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
Stylized image of people with thought bubbles of science icons HON 394: Science, Social Justice and Activism Spring 2019 Session C Jennifer Brian
Scene from a Bollywood movie HON 380: Bombay to Bollywood Spring 2019 Nilanjana Bhattacharjya
image of scales and gavel HON 394: Jurisprudence and Legal Reasoning Spring 2019 Adam Rigoni
Image of an ad in a subway as viewed through a curved mirror HON 394: The Anthropology of the City Spring 2019 Session C Abby Loebenberg
Image of a person that is also a tree HON 394: What is College For ? Spring 2019 Session C Michael Ostling


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.