation of cultural meaning systems. We will explore how our beliefs and values provide a crucial antidote in the face of mortality and against feelings of insignificance and meaninglessness, while also contributing to creating "made-up minds" in the face of uncertainty. We will also explore how challenges to our systems of belief often inspire defensive and aggressive responses to this perceived mortal threat and the implications for our present global reality. This course will examine how humans across cultures manage the enormity of our awareness of finitude and the efforts to give meaning to our temporary existence.

Thomas Patrick Donovan has been teaching graduate and undergraduate students since 2004, and has served as a Faculty Fellow in the Honors College at Montana State University since 2011. He holds a doctorate in Psychology and is particularly interested in the existential questions regarding living a meaningful life that inform the human condition the world over. 


Design Thinking for Our Community

HONR 494-002 (4 credits)
Prerequisites: HONR 201 & HONR 202, or HONR 301
Time: M/W 10:00-11:50 am
Place: NAH 325
Instructors: Professors Brad Stanton, Department of Industrial and Management Systems Engineering and Lucas Graf, Honors College/Music Department

Course Description

In this upper division seminar course, we explore the process of design thinking in our multidisciplinary class through solving real world problems in our community. In Fall 2018, we will be applying the design thinking process to complex problems facing our MSU community and beyond. Examples of past projects are widely varied ranging from re-designing Move-In day on campus (see to assisting community non-profits like GVLT, CHP and the Community Cafe to solve tough problems facing their organizations. While the course is open to all honors students, we are especially seeking those students in humanities, basic science, arts and architecture and business majors. The seminar is capped at 16 and no more than 50% of its students will be from any given college.

Brad taught high school English for five years before going back to school for engineering where he studied the bidirectional reflectance distribution of various snow surface morphologies as part of a NASA funded research project. He now teaches for MSU in both the Engineering and Honors Colleges. In the summers, he instructs on climbing expeditions for the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) based out of Lander, WY. Here at home, Bozeman provides the perfect balance of skiing, trail running, fishing and the more cerebral side of research and teaching. During mud season, I tinker with model trains or dither in the abstractions of things mathematical that pair well with coffee. He is interested in inspiring students to explore interdisciplinary design through collaborative efforts between educators across all colleges.

Dr. Lukas Graf is a faculty fellow in the Honors College where he has taught Text and Critics since 2015. He is also currently directing the University Chorus and teaching undergraduate voice students through the school of music. Dr. Graf also directs the Intermountain Opera chorus and the St. James Episcopal Choir in downtown Bozeman. Prior to this appointment, Dr. Graf taught Voice, Choir, and Opera at Minot State University in North Dakota. Dr. Graf received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Montana State University and holds a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Voice Performance and Pedagogy, and two Masters of Music degrees in Voice Performance and Choral Conducting from the University of Colorady-Boulder. Dr. Graf has performed and conducted opera, musical theater, in concert, and in ensembles throughout Europe and the United States. As a prior military youth and veteran, he prides himself in the work he does entertaining troops at home and abroad.

Our Nuclear Age

HONR 494-003 (4 credits)
Prerequisites: HONR 201 & HONR 202, or HONR 301
Time: T/R 8:00-9:50 am
Place: NAH 321
Instructors: Professors Brad Stanton, Department of Industrial and Management Systems Engineering and Lucas Graf, Honors College/Music Department

Course Description

This upper division seminar is a multidisciplinary dive into nuclear energy. We examine the fundamental physics, historical, cultural, political and energy implications of nuclear energy and its applications. The ultimate goal of the class is not to shape opinions on nuclear energy, but rather to provide the background knowledge, technical foundation and political backstory on this controversial technology.

Prior to beginning her 11+ year teaching career at MSU, Mandy was a R&D engineer at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Working there sparked an interest in all things nuclear that she hasn't been able to shake since. Currently Mandy is the lead instructor for EGEN 310, Multidisciplinary Engineering Design. She also co-teaches the honors version of this course, Design Thinking for Our Community, and has taught a slew of other classes in the NACOE. 


Shakespeare in Performance

HONR 494IA-001 (4 credits)
Prerequisites: HONR 201 & HONR 202, or HONR 301
Time: M/W, 3:10 – 5:00 pm
Place: NAH 329
Instructor: Professor Kent Davis

Course Description

"Discovering Shakespeare". This seminar will focus on the great works of William Shakespeare. Not only will these pieces be dissected from an academic and literary standpoint, but they will be analyzed in the way the Bard intended them to be, through performance. Led by Joel Jahnke, former artistic director of Montana's Shakespeare in the Parks for over thirty years, this seminar will analyze the works of Shakespeare from all facets including dramaturgical analysis, analysis from the actor’s perspective, including verse work and choices of interpretation, and directorial interpretation of the plays. Shakespeare's intent was never to have his plays read, but to rather be shared through performance. This course will therefore culminate in an end of the semester performance.

Kent Davis has taught in the Honors College since 2009, and has spent most of his life making stories as a writer, actor, and game designer. His novel for kids, A RIDDLE IN RUBY is slated for release by HarperCollins’ Greenwillow Books in September, 2015. He holds a B.A. in English from the University of Pennsylvania and an MFA in Theater from UC, San Diego.


The Art and Science of Medicine

HONR 494RH-01 or 494RS-01 (4 credits)
Prerequisites: HONR 201 & HONR 202, or HONR 301
Time: Monday/Wednesday, 1:10 – 3:00 pm
Place: NAH 337
Instructor: Professor Don Demetriades, Department of History and Philosophy and University Honors

Course Description

Designed for students from all academic disciplines, this seminar will focus on just how broadly and profoundly contemporary medicine touches all of our lives. It will examine the underlying principles of medicine through the lens of literature, science, art and related fields. The why of suffering and disease, the how of healing, and the role both patient and physician play in individual health will be explored. Medical professionals will be invited to visit the seminar.

Professor Demetriades is the past coordinator of the humanities curriculum for the Inteflex Program (Integrated Pre-med/Med Program) at the University of Michigan. He currently serves as an Assistant Teaching Professor for the MSU Honors College (nine years) and the History and Philosophy Dept. (fifteen years). He holds a BA in Philosophy and Classics (Michigan), an MA in Philosophy (Michigan), and was a Doctoral Candidate in Philosophy (Michigan). He is also a veteran of thirty-six marathons and twenty ultra-marathons.


Wolves in Yellowstone: A Social, Scientific and Photographic Journey

HONR 494IN-001 (4 credits)
Prerequisites: HONR 201 & HONR 202, or HONR 301
Time: Tuesday/Thursday, 9:00 – 10:50 am
Place: NAH 337
Instructor: Dr. John Winnie, Department of Ecology

Course Description

In this seminar, we will explore society's historic and current attitudes towards wolves framed in the context of wolf reintroduction in the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem. Further, we will evaluate wolves' role as ecosystem engineers by examining how they influence prey population dynamics and behavior, and in turn look at how changes in prey may be influencing plant communities. Students are expected to read, understand, synthesize and discuss content and concepts from the social and life sciences, and use this knowledge to inform opinions and positions they express verbally and in writing. In addition, over the course of the semester, students will develop natural history photography skills through a combination of in-class instruction, independent assignments, and 2-3 field trips to Yellowstone National Park and surrounding lands. Students will use their photos to illustrate the ecological effects of wolf reintroduction, and related conservation issues and controversies, in seminar presentations and their final papers.

John Winnie Jr., PhD, is an Associate Teaching Professor in the Ecology Department here at MSU. He started doing wolf and elk research in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem in 2000, publishing regularly on topics ranging from animal behavior to the influences predators have on prey population dynamics, to trophic cascades. Dr. Winnie is also an avid natural history photographer whose work has been widely published.


From Creativity to Innovation:  An Exploration of Artistic Expression Through the Creation of Art

HONR 494IA-002 (4 credits)
Prerequisites: HONR 201 & HONR 202, or HONR 301
Time: Tuesday/Thursday, 3:10 – 5:00 pm
Place: NAH 337
Instructor: Professor Paul Waldum, Honors College and Department of Education

Course Description

Through this interdisciplinary course, students will explore creativity and innovation through the creation of art through individual and group projects. Through this work, the students will develop a creative and collaborative mindset that will give rise to innovation and the expansion of knowledge in the students’ academic fields of interest. Students will be afforded hands-on opportunities for original and innovative exploration, conceptualizing, creative problem solving and critical thinking, while developing a high level of understanding of the creative process across disciplines through the creation of art. The course will culminate in a public exhibition of the students’ creative works.

Paul Waldum has taught all levels of Art Education for over 30 years. Currently he teaches for MSU in both the Honors College and College of Education. He holds a BA degree in Art Education (Montana State University), and an MS degree in Curriculum and Instruction/Art Education (Black Hills State University, South Dakota). His landscape paintings are exhibited in numerous museums and galleries throughout the West. He recently donated a 60” x 96” painting, “Spring Along Knox Ridge Road – Missouri River” for the new MSU Norm Asbjornson Hall.


The First Amendment:  Free Speech Past, Present and Future  

HONR 494IS-002 (4 credits)
Prerequisites: HONR 201 & HONR 202, or HONR 301
Time: Monday/Wednesday, 3:10 – 5:00 pm
Place:  JABS 415
Instructor: Professor Susan Dana, College of Business (Retired)

Course Description

What speech is protected by the First Amendment and what is not? What about hate speech? Incitement to lawless action? Despite a century of Supreme Court decisions interpreting the First Amendment, free speech remains a controversial issue in the United States. This course is designed to give you an understanding of the evolution of the U.S. Supreme Court’s jurisprudence of the First Amendment and to help you develop your own philosophy of free speech. The course begins with an overview of the history and theories of the First Amendment, and then moves on to some of the key areas in which the Supreme Court has grappled with these theories, including political speech, freedom of the press, defamation, offensive speech, and obscenity and indecency. We then consider some currently controversial areas, including hate speech, free speech on campus, campaign finance, and free speech on the Internet. Finally, the course explores free speech protection/regulation in other countries and alternative approaches to the First Amendment.

The course is modeled on a law school seminar in which our primary sources will be U.S. Supreme Court opinions and law review articles, supplemented by other scholarly articles and books. Discussions will be conducted through a friendly and respectful Socratic method in which we ask each other questions to better understand both legal concepts and our own underlying assumptions and values. Assignments, which will strongly emphasize critical thinking and persuasive writing, will include law school-type case briefs, leading several class discussions, written critiques of scholarly articles, an in-depth research paper on a current free speech issue, and a moot court. The course should appeal to those interested in free speech issues as well as those interested in law.

Prof. Dana has an A.B. in Classics from Brown University and a J.D. from Stanford Law School where she was the Editor-in-Chief of the Stanford Journal of International Law. She has worked for a leading Washington D.C. law firm, clerked for a judge, and taught at the University of Montana School of Law. At MSU she has taught a variety of courses at the Jake Jabs College of Business & Entrepreneurship including Introduction to Business Law, served as Associate Dean for ten years and Interim Dean for one year, and served as the MSU Pre-Law Advisor. Her research interests include human resources management, free speech in the workplace and campaign finance law. She has won numerous teaching awards at MSU, including the President’s Excellence in Teaching Award. She formally retired from MSU in December 2020 but is delighted to be able to continue to teach this First Amendment seminar in the Honors College.

Spring 2021 Honors Seminars - TBA