Honors Program

Serious Play

If you are looking for a community where you can develop a unique perspective through critical independent thinking...

  • A place where the exchange of ideas and intellectual insights extend beyond the classroom,
  • A place where fantastically individual, quirky, fun, and eclectic personalities can meet, discuss, and learn, and
  • A place where ideas and imagination are taken seriously,

...Alfred University's Honors Program may be just the place for you.

Our Mission

Alfred University's Honors Program aims to enrich your undergraduate education by providing seminars that give you the chance to explore ideas, topics, cultures, and obscurities outside your normal academics. Without conflicting with the courses required for your major or minor, our program allows you to breathe, have fun, and explore the new and unusual with others who are as excited as you are about enriching their collegiate experience.

What Students Say...

"The Honors Program is wonderfully unpretentious. These are people who know not to take life too seriously, yet who take their studies seriously. What a great outlook." - Jay Weisberger


In our honors seminars, students have explored chaos theory, bioethics, and popular culture. They have written children's books, studied Harry Potter, discussed Star Trek and The Sopranos, and learned how to make their own maple syrup. They have even prepared for the Zombie apocalypse!

Most of all, our program offers students the opportunity to grow and enhance their education with a unique twist that makes it both intriguing and challenging. That's why we say our Honors Program is "Serious Play" -- it's that something extra you get with an AU education.

Check out our 2020 Honors Program Newsletter!

HONR 149 The Aliens Did It? – John D’Angelo

There are theories – some thought-provoking, some baseless – that this planet has been visited by aliens for millennia and that these visitors have influenced the course of human history. In this course, we will discuss the merits of select theories, the fabrication of evidence and/or willfully ignoring reliable evidence as a form of scientific misconduct, and the search for life in the universe. Students will write a paper on an alien theory of their choosing, and the class will make and edit our own episode of Ancient Aliens, focusing on (entirely fabricated) “alien theories” related to AU.

Bad Words – Bob Myers

What’s the worst you can say or think? No matter which “bad words” come to mind, it’s more complicated than that – and more interesting. Taboo? Obscene? To whom and why? This course examines social layers of offensive language and gestures, changing meanings and functions over time with examples ranging from literature to popular culture, as well as differences across cultures. Suspending judgement and discomfort with certain words frees us to think critically about a fascinating topic. Students will write two reflective essays and one on a researched topic; they will also give a class presentation.

CAMP – Kerry Kautzman

In CAMP, we want to go beyond marginal self-presentation to explore the expressions and the experiences of an “aesthetic of artifice,” in fashion, films, life, music, novels, and theater internationally. As seen at the Met’s Costume Institute and Gala 2019, camp is a social practice of ostentation and theatricality that celebrates exaggerated performance. We will immerse ourselves in thirteen unique examples of camp. Students will design a project that embraces camp’s “love of the unnatural” as explained by Susan Sontag. Can you take CAMP far enough?

HONR 122 Culture and Cuisine, Film and Food – Becky Prophet

Food offers more than sustenance: it represents aesthetics, power, social and/or economic status, values, and religious concepts. Discovery of foods and cuisine in several cultures, accomplished by viewing and discussing films, will result in four “dinners,” prepared by groups of students. Nine films set in as many places, sample dinners, short forays into cooking shows, and two field trips lead to understanding and discoveries about different cultures. Vegetarians and vegans are encouraged and will be accommodated. No cooking experience is required; willingness to try and to experiment is essential.

HONR 131 Drinking Up: The Science and History of Alcohol – Garrett J. McGowan and Christopher Romanchock

Medicinally, as a source of nutrients, in worship and religion, and as a social lubricant,
alcohol (ethanol) has been used by people from the earliest times to present. It was likely
a fortuitous accident tens of thousands of years ago that it came into human culture, and
while abused by a minority of drinkers, most derive pleasure from its consumption. In
this course, the history and science of ethanol will be examined through a combination of
laboratory exercises and lectures, which may include “crafting a homebrew,” analysis of
beer/wine/spirits, field trips to vineyards and invited speaker visits.

Laughter Crafters: Political Cartoons & Memes 2020 – Andy Eklund and Jeff Sluyter-Beltrao

With the November 2020 elections looming, our challenge will be to analyze and learn
about issues facing the country through the lens of editorial cartoons. We'll host a
"presidential debate" through contrasting cartoons and memes, we'll mount cartoon
face-offs on controversial issues such as immigration, climate change, and gun control,
and we'll draw our own editorial cartoons (no artistic ability required!). We'll explore
current events through regular small group cartoon-based quizzes, and student teams
will produce poster presentations on the major historical event of their choice.

HONR 123 Muggles, Magic, and Mischief: The Science and Psychology of Harry Potter—Danielle Gagne and David DeGraff

Attention Muggles! Educational Decree #1836 mandates a course be offered entitled
"Muggles, Magic, and Mischief." Rowling’s world of witchcraft and wizardry provides a
window into the human psyche and the mysteries of science. Students and their
housemates will examine the human and wizarding world through weekly quizzes and
one final presentation on topics related to: the universal appeal of magic; Quidditch as a
sport; invisibility, travel through time and by floo; the unnatural biology of magical
creatures; teenage angst, friendships, and romance; the nature of evil; and
potions. (NOTE: All seven books should be read before start of term).