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

Seminars

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 2022 Honors Program Newsletter!


Alfred E. Nigmas – Garrett McGowan and Andrew Eklund

Throughout history, societies have used puzzles for relaxation and encrypting information. More recently, it has been shown that puzzles are an excellent means to flex your brain, to build cognitive ability and maintain mental health as we age. In this course, we'll study, develop, and solve puzzles of many forms - numerical, alphabetical (words), and mechanical. In addition to focusing on the history and importance of cryptography & puzzles through group presentations, ciphers ranging from simple substitution to technologically advanced systems will be discussed. Students will also design their own puzzles or ciphers.

Bob Dylan and America – Robert Reginio

Bob Dylan’s music speaks directly to the tensions and hopes of our current historical moment. Dylan took part in the Civil Rights Movement of the equally turbulent 1960s while veering sharply away from politics into the depths of his own mind to write some of the most incredible poetry of the 20th century. We’ll trace some of the sources of Dylan’s music, listen to his songs as he changes from finger-pointing anthem-writer to arch bohemian rocker. We’ll transform our room into a Greenwich Village coffee house and a rock concert hall, and at the end of the course we will host a radio program on Dylan’s music and the music you feel has its roots in his provocative work.

CAMP! – Kerry Kautzman

Is your Alfred life an unending blur of gray slush and tedious blue screen headaches? Are you dressed slovenly in untailored rags? CAMP! is your cure.

Our goal is, as define by Mark Booth, “to present oneself as being committed to the marginal with a commitment greater than the marginal merits.” We will practice fully committed self-presentation. In CAMP!, we want to go full out and 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. The Alfred Honors students will design a project that embraces camp’s “love of the unnatural” as explained by Susan Sontag. Can you take CAMP! far enough?

Corporate Scandals & Business’ Dark Side – Shelley Freyn

Every heard of Enron or of Volkswagen’s dark secret? This class reviews controversial cases in various industries from food to finance. Using Netflix’s “Dirty Money” series and MIT’s research on why people cheat, we will identify common validations and patterns of bad behavior. Business ethics, corporate governance and other regulatory processes will be presented along with the slippery slope that can occur even with protective mechanisms in place. Students will write “lessons-learned short papers” and develop a final team presentation of a scandal of their choice. This course serves to elevate awareness and build stronger future leaders.

DO NOT PASS GO AND DO NOT PLAY MONOPOLY: What we can learn through board games – Likin Simon Romero

In this class, we will see how to use board games as a pedagogical tool. Each class will be centered about a subject (history, economics, natural sciences, social justice, morality and ethics, among others). The students will play a game in class whose theme matches the corresponding subject. They will be asked to fill a short questionnaire about the board game that they played and its theme. As a final project, students will choose a topic and a board game, then develop supporting materials (such as brochures, reference cards, images, audio, questionnaires, etc.) that could be used in a classroom setting to teach the chosen topic. NOTE: This seminar will meet 6:20-8:10.

Natural Glasses – Doris Möncke

What do obsidian and amber have in common? Both are natural glasses, just like the silica skeleton of a deep-sea sponge or tektites and fulgurites which have been melted by meteorite impact or lightning. We want to explore natural glasses from their historic significance (having been used as tools and jewelry as early as the stone age), to differences and similarities in their structure and properties to how these materials inspire modern and future materials (biomimetics). We offer hands-on analysis of natural glasses by Electron Scanning Microscopy, X-ray diffraction, or spectroscopy; you will work with our TA and no special science background is required, though welcome. In class presentations will be complemented by posters and presentations of our artifacts for the AU Glass Museum which will be opened soon.

The Science of Baking – David Marsh

We will look at how bread, cake, and pastry are so different, despite being made of the same ingredients. In the same way that chemicals are made of different combinations of elements, we will learn how to create an endless number of delicious treats with just a few things in different ratios and mixed in different ways. Class time will be devoted to baking, so you can get hands-on experience. There will be short papers reflecting on each topic, and a final project where you invent a recipe and discuss it with the class. NOTE: The enrollment of this class will be limited to 12 students.

Training Methodology: Ancient Spartans to Spartan Racers – Tim Keenan

From ancient soldiers of Sparta and samurai of Japan, to marathon runners and triathletes, to today’s on-screen Batman and Wonder Woman, explore the evolution of training methodology among athletes of varying concentrations throughout history, including both the physical regimens and mental approaches, designed to achieve maximum success.

Weekly readings and videos will stimulate in-class discussions, and students will be asked to prepare one final presentation summarizing which techniques they found most intriguing, and whether there are any methods they might adopt themselves.