Skip to main content


Complete the Following:

Select a course number below to see 2021-22 availability, current topics, course descriptions, and GE categories.

  • HONRS 110: Intro to the Honors Experience
  • HONRS 120: Interdisciplinary Intro
  • HONRS 22x: Any three Unexpected Connections courses (Prerequisites: HONRS 110 and 120)
  • HONRS 320: Great Questions Essay Tutorial (Prerequisites: at least 2 Unexpected Connections courses.) Note: HONRS 320 is not a thesis class.
  • HONRS 310/390R or 391R: Foundations of Interdisciplinary Leadership & Leadership Practicum (Prerequisites: HONRS 110, 120 and one Unexpected Connections course)
  • HONRS 499R: Honors Thesis (Prerequisites: Approved thesis proposal)

Note: Students must earn a B grade or better in these courses to receive Honors Program credit, and maintain an overall GPA of 3.0 or higher to maintain Honors Program eligibility.
  • Intro to Honors

    Fall/Winter | Sections 1-2
    Vika Filimoeatu
    This course provides a general introduction to the Honors Program and the Honors community. Students will become familiar with program requirements, aims, opportunities, and culture through presentations, activities, and mentored advisement and will create an academic plan toward graduation with University Honors. This course may be taken concurrently with HONRS 120.
  • Introduction to Interdisciplinary Thinking

    Fall/Winter | Multiple Sections
    Spencer Magleby/Undergraduate Teaching Fellows
    This course introduces the Honors interdisciplinary curriculum. In this course, students learn to consider big or “great questions,” formulate and evaluate good research questions, and explore different disciplinary approaches to these questions through guest lecture and discussion. Students learn to identify various thinking patterns, and begin to explore interdisciplinary approaches to learning (preparation for HONRS Unexpected Connections sequence). This course may be taken concurrently with HONRS 110 and is a prerequisite for all other Honors courses that follow.
  • Unexpected Connections: Biology-Letters

    Prerequisites: HONRS 110, 120

    Fall 2021
    Section 001: "X-Mutants IRL: Evolution from Darwin to Dothraki”
    Julianne Grose/Nicole Bay
    In this course, we’ll take you on a journey that explores the evolution of life and language. We’ll learn about the history of life on the planet, starting with the formation of the earth. We’ll focus on the evolution of DNA and the structure of life. Students will get to analyze novel viruses, including local Coronavirus variants, as modern examples of evolution. We’ll also dive into the history of language and how it has evolved, zeroing in on the evolution of the Indo-European language family. We’ll see how all the structures of language change through time and contact. Students will discover their own common language patterns and trace them back to their origins. We’ll analyze the contributions of Charles Darwin, Watson and Crick, William Jones, the Brothers Grimm, and other luminaries in the fields of evolutionary biology and historical linguistics, and end the semester by exploring engineered languages and life forms and the ethical considerations that surround them.
    View Video Here!

    Winter 2022
    Section 001: "Literature and Health"
    John Talbot/Janelle Macintosh
    What if you flipped the traditional job descriptions?: “Doctors and nurses tell stories; poets and writers heal.” That would be one way of getting at what this course is about – discovering the surprising connections between health and literature, biology and culture. We’ll consider health in its physical, social, and mental aspects. We’ll explore not only the biological principles of health, disease, and death, but also how cultural meanings are created. We’ll question the relation between health and death. Through readings of literary texts – from ancient scripture to medieval epic to modern science fiction – we’ll discover how questions of health, healing, and death manifest themselves in culture, literary art, and the very language itself.

    Section 002: “This is Your Brain on Lit: Neuroscience in Literature and Film”
    Emron Esplin/Brock Kirwan
    The brain is one of the most fascinating yet least understood entities in our world. Generations of writers and scientists have speculated about and studied the brain, resulting in a rich collection of both literary and scientific works about the brain and its functions. This course will examine fictional treatments of the brain and its processes from the perspective of modern neuroscience. We will examine how the brain has been depicted in both literature and cinema and whether these depictions accurately reflect what we know to be true of the brain from modern neuroscientific findings. Selected course topics may include memory and acquired amnesia; brain injury and recovery; cognitive enhancement and unlocking brain potential; left brain/right brain, sex difference in the brain.

    Section 003: “Pandemics, Plagues, and Contagion: Literary and Scientific Perspectives”
    Marlene Esplin/Mary Davis
    This course examines human encounters with infectious disease to provide a clearer sense of the biological and cultural legacies of storied pandemics, plagues, and communicable diseases. We will contextualize recent and historical outbreaks and explore how these public health events have created or exacerbated longstanding social inequities. We will also examine how the arts and popular media influence public perceptions of disease, and students will gain experience writing about depictions of plagues and pandemics in literature, film, and popular culture. Over the course of the semester, students should gain a basic knowledge of key terms and concepts surrounding infectious disease, and they will practice identifying certain assumptions in popular and scientific literature. Together, we will examine cultural and emotional factors that complicate attaining good information and thwart effective public responses to infectious diseases and outbreaks. We aim to model how non-scientists can obtain and convey accurate information about infectious diseases, and how scientists can convey accurate information to non-scientists or a general public.
  • Unexpected Connections: Biology-Arts

    Prerequisites: HONRS 110, 120        

    Fall 2021
    Sections 1-3: “Discovering Yourself in Your Place”       
    Clint Whipple/George Handley
    This course explores the different ways in which we have imagined and understood our encounters with the biologically diverse world which we inhabit, what we commonly call our “sense of place.” These ways of seeing and knowing the world create important bonds of affection that make us feel at home and promote a sense of belonging. Developing a mature and sustainable sense of place requires the evaluation and integration of often competing and even mutually exclusive ways of understanding biodiversity and place. In this course, students will be given tools from both the humanities and biology to establish a sense of place where they currently reside. We will explore historical and current understandings of biodiversity as we investigate our local flora while we also explore religious, artistic, and philosophical representations of nature generally and in Utah in particular. Our goal is that students synthesize interdisciplinary models for understanding their place in nature that are grounded in science and guided by moral principle.

    Winter 2022
    Section 001: "Fantastic and Mythological Creatures in Life and Literature"
    Julie Allen/Jason Kenealey
    This course treats fantastic and mythological creatures, from dragons to zombies, witches, and vampires, from both a literary/cultural and a biological/chemical angle. Students will learn the basic scientific ideas upon which the possibility of such creatures rests and falls. We’ll also explore the ways in which such fantastic creatures reflect their social and historical contexts, expressing the concerns, fears, and hopes of specific cultural groups and the broader human community. Could vampires survive on an exclusive diet of blood? Would food-borne illnesses result in the erratic behavior of zombies? Can two non-magical parents produce a magically-gifted child? We’ll consider such contextual questions as how historical figures such as Vlad the Impaler and theological fears of the undead fueled myths of vampiric activity, how outbreaks of political and social panic can undermines critical thinking and rational decision-making processes, and what consequences populist definitions of in-group and out-group dynamics can have. View Video Here.
  • Unexpected Connections: Physical Science-Letters

    Prerequisites: HONRS 110, 120        

    Winter 2022
    Section 001: “Transcendent Skies: Literature and Astronomy”     
    Denise Stephens/Aaron Eastley
    From time immemorial, people have been inspired by the heavens. We have studied them, imagined and ordered them as constellations, sought the divine through them, and made them metaphors in our art. This course combines Physical Science and Letters, focusing on astronomy and the influence of the heavens on writers and readers from classical antiquity to the present. On the literary front, we will inquire into the many ways in which texts both affect and connect us. We will consider literary works spanning from Greek and Roman classics to Shakespeare, and give careful attention to Tennyson’s In Memoriam and C. S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia. On the astronomy front, we will explore how our views of science have changed. What started out as empirical observations led to physical laws where outcomes could be predicted and unseen worlds could be discovered. But as science grew and developed, small deviations from these physical laws forced us to reevaluate the unseen world and accept that science is driven by uncertainty, and at the smallest and largest scales science is still an exploration of the unknown and a desire to explain what we cannot know. This will be a hands-on, experiential, fun and deeply intellectually engaging course. We will meet primarily in the BYU planetarium, personally make some of the most famous observations first made by people like Galileo, and hope (COVID conditions permitting) to take field trips to the observatory on West Mountain and down to southern Utah, and read books like Michael Ward’s The Narnia Code and Alan Lightman’s Searching for Stars on an Island in Maine. View Video Here!

    Section 002: “Finding Truth: Disagreement and Engagement in a Complex World”
    Ryan Christensen/Karl Warnick
    Most of the information that informs our beliefs comes second-hand, and with the world growing more complex, identifying trustworthy authority is becoming ever more important. But how do we know what sources to trust? Can there be equally valid authorities that disagree? And how do we live in a society filled with disagreement and uncertainty? We will consider these questions through wide-ranging case studies from science and philosophy -- including free will versus determinism, the existence of God, climate change and global warming, bioethics and the morality of mandated vaccination, and machine learning and artificial intelligence in everyday life. The goal is to help students find solid footing in a
    polarized world where each of us has both blind spots and valuable perspectives to contribute as we engage in critical discussions and serve in our communities and vital institutions.
  • Unexpected Connections: Physical Science-Culture

    Prerequisites: HONRS 110, 120

    Not offered this year.
  • Unexpected Connections: Social Science-Letters

    Prerequisites: HONRS 110, 120

    Fall 2021
    Section 001: "The Art of Transformative Storytelling"
    Jamin Rowan/Mat Duerden
    “Stories help us make sense of the world and our place in it.” – Emily Esfahani Smith
    Students will become more capable of crafting and sharing meaningful and engaging stories about the transformations they experience as lifelong learners. The class will help students learn how to learn from their experiences by helping them develop the ability to tell transformative stories in a variety of contexts. View Video Here.

    Section 002: "Is Virtue the Same for Men and Women?"
    Jennifer Haraguchi/Grant Madsen
    The term virtue is old. It comes from the ancient Roman word vir and originally meant man or manliness (think of virility as closer to that original meaning). Yet somehow, today, we consider it a Young Women’s value. How did male virility become teenage girl’s chastity? This course answers that question. It charts the winding path of virtue through the centuries to better understand why we still use it even though it has meant very different things. Along the way we will encounter some of the Titans of political and moral thought: Cicero, Jesus, Dante, Machiavelli, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Hannah Arendt and more. When did virtue shift from a male to a female characteristic, and why? How has it gone from something we publicly exhibit to something we show only when alone and in private? Join the class and decide.
  • Unexpected Connections: Social Science-Arts

    Prerequisites: HONRS 110, 120        

    Winter 2022
    Section 001: “The Comedy of Life: Exploring Social Structures through Humor.”
    Kerry Soper/Kurt Sandholtz
    This interdisciplinary course explores how humor and comedy emerge from--and are made resonant through—social structure, including class hierarchies, gender relations, race, and other unspoken cultural codes/rules. Students will learn key theories of humor as they explore a variety of art forms and genres such as film, literature, television, comics, and theater. We’ll consider the social and cultural function of humor and how comedy reflects the dynamics between individuals, groups, and society.

    Section 002: "Playing with Reality: Investigating Deception through Games, Film, and TV."
    Derek Hansen/Jeff Parkin
    This interdisciplinary course examines the nature of reality, truth, and deception through the lens of social science, games, film, and TV. We will explore social science theories and film techniques used to persuade and deceive, including ways we intentionally and unintentionally deceive ourselves. We will identify falsehoods by examining conspiracy theories, logical fallacies, documentaries, and deception games (e.g., Mafia, Secret Hitler, Alternate Reality Games). We will engage in these ideas by collaboratively creating our own multimedia games and stories. Ultimately, the class will help students think and act based on truth, not be acted upon by those who seek to deceive.
  • Unexpected Connection: Various Topics

    Prerequisites: HONRS 110, 120        

    Fall 2021
    Section 001: “Algorithms and the Creativity of Constraints and Connections”   (LL/Letters)
    Natalie Blades/Mark Olivier
     “The enemy of art is the absence of limitations” —Orson Wells
    Creative work thrives at the intersection of freedom and constraint. Clichés about “subverting boundaries” and “thinking outside the box” presuppose a set of rules to subvert. Picasso famously encouraged the aspiring artist to “learn the rules like a pro so you can break them like an artist.” But great artists not only break rules; they invent new ones. This course explores how the introduction of constraints enhances creativity. We represent an unlikely collision of the “Languages of Learning” GE category associated with a course such as “Principles of Statistics” and the “Letters” category associated with a course such as “Literary Analysis”. Most people believe that those areas could not be further apart. One of the most compelling counter-arguments to that disciplinary division (and our point of departure for the course) is the “Oulipo” movement that began in France in 1960 as a group of writers and mathematicians in search of productive constraints. Much of Oulipo’s work is playful and puzzle-like such as the mix-and-match A Hundred Thousand Billion Poems created from a group of ten sonnets, or a 300-page novel without the letter “e”, or a simple algorithm to rewrite literature, or the same short story told ninety-nine ways. In this course, you will play with data and data visualization, you will program simple algorithms and explore discrete probability in ways that intersect with literature, cinema, and photography. From the prescriptive patterns of sonnets to the “Dogme 95” film movement’s “Vows of Chastity” against Hollywood, make-and-break rules reveal the compatibility of literary, artistic, probabilistic, and computational modes of inquiry.

    Section 003: “Flourishing through Emotional, Mental, and Social Well-Being”   (Biology/Social Science)
    Brian Hill/Carl Hanson
    Students will learn to apply design thinking and positive psychology principles to foster emotional, mental, and social well-being among individuals, families, and communities.

    Winter 2022
    Section 001: “What are the Odds?: Probability in Math and the Humanities.” (Physical Science/Arts)
    Todd Fisher/Michael Call
    This course examines how humans have attempted to address randomness, fate, chance, and probabilities from the seventeenth century to the present. Students will examine these questions through the humanities, mathematics, and science as we consider the history of probability in mathematics and science from the seventeenth century to the present. We’ll explore major works of art, literature, and music as we try to understand the historical debate regarding determinism and our changing notions of the universe, and our place in it.
  • Foundations of Interdisciplinary Leadership

    Prerequisites: HONRS 110, 120 and at least one Unexpected Connections course.     

    Fall/Winter/Sp-Su | Multiple Sections
    This course examines leadership from multiple perspectives. Leaders are found in countless settings and disciplines: business, governments, community, families, church and religious affiliations, sports, universities… the list goes on. This course will address leadership from the viewpoint that each person is a leader in multiple settings throughout his/her life. We will address leadership in three overall subsections, which will be inter-mixed throughout the course: 1) Personal or individual Leadership- “Me” as a leader; 2) Interpersonal Leadership- Leading others; 3) Organizational Leadership- Leading organizations. The purpose in combining these three subsections is that students will gain both knowledge about the practice of leadership AND will build their own very personal leadership understanding, capabilities, and skills in preparation for the Honors Leadership Practicum.
  • Great Questions Essay

    Prerequisites: HONRS 110, 120, and at least 2 Unexpected Connections Courses (22x)

    Fall/Winter | Multiple Sections      
    Julie Radle/Graduate Teaching Fellows
    This capstone to the Honors Program coursework provides group and individual instruction in researching and writing the Great Question Essay (NOT the Honors Thesis). This essay is interdisciplinary in its approach to an approved “big or “great” question of the student’s choice. Students enrolled in the course will spend most of their time researching and drafting the essay, and meet regularly with the instructor and peers for consultation, advisement and direction. Course instruction focuses on developing a great question, applying an interdisciplinary research approach using empirical, behavioral, and interpretive thinking patterns, and understanding the essay genre and style of writing this requirement hopes to foster.
  • Leadership Practicum

    Prerequisites: HONRS 310

    Fall/Winter/Sp-Su | Multiple Sections
    Students engage in a substantive leadership experience through approved interdisciplinary projects, programs, internships, or partnerships with the Honors Program. Projects provide opportunities for practical application of leadership principles, theory, and skills learned in the Honors Foundations of Interdisciplinary Leadership course (HONRS 310).
  • HONRS 391R - Student Leadership Council

    Prerequisites: By Application Only

    Fall/Winter | Section 1
    Vika Filimoeatu
    This course for students selected to serve on the Honors Student Leadership Council. Members of HSLC advance the Honors Program's Mission through activities, events, marketing, and other program initiatives to cultivate an Honors community of scholars. The council works closely with Honors Program administration and an advisor to provide student input to the program, facilitate outreach, and engage peers in both academic and social pursuits. Members of HSLC obtain hands-on leadership experience as representatives of the Honors student community.
  • Honors Thesis

    Prerequisites: Approved Thesis Proposal

    Fall/Winter/Sp-Su | Multiple Sections
    Individual advanced research and writing on an approved honors thesis topic under the direction of thesis faculty advisor and committee.