Signature Courses

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All Barrett students are required to complete the Barrett signature courses. Lower Division students entering the Honors College are required to complete a two-semester sequence of “The Human Event”. Incoming Upper Division students complete a one semester course entitled “The History of Ideas”. These courses are taught by the Honors Faculty Fellows.

“The Human Event” is an interdisciplinary seminar focusing on key social and intellectual currents in the development of humanity in its diversity. Students examine human thought and imagination from various disciplines, including philosophy, history, literature, religion, science, and art. Coursework emphasizes critical thinking, discussion, and argumentative writing. “The History of Ideas” has the same objectives as “The Human Event”, but is more intensive, since it is only one semester in length. The texts in The History of Ideas are generally selected based on a theme of the instructors' choosing. Both of these signature courses represent, in microcosm, the great benefits of becoming part of the Barrett Honors College – small, student-centered, seminar-style classes in which students explore the world’s greatest literature and most profound ideas with a faculty member chosen for his or her ability to facilitate lively, meaningful discussion. In this intellectually rich atmosphere, there is a bonding that takes place among students over the course of the year as they form an honors cohort.

Course title Course semester Instructor
Close-up image of a saint bernard's face HON 394: Undergraduate Research at Pathfinder Spring 2019 Leland Hartwell
Image of a seated bride HON394: Love, Hospitality, and Belonging: Lives between Europe and Asia Spring 2019 Dr. Irina Levin
image of a lung cancer cell dividing HON 494: Cancer and Evolution Spring 2019 Paul Davies
Image of dinosaurs that is hand drawn and in black and white HON 394: From Dinosaurs to Snakebites: Victorian Literature, Science, Sexuality, and Imperialism Spring 2019 Session C David Agruss
Image of the inside of a church that has been exposed to nature HON 394: Beyond the Human Spring 2019 Session C Mina Suk


Improve the student’s ability to reason critically and communicate clearly

Cultivate the student’s ability to engage in intellectual discourse through reading, writing, and discussion

Broaden the student’s historical and cultural awareness and understanding

Deepen awareness of the diversity of human societies and cultures

Instill intellectual breadth and academic discipline in preparation for more advanced study

Chronologically Expansive – We cover some of the earliest recorded texts (e.g. The Epic of Gilgamesh or the Maxims of Good Discourse) to current works (e.g. Kwame Appiah’s The Honor Code).

Extensive Geographical Coverage - We select texts that highlight key issues in human thought, which means the texts we cover are from all over the world (e.g. Tao Te Ching, Plato’s Republic, Kalidasa’s The Recognition of Sakuntala, and Chinua Achebe’s No Longer at Ease).

Focused on Human Cultural Diversity - Every effort is made to incorporate cross-cultural perspectives, non-Western texts and texts composed by women and racial/ethnic minorities (e.g. texts by early female Sufists or American slave narratives).

Student Centered – We encourage students to take the lead in these small, discussion based classes.