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 2021 Honors Program Newsletter!


Artificial Intelligence: Fiction and Future – Danielle Gagne and David DeGraff

“Hello. Would you like to be friends?” This question may seem innocent coming from a new roommate, but what if it came from your computer or your car? From Hebrew golems to Ex Machina, people have been both fascinated and terrified of animating the inanimate. Are we ready for technology to become sentient? What if we prefer the virtual world to the real one? Are the fears of Bill Gates and Stephen Hawking justified, or should we look to the hopeful solutions of Larry Page? This course will explore early fascinations with AI and where the future might be headed. Readings will include contemporary science fiction readings like Mindscan and Existence. Students will be expected to lead discussions related to weekly topics and present a project on modern AI.

Crochet: Pattern and Improvisation – Sara Kramer

Crochet is not only a tool for creating functional objects: it’s also a great way to model mathematical concepts (like hyperbolic space), improve your ability to move an object from inside your mind to the physical world, and create original works of contemporary art. In this course, students will learn the basics of crochet, and use those skills to create both their own mathematically-driven crochet patterns and improvised or “freestyle” crocheted works of art. Assignments will include working together to make a collaborative crocheted afghan, and creating an original artwork of the student’s own design--2d or 3d, freestyle or highly planned. We will delve into the theory of craft in contemporary art and look at and discuss the work of contemporary artists who use crochet in their practice. No prior experience with crochet (or art!) required.

From The Clash to Kendrick: The Art of Protest Music – Robert Reginio

The English punk band The Clash put it this way: “Let fury have the hour/Anger can be power/If you know that you can use it.” In this seminar we will explore music that attempts to put anger to use. We will look at specific political firestorms – e.g., the “troubles” in Northern Ireland and the AIDS crisis – as touchstones for artists who felt compelled to create in the face of injustice, rage, and confusion in the punk movement. We will then trace the rise of hip-hop as informed by a strong tradition of protest, culminating in hip-hop music of the Trump era. Ultimately, we will ask: what makes good political music? can political art be good art? what happens when revolutionary culture is co-opted, packaged and sold? We will create and DJ a radio show to be broadcast on WALF exploring the music of protest from the 1970s to today. Punk and post-punk artists may include: The Clash, Gang of Four, Minor Threat, Patti Smith, Wire, and Fugazi. Hip-hop artists and albums we will listen to are: KRS-One/Boogie Down Productions, Public Enemy, NWA’s Straight Outta Compton, Killer Mike, Dead Prez, Kendrick Lamar’s Damn., and Beyoncé’s performance film Homecoming. Additions as suggested by the class are more than welcome!

From Farm to Table: The Importance of Being Local – Garrett McGowan and Chris Romanchock

This hands-on Honors seminar will examine how our food reaches us through a mix of classroom presentations, cooking, and numerous field trips to local food producers. The class will offer a delicious introduction to the local food scene in and around Allegany County as well as to a wide variety of kitchen skills. Field trips will include visits to a local vegetable grower, a small organic dairy, meat producers, and a winery. Hands-on labs will include cooking locally available foods, basic food preservation, and an optional unit on butchering. Note: this course will include an additional $20 “lab fee” for supplies, and there may be additional expenses throughout the course for optional activities.

Monsters from Folklore to Reality – Andy Eklund

In this course, we'll examine the influence of religion, culture, and science on monsters throughout history. We’ll also look at how we respond to the presence of monsters, from alpha predators to other creatures stemming from folklore or reality. Monster-related topics such as genetic engineering, artificial intelligence, epidemics, & invasive species will be analyzed. We'll also focus on the scariest monsters in today's society – HUMANS. Through group presentations, designing our own monsters, and a team trivia final in addition to sharing journal entries, we'll discuss how racism, anti-immigration, and nuclear fears are expressed through monsters’ portrayal in literature and the media. We’ll talk about the psychology of fear, hopefully partaking in Halloween traditions ranging from pumpkin carving and haunted houses to ghost tours.

This Course Sucks: A Vampire Extravaganza – Allen Grove

As the sun sets, we’ll study vampires in fiction, television, and film. We’ll explore where these stories originated, how they’ve evolved over the centuries, and why they remain popular today. What fantasies and fears have kept these stories alive into the 21st century? From Le Fanu’s 1874 Carmilla to popular television shows including True Blood and What We Do in the Shadows, we’ll explore a broad range of topics including class, race, sexuality, disease, and mythology. Each seminar member will create a final vampire-themed project that can be creative, scholarly, or both. Donating blood is highly encouraged but not required.