First-year students holding the top merit awards offered to incoming students at Sweet Briar, including the Commonwealth, Founders and Prothro scholarships, are invited to join the program. Other entering students showing academic promise based on their high school records also may be invited into the program. For more information on joining the Honors Program beyond the first year, fall semester go to https://www.sbc.edu/honors/overview, Joining the Honors Program.
First year Honors Courses
First-year Honors students begin an Honors course of study by enrolling in a two-semester sequence that will introduce them to the kind of critical thinking, cross-disciplinary curiosity, analytical and creative rigor expected in Honors courses. The first-year Honors courses will introduce Sweet Briar's best students to each other, and create a sense of community and camaraderie among academically focused students. First-year Honors students should plan to enroll in one fall one-credit Honors Inquiry course and one spring three-credit Honors seminar as the starting point for earning Honors recognition.
In the fall, Honors students will enroll in a one-credit Honors Inquiry class that will provide a foundation in critical and creative thinking across and among disciplines. By engaging with issues related to a theme, current news events or the research interests of Sweet Briar faculty, students will be introduced to practices of scholarship expected in a sustained Honors course of study at Sweet Briar. Honors students may choose the Honors Inquiry class most interesting to them.
HNRS 105.01 - Memory and Mortality
Instructor: Kevin Honeycutt
Part of what it means to be human is to be aware of your mortality—to know that one day you will die, that your life and time are limited. Sometimes we are faced with our own deaths, but often we are faced with the death of friends and loved ones. What should such an encounter with death motivate in us? How should we think about ourselves as existing in time? Should we be joyous or melancholic? We will engage these questions and others by reading various texts in philosophy and literature.
HNRS 118.01 - Miss Indie’s Plantation
Instructor: Lynn Rainville
Using archival sources and archaeological features, we will examine the 100+ individuals who lived at Sweet Briar between c. 1840-1900, including the antebellum, enslaved families and the postbellum servants and employees of Indiana Fletcher Williams. Research conducted by the students will be added to a Sweet Briar History digital database.
HNRS 104.01 — Molecules
Instructor: Jill Granger
This course introduces students to the molecular world and the impact that molecules have on human systems and behaviors, ecological systems, the industrial world, war, art and emerging technologies. We will discuss a feature molecule each week and consider it from structural and functional perspectives. Students will learn about atoms, bonding, and molecular properties through case studies and will learn valuable research skills in terms of literature review. Prerequisite: Permission of instructor.
HNRS 106.01 — Blue Ridge History: Conserving the Land, Shaping the Future
Instructor: Kate Chavigny
During the Great Depression of the 1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corps employed millions of black and white men under the age of 25 in a massive effort to control soil erosion, reclaim farmland, protect forests from fire, develop national and state parks, and to provide paid work for young unemployed men. At least a dozen segregated CCC camps were active in the Blue Ridge and Virginia Piedmont areas near Sweet Briar. This course introduces students to critical thinking and historical argument through an exploration of archival and published textual, visual and “built landscape” sources pertaining to nearby CCC activities. Includes a hike to a former CCC camp in the Blue Ridge.
HNRS 107.01 — Environmental Dialogues
Instructor: Rob Alexander
Environmental issues have become strongly politicized in our society, often resulting in polarized positions that are more ideological than objective. In this seminar, we will engage a variety of current environmental issues, developing a framework though which we can bring objective analysis and critical thinking skills to our examination of each topic. Students are expected to actively participate in lively and challenging class discussions.
In the spring, first-year Honors students will enroll in a three-credit Honors seminar. These courses will take a topical approach that looks beyond the perspective of a single discipline. They will further develop critical and creative thinking and the research and writing skills necessary for upper-level Honors course work. There will be four first-year Honors seminars offered and students may choose the one most interesting to them.
Creativity and Critical Thinking; TR 1:30 – 2:45
Instructor: John Casteen
Writers and artists make expressive work as a personal response to the world around them, but the nature of that response is often intuitive or visceral rather than considered and interpretive. This course invites students to examine the creative process—their own, or that of other writers and artists—through the lens of critical thinking and academic discussion. Readings will include Twyla Tharp, Richard Hugo, Malcolm Gladwell, James Baldwin, Jorie Graham, and Chinua Achebe. Assignments will include personal or analytical essays, short fiction, and poems; if students wish to augment their writing with original creative work in the visual arts, video/film, or other disciplines, they may either collaborate with one another or integrate their own projects into a cohesive whole.
Nutritional Challenges of the 21st Century; MW 3 – 4:15
Instructor: Bonnie Kestner
We will examine different views on “healthy eating,” explore the relationship between diet and chronic disease, and discuss informational, biological, political, economic, psychological, and socio-cultural obstacles we face in attempting to meet our nutritional needs. Using readings, videos and small group discussions, we will consider different strategies for overcoming these challenges. Students will learn strategies for critically evaluating nutritional claims and developing their own nutritional pathway. They will research a topic of their choosing and make a final presentation based on their research.
Questions of Sanity; MW 3 - 4:15
Instructor: Tim Loboschefski
This course will examine the topic of insanity from various perspectives (psychological, cultural, legal, physiological, and historical) and how the line between sanity and insanity has never been as clear a distinction as we would like to believe. We will supplement our understanding of current Psychiatric disorders utilizing a case study approach and examine issues ranging from the treatment/punishment of the mentally ill, to those cases where the development of abnormal behavior might be viewed as the most adaptive option available. Cases will include Norton I, Emperor of the United States, Truddi Chase from “When Rabbit Howls,” and Susannah Cahalan’s “Brain on Fire.”
Heroes and the Heroic in Homer’s Iliad; MWF 10 - 10:50 AM
Instructor: Bryce Walker
This course offers an in depth reading of Homer’s Iliad with a particular focus on the nature of the Greek hero. How should we understand heroes and the “heroic” in the literary and cultural context of this foundational work of epic poetry? To what extent can we understand these concepts as they were originally understood, and in what ways might they inform our own understanding of the human condition?