Small group of students with instructor

Thematic Clusters


 

A thematic cluster is a group of 3-4 non-sequential courses concerned with a single topic of contemporary and enduring significance. Collaboratively designed and independently taught by both full-time University Honors faculty and University of Maryland faculty drawn from across the university’s academic colleges and schools, each course in a cluster explores the theme from a different disciplinary perspective. Clusters are comprised of an I-series course and 2-3 satellite seminars. To complete a cluster, students must complete the I-series course (3 credits) and one of the satellite seminars (3 credits), for a total of 6 credits. Courses may be completed in any order and at any time during the cluster’s two-year lifespan.


earth iconRevolution



Our modern world is in great part the product of revolution—of sudden and sharp political changes, of dramatic transformations and turn-arounds in scientific and humanistic understanding, and of abrupt paradigm shifts in collective values, standards, and norms. This cluster interrogates the concept and practice of revolution from several different disciplinary perspectives with special attention to causes and consequences and to popularization and push-back. (This cluster will be offered throughout 2020-22.)

Course Info

HNUH 218A
Pursuits of Happiness: Ordinary Lives in the American Revolution
Rick Bell

This course is dedicated to telling the stories of ordinary people in the American Revolution, to recovering the voices and experiences of all the founders of this country whose lives and contributions have been obscured by our tendency to worship a dozen or so well-to-do and well-educated men in suits as if they alone conceived and executed the American Revolution and the founding of the United States.

So we’ll be talking this semester about the marginalized, the downtrodden, the rank and file, the rabble – all the people who never make it onto monuments or money. The point of this is to allow us all to recognize the fundamental fact that fighting a Revolution is a collective act that requires a genuine mass movement. Declaring independence on a piece of parchment on a summer’s day in Philadelphia in 1776 doesn’t mean anything unless tens of thousands of people are willing to support that cause and fight to make it a reality. To revolt, then, is not an individual act – it’s for crowds, for mobs, and for whole communities to do together. Declaring independence is a fundamentally cooperative act.

GenEd: DSHS, SCIS
Offered in: Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022
Required/Optional: Required


HNUH 218X
Uprising, Riot, Revolt: Violence in Story and Theory
Margaret Elwell

How does violence connect to revolution? Is violence the result of lone wolf actors, oppressive social structures, or just blind fate? Is it a side-effect of revolution or its driving force? Is violence a way to fight injustice, or is it a problem of evil? Why is one person’s uprising another person’s riot? In this seminar, we will explore literature, politics, and religion to debate the meaning and causes of violence. By examining the writings of a prison psychiatrist, historians, activists, theorists, and theologians alongside classic and contemporary literary works, we will disrupt common understandings of violence. In conducting interviews with community members, engaging in classroom debate, and sharing ideas in a project-poster session, we will investigate violence in the UMD community and wider DC area and propose ways toward revolutionary change.

GenEd: DSHU, DVUP
Offered in: Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022
Required/Optional: Optional


HNUH 218Y
The Science, Economics, and Governance of Climate Change: The Need For An Energy Revolution
Ross Salawitch

Hardly a day goes by without some news worthy item being reported on Earth’s changing climate. Often the stories are contradictory, tainted by parochialism and extremism, not only by the conservative and liberal media, but also by the camps of so-called believers and deniers. This seminar will begin with a review of the history of how decisions regarding human interactions with the environment have either doomed past societies to failure, or enabled long-term, sustainable success. Next we’ll examine the science that underlies global warming, in a manner accessible to non-scientists, as well as the potential consequences of a rapidly changing climate. We will then discuss the economics of large-scale provision of energy by renewable resources, which will be needed to avert climate catastrophe. During the final few weeks of this seminar, students will break into three groups, representing various parts of the world, and negotiate an international plan to transition the world energy supply to renewable resources that emit little or no greenhouse gases.

GenEd: DSNS
Offered in: Spring 2021, Fall 2021
Required/Optional: Optional


HNUH 218Z
Soundtrack to Revolution: Black Protest Music from Slave Ship to Soundcloud
La Marr Bruce

This course invites students to hear a tradition of black protest music that reverberates from the slave ship to Soundcloud and beyond. Together we will ponder how black people have created, performed, broadcast, and mobilized music for protest, self-making, community-building, cultural critique, agitation, venting, healing, and joy. We will listen to live and studio performances by Paul Robeson, Mahalia Jackson, Billie Holiday, Abbey Lincoln and Max Roach, Nina Simone, Fela Kuti, Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin, Bob Marley, Michael Jackson, Public Enemy, NWA, Lil’ Kim, Lauryn Hill, Beyoncé, Kendrick Lamar, Frank Ocean, and others. Among the questions we will ponder are the following: What does protest sound like? Does all protest happen on picket lines and must all protest music entail overt political statements set to melody? At various historical junctures, how have black people mobilized music (and art more broadly) to shape and impact their political conditions? What can music accomplish that artforms like literature and visual art cannot? How have various social justice and liberation movements—including Abolitionism, the Civil Rights Movement, the Black Power Movement, the Movement for Black Lives, and beyond—deployed music? How has new media technology transformed protest (music)? How does a revolution sound to you?

GenEd: Under review for DSHU, DVUP
Offered in: Fall 2020, Spring 2022
Required/Optional: Optional



earth iconWar & Peace



This cluster explores the phenomena of war and peace at the local, national, and international levels. It examines these concepts to address what we mean by “war” and “peace” and how they relate to one another. In addition, the cluster examines, from a range of disciplinary perspectives, why wars happen, how they develop, and how they affect individuals and societies. (This cluster will be offered throughout 2020-22.)

Course Info

HNUH 228A
Peace in Our Time? Conflict and Conflict Resolution in International Politics
David Cunningham

Is the world getting more peaceful? There are currently civil wars raging in much of the world and millions of people have fled these wars as refugees or internally displaced persons. Terrorist attacks kill thousands, and can occur in any corner of the planet. At the same time many actors use strategies such as peacekeeping, mediation, promotion of human rights and post-conflict justice to resolve conflicts and build peace.

In this course, we will examine conflict, peace, and conflict resolution in contemporary international politics. We will interrogate concepts such as peace, conflict, and violence, the different forms that these phenomena can take, and how we can measure their occurrence. We will discuss theoretical explanations for why individuals and groups have disputes and why these actors choose to use violence (or not) in these disputes and examine these arguments in specific cases. We will analyze conflict resolution strategies such as mediation, peacekeeping, and human rights promotion both theoretically and empirically. This discussion will allow students to develop an argument for whether the world is getting more peaceful, why it is or is not, and what this could mean about the future of violence and peace.

GenEd: DSHS, SCIS
Offered in: Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022
Required/Optional: Required


HNUH 228Y
Interrogating Issues of Piracy/Pirates amidst the Shadowy Landscapes of War & Peace
Dorith Grant-Wisdom

Who are pirates and what constitutes piracy in a given era? To what extent do changing notions of piracy reflect major societal transformations at the national, regional and global levels, as well as reveal the contested and often overlapping boundaries of war and peace? How can we use pirates/piracy as a “tool” to engender an historical, economic, political, social, and cultural understanding of global forces and change? Do the legends and myths surrounding infamous pirates represent the realities and relationships of early and new forms of piracy? Could piracy be conceived as a form of counterculture? To what extent do piracy, rivalry, state building, war-making, peace-making all belong on the same continuum? This course examines pirates/piracy as an integral part of major global processes. We will investigate when and why piracy emerged and flourished, and how lawbreakers and lawmakers relate to one another on the murky terrains of power, then explore alternative ways to (re)configure who is a pirate and what constitutes piracy, especially within the dynamics of neo-liberalism and globalization today.

GenEd: DSHS, DVUP
Offered in: Fall 2020
Required/Optional: Optional


HNUH 228Z
The Problem of Prejudice: Overcoming Impediments to Global Peace and Justice
Dr. Hoda Mahmoudi

What is prejudice? How are our prejudices formed? What similarities and differences are there between various forms of prejudice across race, gender, nationality, politics, religion, among others? What is the relationship between prejudice and conflict? What is the role of prejudice in thinking about issues of peace and justice? How can we better understand the role that prejudice and discrimination have in a globalizing world? What can we learn from a scientific basis of knowledge about the causes of prejudice? This course will survey interdisciplinary scholarly research and popular cultural conversations about the root causes of prejudice and discrimination. You are expected to examine empirical evidence toward formulating your own views about the impact that all forms of prejudice impose on the human condition and the role it has played in your own life. Based on research evidence, the course encourages the search for solutions to the blight of prejudice.

GenEd: DSHU
Offered in: Spring 2021, Fall 2021
Required/Optional: Optional



earth iconDeliberation



Deliberation is central to human life. Privately, we ponder important decisions, like where to attend college and what kind of life we’d like to lead. Publicly, our commitment to democracy requires that we engage in debate and civic dialogue about the important issues of the day. In this cluster, students will have the opportunity to learn about the importance of language and rhetorical strategies in public deliberation as well as about what is known about how human beings make judgments and decisions, and how some important decisions in history advanced the ends of social justice and others led to some very bad consequences. (This cluster will be offered throughout 2020-22.)

Course Info

HNUH 238A
Deliberative Democracy
Shawn Parry-Giles

How do we change our politics, save democracy, and move beyond the “us vs. them” culture that divides us? This course begins with the premise that how we talk to one another and debate controversial issues can promote the public good or erode it in irreparable ways. Students in each class session will put principles of public dialogue into practice as they learn deliberative theories and skills that can help save democracy. Class readings will turn to historical case studies to frame the most controversial political issues we face today.

GenEd: SCIS, DSHU
Offered in: Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022
Required/Optional: Required


HNUH 238X
Learning as Deliberation: The Struggle for the Future of Higher Education
Vineeta Singh

It has been nearly a millennium since European university students first gathered in halls to listen to lectures. With some technological additions (lights, whiteboards, Powerpoints), introductory courses at U.S. universities look pretty much the same. For the past few decades, financial consultants, educators, and students have questioned whether this model of learning makes sense in the 21st century. In 2020, a pandemic has given this question a new urgency. Nothing about the old way of doing things seems inevitable anymore; everything seems up for debate. Should we get rid of lecture halls? What about dorms? The SATs? Tuition?

This seminar invites students to deliberate about the current policies and politics of public higher education in the United States. We will study how ancient ideas about merit, democracy, and equity (or lack thereof) have shaped decisions about what higher education should offer and to whom. We will look to alternative traditions of learning with roots in indigenous worldviews, abolitionist organizing, and feminist collaboration, and study how these traditions have challenged and complemented public higher education. As we explore theories and practices of the past and present, students will learn to articulate and advocate for their own priorities as 21st -century citizens of UMD.

GenEd: Under review for DSHU; DVUP
Offered in: Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022
Required/Optional: Optional


HNUH 238Y
Information Weaponization: Thinking Critically in a Changing World
Doug Lombardi

Contemporary challenges—such as climate change, food, energy and water security, and deadly virus transmission—demand that people think critically. These challenges are often complex and interrelated; for example, society’s increasing demand for energy contributes to human-induced climate change, which in turn, limits freshwater and food supplies, and which in turn, could contribute to the worldwide spread of disease. While many societal challenges are seriously impacting local, regional and global communities, an increasing availability of information has contributed to what many call a “Post-Truth Era,” where emotions and personal beliefs override scientifically valid evidence and explanations. We will consider the institutional use of post-truth as a form of information weaponization. This course asks how information weaponization impacts the evaluation of valid lines of evidence and explanations. How do we evaluate and what is needed to improve individuals’ evaluations of claims in the post-truth era? Combatting mythological and unproductive thinking in the face of current change requires increased digital literacy. We will learn enhanced reasoning, evaluation skills, and critical thinking.

GenEd: DSHS
Offered in: Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022
Required/Optional: Optional



earth iconIdentity & Intersectionality



Each human being lies at the intersection of any number of vectors—race, gender, socio-economic status, nationality, age, ability, etc. The effects of these and related factors on our well-being and experience are complicated and profound. In this cluster, students have the opportunity to learn about structures of power that affect individual and group identities, social status, and choices; about how different disciplines research these intersections; and about how our identities are informed by and constructedin social media. (This cluster will be offered throughout 2020-22.)

Course Info

HNUH 248A
Identity, Places, and Spaces
Mia Smith-Bynum

Students in this interdisciplinary course will explore multi-layered issues related to privilege and oppression through their own life experiences via exposure to theory, research, film, memoirs, and current events. Students will evaluate and critique common assumptions about the meaning and experiences of privilege and oppression using Intersectionality theory as a guiding framework. The human experience related to various social identities (i.e., race, gender and gender identity, sexual orientation, social class, religion, age, and ability) will be addressed.

GenEd: SCIS, DSHS, DVUP
Offered in: Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022
Required/Optional: Required


HNUH 248X
My Hometown, Our National Parks: Identity Ecology
Heidi Scott

What has been the setting of your life? Suburbs? Cities? A farm? We may be used to thinking of environments as equal access across society, since everyone is free to visit our National Parks or spend a day at the beach. But there are striking ways in which identity affects our habitat. Race, class, gender, sexual preference, and other markers have strong influences on where we spend our time, what we eat, and how we work and relax. Suburbs, cities, wilds, and farms are not just physical places, they exhibit histories of social inclusion and exclusion. For example, the money and free time of affluent Americans serves as a portal to leisure spaces that would be inaccessible to working-class Americans who lack the ability to take time off, drive or fly long distances, and pay for it all. We’ll profile identity ecology through the poetry of African American urban naturalists, essays of wilderness-loving men like Edward Abbey, the comedy of white environmental outrage, and the racialized class tensions in resorts like Aspen, CO. This survey will support students in-depth personal exploration of identity ecology in a collaborative video media project.

GenEd: DSHU, DVUP
Offered in: Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022
Required/Optional: Optional


HNUH 248Y
How Do You "Man Up?": Men, Masculinity, and Mental Health
Monica Kearney

In August 2018, the American Psychological Association released guidelines regarding the best practices for researchers and mental health professionals when working with boys and men. Many reacted with the question, “are we treating masculinity as a mental health issue?” This course aims to answer that question by taking a historical perspective on how American society has viewed masculinity from the beginning of psychology as a field of study until present day. An intersectional approach will be taken to better understand how race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, and socioeconomic status impact men and masculinity. We will address the questions: How does one prove their manhood? How much of masculinity is biological versus socialized? What experiences are unique to men? And how do psychologists and mental health professionals understand and address mental health concerns among men?

GenEd: DSHS, DVUP
Offered in: Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022
Required/Optional: Optional