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First Year Colloquium

Course Description

Honors Colloquium is a two-semester sequence of courses designed to introduce you to the Honors College and to modes of inquiry and expression at the University of Wyoming. The theme for the fall semester course is “dreams and reality,” a topic we will explore from multiple disciplinary perspectives. Together, we will investigate how our sense of reality depends upon dreams and how dreams, in turn, extend and complicate our understanding of what reality might be. In the process, we will explore how, through grappling with dreams and reality, people historically have found meaning in the world and continue to do so, which will lead into the spring semester where we will explore the question: "What does it mean to be a human being?"

In addition to investigating dreams and reality and the meaning of humanness, this class will help you refine your academic writing and communication skills and give you the opportunity to take advantage of many of the resources that enrich the University of Wyoming and the city of Laramie (resources like the Buchanan Center for the Performing Arts and the UW Art Museum) through in-class, out-of-classroom, extra-curricular, and community-service activities.

This Week in Colloquium

Each week during the fall semester we will feature one section of Colloquium I and the exciting and stimulating ideas they are exploring.

Colloquium I Section Spotlight: Kent DrummondThe Mind and Reality

Dr. Drummond's Freshman Colloquium students enjoyed a spaghetti dinner at his home Monday evening (co-hosted by his wife, Honors faculty member Dr. Susan Aronstein). Then they watched A Beautiful Mind and discussed how the film perfectly fit the semester theme of "Dreams and Reality." A great time was had by all, including Luke, the section's honorary Honors cat! 
Kent Drummond Feature
Cat sitting on a bed

 

Colloquium I Section Spotlight: Breezy TaggartReflections on Reality/Dreams

As the Fall semester comes to end, students in Dr. Breezy Taggart's section of Colloquium reflected upon the texts that were most poignant in their exploration of the central themes of our course. We tackled everything from physics and semiotics to identity and representation. Take a look at some of the texts students found most insightful to investigating dreams and reality:
 

“I think Einstein’s Dreams explores the concepts of dreams and reality best because it literally explores different types of times through dream-like worlds, and time is a huge factor in reality.” 

“I think that A Beautiful Mind was very good at exploring the concept of reality specifically. I think this because the way the movie tricked the audience into the main charter's delusions with him. It made something that didn't exist seem very real and in turn made trying to know what the actually reality was very difficult.” 

“The text that made me think most about dreams and realities was On Photography by Susan Sontag. This text opened my eyes to see photography in ways that I had never considered before and made me rethink the power in photography. I always looked at photography as just documenting things but On Photography showed me that there is a sort of power, influence, bias, and control presented through photography.” 

“I thoroughly enjoyed Alan Lightman's Einstein's Dreams. It thoroughly demonstrated how our experiences of fundamental phenomena shapes our perceptions.” 

The Brain

 

Colloquium I Section Spotlight: Matt HenryFeeling history

Octavia Butler described her novel Kindred as a “grim fantasy” and hoped it would encourage people to “feel” history and empathize with people who once lived rather than only learn about histories of slavery and racism through textbooks, which often abstract and distance us from historical realities. In Dr. Henry’s class, students explored this idea by discussing the graphic novel adaptation of Kindred, watching clips from slave narrative films like 12 Years a Slave and Django Unchained, and discussing other graphic novels, such as Art Spiegelman’s Maus, that engage with histories of racism and genocide. The class concluded with a thought experiment exercise in which the historical characters in Kindred were transported to the book’s present, 1976, to think about ways history can help us think about contemporary issues. 
Kindred Novel Cover

 

Colloquium I Section Spotlight: Tyler FallPast/Present

In Tyler Fall's section of Colloquium I, students explored ideas about past and present as they relate to Lightman's Einstein's Dreams and Octavia Butler's Kindred.  Central topics included time, history, race, and conflict resolution.

Student Activity

 

Colloquium I Section Spotlight: Hosanna KrienkeThe Multiverse

  To explore the edges of theoretical physics, Dr. Krienke's Colloquium section tried out the Universe Splitter app. This app aims to put into practice the Many Worlds Interpretation, a hypothesis that imagines each quantum interaction branches into a multiverse. 
   Here's how the app works: a user enters two possible choices into the app, which then contacts a quantum device. The device shoots out a photon that could take two possible paths. Of course, the latest physics research believes that the photon actually takes both paths, but ends up at only one destination upon measurement. Some experts theorize that the photon really ends up in both destinations, but within different universes. The app uses the photon's final location to decide among your choices. As the app explains, "Within seconds, Universe Splitter will report to you which of the two universes you're in, and by taking different actions in each, you willl cause these otherwise identitical universes to diverge."  
  The class used the app to play Simon Says, with each movement being chosen by the app. Overall, we used the app to make nine decisions, splitting the world into 512 separate universes. (If you felt a disturbance in the Force around 9 am on Monday, now you know why). Students were relieved that, most often, the app decided they simply take "two steps forward" rather than the more embarrassing actions of "somersault," "crab walk" or "grapevine" (though they did have to waltz in pairs at one point). For one day at least, it seemed the app proved we are in fact living in the best of all possible worlds. 
Multiverse Decision Making

 

Colloquium I Section Spotlight:
Janice Grover-Roosa

Students from Honors Colloquium led by Janice Grover-Roosa explore concepts of dreams and reality at the Shell 3D and physics labs on the University of Wyoming campus. Check out their experiences in this video!

 

Colloquium I Section Spotlight: Ann Stebner Steele
Course Highlights

In Ann Stebner Steele's section of Colloquium she asked students to work with assigned collaboration teams to share the most exciting, insightful, or weirdest thing they have learned or done so far in our class. The following descriptions below explore highlights of the class and are written collaboratively by a group of students:

“The most interesting thing that we experienced in colloquium so far is the virtual reality at Coe library. Some of us have never used virtual reality before, so it was an exciting experience. Additionally, it related back to our class theme of dreams and reality. It specifically relates to one of the texts we used this semester, Ready Player One. Similar to how the characters in the movie are encompassed in virtual reality, we were provided a similar experience to be encompassed in virtual reality at Coe library.”

“Being able to engage with the text, through acting and skit work, we were able to better understand Shakespeare's,  A Midsummer Nights Dream, when the class came together and performed the play on Prexy's Pasture.”

“Within our class, our fondest memory was when we got into groups and acted out Midsummer Nights Dream by Shakespeare. Getting to create our own interpretation was hilarious and really helped us better understand the story, and get to know our classmates.”

A student experiencing virtual reality with joysticks and goggles

 

Colloquium I Section Spotlight: Dr. Tom Grant
Impactful Texts on Reality

In Colloquium I, students have examined a number of texts that explore the complex nature of dreams and reality.  Students from Dr. Tom Grant’s section of Colloquium were polled on the most impactful texts so far covered in the curriculum. Below are some of their answers!

On Plato’s Allegory of the Cave

“Plato's Cave impacted me the most. The idea that subjective reality is superior to me is concerning. There needs to be more tolerance in reality.”

Close up of an eye against a black background

“Overall Plato's Cave made me contemplate my perspective of dreams and reality. The Cave illustrates the ignorance that comes with life and the overall blindness that humans have. It made me question what is truly real and what it means to have a true reality. Also, it begs the question of the efficacy of proving reality.”

“The reading that has impacted my perspective on Dreams and Reality the most is Plato's Cave because it makes you think about what might be real and not real and who is out of the cave or not. This piece has just really grabbed my attention, and I find myself going back to it as a reference in other classes as well.”

On Susan Sontag’s “On Plato’s Cave” from On Photography

“I have been most fascinated by the work of Sontag due to her work's relevance in the modern world. Not to say that Plato and the Bhagavad Gita do not have their place in the 21st, century, Sontag's conclusions simply apply in a much more prevalent manner. Her insights into the perpetuation of misinformation through photographs is a trait that carries through in social media and the internet as a whole in my own generation. Then applications of new technologies that distort reality for the purpose of pursuing primordial urges are limitless. This, the absolute relevance of Sontag's conclusions, is why her work has impacted me the most. Too many of her ideas I have seen unfold before my very eyes.”

“Sontag's piece has really solidified the idea that what's on the surface might have a lot more going on underneath. The idea that photos present a half-truth, and are taken as a whole-truth is not only a little bit frightening, but also illustrates a habit that we might apply to all sorts of scenarios. The mind likes to make assumptions to jump to conclusions, and that can lead to some pretty flawed understandings.”

On the Bhagavad Gita

“The Bhagavad Gita impacted me by showing me an alternative perspective on the world away from typical western thinking and offering another way that I could live.”

“The Bhagavad Gita impacted my perspective the most because it introduced many ideas such as reincarnation and karma.”


 

Colloquium I Section Spotlight: Dr. Mimi Fenton
Exploring Reality in the Bhagavad Gita

Bharti Qureshi, from Kalamazoo, MI, visited Dr Fenton's colloquium class on Tuesday September 7th to talk with students about the Bhagavad Gita. Everyone got to enjoy an Indian sweet dessert, ghulab jamun...which is incredibly delicious and mostly sugar.  Bharti we'll also be visiting Dr Fenton's class on Thursday September 9th for more in-depth, small group discussions about the Gita. 

 

Bharti Qureshi teaching in front of a group of students
Bharti Qureshi teaching in front of a white board
Bowls of ghulab jamun on the counter
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Email: honors@uwyo.edu

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