top image

2019 – 2020 Honors Courses

Fall 2019, Stringer
Honors Forum Fall 2019

HONR 194U / 394H – Honors Forum Fall 2019

Meeting Time: Wednesdays 11:20-12:10.
1 Credit (Pass/Fail; repeatable), stringer.

Honors students, who come from departments across campus, do not see each other regularly, making it difficult for them to build a sense of community. Honors Forum is a one-unit stringer where Honors students will have the opportunity to engage in interdisciplinary discussions, organize and attend campus and community events, and get involved in the regional and national Honors conferences. During your career as an Honors student, you are encouraged to sign up for Honors Forum four times. These credits will count as elective credits toward most majors.

This course is designed to introduce students to interdisciplinary studies (the hallmark of Honors) and to engage students in scholarly and cultural activities on campus, in the community, and beyond. Each semester the course will focus on a different central text or texts which will serve as an entry point for interdisciplinary discussion and inquiry. Students will also attend and organize events for the UMW community.

1 Credit (Pass/Fail; repeatable), stringer.

Instructor(s): Dr. Ashley Carlson
Meeting Time: Wednesdays 11:20-12:10.
Time: Fall 2019, Stringer


Linked Freshman Experience
Fall 2019, Blocks 1 & 2

Local Water Sustainability (Block 1)
Probabilistic Modeling of Sustainability (Block 2)

HONR 194Q Local Water Sustainability (Block 1) This a general education course designed to be a first-year experience for both major and non-major students who are interested in societal and environmental issues. Across the world we are experiencing unprecedented rates of global change. From globalization to climate change humans are fundamentally altering human and natural systems. How do we promote human development while also ensuring natural resources are available for future generations? In this course, students will learn how global change is affecting people and the planet and discover the importance of environmental sustainability moving forward. The course will explore what it means to be environmentally sustainable and students will see what this looks like in practice locally through two course projects: Over the course of the block students will design and implement a local sustainability project. Through this group project, students will learn first-hand the challenges of implementing and assessing sustainability projects and will learn how to work together and problem solve to overcome these challenges. During the block students will also create a “Water Portfolio” to explore local water sustainability issues. Students will need to find and utilize online data sets for water supply and water demand variables. This water portfolio will be used in Block 2 to model local water resources and explore future scenarios promote water sustainability.

HONR 194R Probabilistic Modeling of Sustainability (Block 2) We will develop probabilistic and numerical skills to extend students’ ability to model human-water interactions in a changing environment and explore questions of environmental sustainability. The knowledge gained in the first course will allow students to make more realistic assumptions and approximations leading to more realistic models. Students will consider how changing water supply and consumption affects future projections and sustainability. The models will be used to investigate how to balance human and environmental water resources needs while also ensuring sufficient water resources for future generations.

Honors First Year Experience: Linked Courses
The subject matter in these two courses will be interrelated and each course will substitute for general education requirements in each field of study. The purpose of Honors First Year Experience is to foster extended collaboration among students engaged in the study of ideas that transcend specific disciplines. These courses will emphasize active involvement and project completion. First Year Honors Linked Courses are an excellent way to begin your undergraduate explorations of Experience One. Students must register for both classes, one after the other during Blocks 1 and 2.

HONR 194Q Local Water Sustainability (Block 1): Students must satisfy the Math Proficiency Standards (see page 8 of the catalog).
HONR 194R Probabilistic Modeling of Sustainability (Block 2) Students must satisfy the Math Proficiency Standards (see page 8 of the catalog).

General Education in Mathematics: STAT121 Probability
General Education in Science: ENSC 191 Environmental Sustainability

Instructors: Dr. Arica Crootof and Dr. Joeseph Eason
Time: Fall 2019, Blocks 1 & 2


Linked Freshman Experience
Fall 2019, Blocks 3 & 4

Into the Depths of Time: a Geological Perspective (Block 3)
Into the Experience of Time: A Literary Perspective (Block 4)

These courses will focus on the many ways that we, as humans, understand and interact with the passage of time, internally and externally, in science and in the humanistic disciplines. Both courses will also stress quality of expression, variability in expression and improving powers of observation and interpretation. Reading and writing skills will be an emphasis in both courses.

HONR 194S Into the Depths of Time: a Geological Perspective (Block 3)

As humans, time is a constraint on our existence, yet our experience on the planet has been shaped by the history of the Earth stretching back 4.6 billion years. In this course we will gain an understanding of the magnitude of time that it has taken to shape the planet and the landscapes that surround us by learning to read the stories told in the rocks and fossils preserved through the eons. To that end, we will begin the course through acquiring basic geological knowledge of rocks, minerals, fossils, plate tectonics, and surface processes so that by the end of the course each student will be able to go out and collect rocks and data that tell the history of Earth. Throughout the course we will improve our ability to make observations, increasingly using the language of geology to describe what we observe and using our own observations, with insights gained from prior scientific work, to interpret the Earth. Each day we will be engaging with real Earth materials and real Earth data, including 4 to 6 days (weather dependent) out in the spectacular geology that surrounds the University of Montana Western. Field observations, written work and outside reading are designed to begin exploring the role of time in shaping our planet and our human existence which will continue into the English portion of the course.

HONR 194T Into the Experience of Time: A Literary Perspective (Block 4)

In this course students will study a variety of literary works dealing with time in interesting ways, including differing experiences of time’s passage and measurement, the nature of memory, and varying cultural understandings of life, growth, maturation, and death. Texts will range from Romantic poetry to science fiction to contemporary memoir, with an emphasis on how authors render experience through time. The course will take an interdisciplinary approach, blending philosophy, literature, and cultural studies with the content from the linked geology course. Students will engage in both analytical and creative writing projects.

Honors First Year Experience: Linked Courses
The subject matter in these two courses will be interrelated and each course will substitute for general education requirements in each field of study. The purpose of Honors First Year Experience is to foster extended collaboration among students engaged in the study of ideas that transcend specific disciplines. These courses will emphasize active involvement and project completion. First Year Honors Linked Courses are an excellent way to begin your undergraduate explorations of Experience One. Students must register for both classes, one after the other during Blocks 3 and 4.


General Education in English: Lit 163: Science Fiction and Fantasy (Humanities: Literary and Artistic Studies)
General Education in Science: GEO 101/103/107

Instructors: Dr. Rebekah Levine and Dr. Brian Elliot
Time: Fall 2019, Blocks 3 & 4


Fall 2019, Stringer
HONR 294M / 494M Red-Green Harvests: Ideology and the Death of Nature

The history of the environment under Polish communist rule is a story of exploitation, degradation, and disregard. The region immediately in and around the medieval city of Krakow, in particular, became an ecological disaster area. Industrialized and hyperurbanized in order to become a showpiece of Marxist progress and development, Krakow instead became a polluted symbol of human callousness and irresponsibility.

The transformation of Krakow from what communists regarded as a conservative, sleepy, and bucolic backwater into a modern Marxist metropolis began with the construction of Nowa Huta in 1949. Built on farmland that was only seven kilometers from Krakow’s old town square, Nowa Huta quickly became a new bustling industrial district of the city. By 1956 the population of this district reached 100,000, and at the center of Nowa Huta stood the sprawling Huta im. Lenina (Lenin Steelworks). Each year the mill forged millions of tons of steel. Little or no thought was given to the mill’s impact on the environment.

Studies conducted in the 1970s show that the Lenin Steelworks generated stupefying levels of pollution. Millions of tons of cadmium, lead, zinc, iron, and other heavy metals were annually emitted directly into the atmosphere and local waterways. When compared to current EPA standards for acceptable heavy metal soil concentrations, Krakow’s soil contained 143 times the norm for cadmium, 20 times the norm for lead, 27 times the norm for zinc, and 14 times the norm for iron. The entire ecosystem was choked with poisonous levels of SO2 and NO2, and the health and populations of local flora and fauna were decimated. It is no wonder that under such conditions Krakow became ground zero for an unprecedented public health emergency with skyrocketing rates of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and a variety of other medical maladies.

Yet despite being officially deemed an “ecological hazard area” by the government, local, regional, and national communist authorities did absolutely nothing to mitigate the deadly and devastating pollution that plagued Krakow and its environs. How can one explain such official irresponsibility?

As a system of thought, Marxism continued and accelerated the Enlightenment’s objectification of Nature, and the Enlightenment’s hubristic trust in human ingenuity. Guided by such an ideology, perhaps it is not surprising that Poland’s Marxists would have failed as good environmental stewards. Yes, Krakow’s industrial pollution was destroying flora and fauna, centuries-old architecture, the Wisla River, surrounding farmland, and the lives of human beings, but communist leaders argued that such immediate sacrifices would eventually and inevitably usher in a better and more rational world. Through proletarian struggle, trust in the process of dialectic materialism, and because of the historical imperative, a workers utopia was destined to emerge. Any systematic problems or mistakes that may have been made by authorities were explained away as fixable deviations. Human reason would ultimately heal, reorder, and improve both human society, and ultimately, Nature itself.

Does the environmental history of Krakow, and Polish communism, suggest that today’s neoliberal treatment of climate change, mass extinction, and ecocide are equally flawed? Is it fair to compare both systems and histories? Can we apply lessons from Krakow’s history under communism to today’s wider ecological problems? In many respects, neoliberals dogmatically cling to the notions of perpetual economic growth, progress, and a consumption driven culture the same way that Marxists trusted in the “science” of dialectic materialism. Is such trust in an ideology, in this case that market solutions can ultimately avert ecological disaster, misplaced? Economically competitive and “sustainable” green technologies such as solar power and electric automobiles are promoted as magical solutions to our world’s environmental problems. Tremendous hope has been invested in divestment schemes, class-action law suits, carbon credit trading, and fuel taxes. They promise to wean the planet of carbon fuels. Ecotourism is touted as a means to saving vulnerable species and wilderness, and in a worst-case scenario, human inventiveness will ride to the planet’s rescue with geoengineering. Somewhere a vague future of perpetual green progress and economic growth awaits. We just need time, and we just need to trust the “market” and human wisdom. All will eventually be well.

It is my contention that there is little difference between the impact and the promises that Marxists and neoliberals have made to both citizens and Nature. Both trusted/trust human cleverness. Both polluted/pollute. Both are obsessed/obsess about progress and development. Both systems enjoyed/enjoy an almost monopolistic control of political, economic, and academic power in their respective societies. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, both ideologies come out of the Enlightenment’s anthropocentric tradition, and both have laid waste to Nature. If we look at the history of Krakow’s environment under communism, it then may be fair to conclude that this planet’s neoliberal future appears grim.


Crosby, Alfred W. Ecological Imperialism The Biological Expansion of Europe, 900-1900. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015.
Horkheimer, Max and Theodor W. Adorno. Dialectic of Enlightenment Philosophical Fragments. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2002.
Kramer, John M. “The Environmental Crisis in Eastern Europe: The Price for Progress.” Slavic Review 42, (1983): 204-220.
Merchant, Carolyn. The Death of Nature Women, Ecology and the Scientific Revolution. New York: Harper Collins, 1989.
Oleksyn, Jacek, and Peter B. Reich. “Pollution, Habitat Destruction, and Biodiversity in Poland.” Conservation Biology 8, (1994): 943-960.
Olsakova Doubravka. In the Name of Great Work Stalin’s Plan for the Transformation of Nature and its Impact in Eastern Europe. New York: Berghahn, 2016.
Pinker, Steven. Enlightenment Now The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress. New York: Viking, 2018.
Raworth, Kate. Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist. White River Junction: Chelsea Green Publishing, 2017.
Safina, Carl. Beyond Words What Animals Think and Feel. New York: Picador, 2016.
Steiner, Gary. Anthropocentrism and its Discontents The Moral Status of Animals in the History of Western Philosophy. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2005.
Wohlleben, Peter. The Hidden Life of Trees What They Feel, How They Communicate. Vancouver: Greystone Books, 2016.
Zechenter, Katarzyna. “Evolving Narratives in Post-War Polish Literature: The Case of Nowa Huta (1950-2005).” The Slavonic and East European Review 85, (2007): 658-683.


List the courses for which this course might substitute (especially gen eds).
Environmental Sustainability, ENSC 191*
Seminar/Workshop, HSTR 294*
Cold War Europe, HSTR 360
European Intellectual History, HSTR 423
Seminar/Workshop, HSTR 494
History & Philosophy of Science, PHL 241*
Seminar/Workshop, PHL 294*
Seminar/Workshop, PHL 494

Instructor: Dr. Bill Janus
Time: Fall 2019, Stringer


Spring 2020, Block 6

Coral Reef Conservation Ecology and Introduction to Creative Writing

This class is an interdisciplinary, thematically integrated study of how threats to tropical coral reef and adjacent seagrass and mangrove ecosystems impact worldwide biodiversity and sustainability, and what we can do to help conserve these critically important systems. Tobacco Caye, Belize (Central America), is located right on the second largest barrier reef in the world and is the home of diverse coral reef, seagrass, and mangrove communities, where students can learn about these tropical environments experientially in the field. Students will also participate in coral reef monitoring and restoration activities with the local nonprofit Fragments of Hope.

This course in organismal biology introduces major concepts in ecology, evolution, classification and biodiversity. Tropical coral reefs are hosts to some of the richest biodiversity on the planet, and therefore decline of coral reefs worldwide is a pressing concern. It is important to understand the complex ecological relationships of coral reefs in order to determine how this diverse ecosystem will respond to current and future threats. This course will introduce students to diversity, classification, evolution and ecology via coral reefs and associated ecosystems (seagrass and mangrove communities). Material will be presented from a global perspective, with a focus on Caribbean coral reefs.

CRWR 240, Introduction to Creative Writing, introduces the student to the art and craft of poetry, fiction, and (creative) nonfiction, and serves as an introduction to the 300- and 400-level creative writing courses dedicated to each of these broad genres. You will try your hand in these forms of imaginative writing, and in the process, use elements common to them such as voice, metaphor, image, character, setting, and story. This course expects you to take writing risks you might not have taken before as you explore elements of craft and of your own experience and imagination. You will learn about revision and constructive feedback, and gain some confidence in these literary forms as you compile and submit a portfolio of your work. This portfolio will include poems, one extended prose piece (either short, short story or creative nonfiction, e.g. personal or nature essay), and a short reflection upon your work. Or instead, the portfolio could primarily consist of an extended photo-journalism project including recent worldwide coral bleaching events, heavy fishing pressures and pollution, review recent coral reef, seagrass and mangrove community restoration efforts based on state of the art research, and deliver a professional presentation based upon their literature reviews.

Travel Abroad: During the second and third weeks of Block 6, 2020 students in both classes, which usually will meet as one class, will travel as a group to Tobacco Caye, Belize, led by their faculty. Interested students will have the opportunity to participate in a Discover SCUBA course with the Reef’s End Divemaster on Tobacco Caye, and SCUBA certified students will have the opportunity to dive. Note that students can use financial aid and apply for an X1 grant for travel costs.

CRWR 240, Introduction to Creative Writing
BIOB 170 Principles of Biological Diversity
BIOE 250 Conservation Biology
BIOE 250 Conservation Biology

Instructors: Dr. Wendy M. Ridenour & Dr. O. Alan Weltzien
Time: Spring, Block 6, 2020