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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Clarence Spigner
HONORS 391
Seattle Campus

Honors Interdisciplinary Study I

Develops ideas, concepts, or institutions that cut across the arts, humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. For University Honors Program students only.

Class description

This 10-week seminar will engage an intense discussion about student life and encompass key aspects of health and wellbeing. The framework is the controversial novel that chronicles the world view of an 18 year-old undergraduate female, Charlotte Simmons, and her first year at a northeastern college. The story from novelist Tom Wolfe (Bonfire of the Vanities) is not for the immature or faint-hearted. The highly readable work addresses college campus issues including self esteem, sexual risk-taking, cultures of drinking, date-rape, pathological narcissism, depression, disclosure, student-athletes, elitism, sororities and fraternities, social support, and family ties. These social dynamics are reflected in brutal, outrageous and stylistic formats in Charlotte’s Alice in Wonderland initiation into year-one of undergraduate life. A chronology of events builds in the 34 chapter novel to inform a deeper understanding of the human condition. In this course/seminar, health education theories serve are frameworks; such as Social Learning or Cognitive Theory, the Theory of Reasoned Action, the Stages of Change or Trans-theoretical Model, and the Health Belief Model. The Socratic approach is employed to give students a voice. Grading is based on informed participation and a 5-7 page final paper. Students must bring the maturity and intellect to critically examine both the summit and the pitfalls of campus life. Enrollment is limited.

Student learning goals

Students will be able to think far more critically about the day-to-day events that influence their lives through the characters in the novel.

Students will be able to apply both theoretical and practical applications to various issues of health and well-being, for themselves and for others.

Many students will fine their own voice in articulating aspects of social, pyschological, and physical attributes regarding health or well-being.

Students will be able to apply the World Health Organization's (WHO)definition of health and "well-being" from interpersonal, somatic, social or societal, institutional and political dimensions.

Students will find a path of interest for further developing their own perhaps budding interests in the field of public health.

General method of instruction

The Socratic Method is used. This teaching method gives students more of a voice. The dialectical method is pre-informed by study questions which are listed chapter-by-chapter in the Discussion Questions Guide. Personal reflection is less the point than students must demonstrate an adequate understanding of the novel and thus the social influence on personal behavior. For example: In Chapter 6: “The Most Ordinary Protocol,” Charlotte has been “sexiled” and meets fellow freshman Bettina in the dorm lounge. She notices a number of mainstream women’s magazines with a seemingly single message. What is that message? Why is Charlotte perplexed? In Chapter 27: “In the Dead of Night.” What is Charlotte’s state of mind when she returns home?

Recommended preparation

Read the novel.It is far more important to read the novel and to think critically about the events that unfold with specific regard to how the various characters, but especially Charlotte, is being effected. This is far more important that having a really deep, deep understanding of socio-behavioral theory. However, the student’s task is make a direct application of the events by a reasonable and thus informed interpretation of how these theories help explain human behavior and therefore states of social, physical and emotional well-being.

Class assignments and grading

Week-by-week Discussion: During each twice-a-week session, we engage in intense interactive discussion of each chapter (see Reading Schedule on page 14). The questions listed serve as a discussion guide (see Discussion Question Guide on pages 15-20). On the first class meeting within each week (Tuesday), the discussions will be guided mainly, but not exclusively, by the instructor. On the second meeting within the same week (Thursday) however, a group of at least five students (randomly selected) select the same discussion questions (and other related questions if they desire) and critically reflect on these questions within the framework of the behavior theories). For example: During week three in the Discussion Guide there are four chapters (9–12) encompassing pages 197 to 289. On that Tuesday, the instructor will lead the discussion for the most part. On that Thursday within the same week, all students but particularly the group assigned having been randomly selected l guide the in-class discussion by having framed the events in the novel (in this case, the four chapters) within any one or more of the behavioral frameworks (see Guidelines: Application of (Health) Behavior to Events Unfolding in the Novel, pages 9-11). Randomized Student-led Discussion Groups: Our seminar of students will be randomized into groups. Random assignments are done to avoid cliques and to increase critical analysis and diverse points of view. Group assignment will take place in the first meeting of each class meeting. See page 8 for an example of how a particular question that is stated in the syllabus might be dealt with in the groups discussions.

Final Paper: Each student will submit a type-written, double-spaced, 5-7 page paper with bibliography and derived from ONE out of a list of discussion questions listed in the chapter-by-chapter Discussion Guide. The question of choice will be the paper’s title and the complete paper will be due on the last day of final exam week. The paper will reflect a deep, analytical, and penetrating analysis of the event as having been framed within one of more of the socio-theoretical and health/well-being framework. The paper will account for 60% of the overall grade. No late papers will be accepted. The other 40% will be calculated based on participation and the criteria listed in the Grading Chart Criteria (see page 13).Grading: Participation:40%; Final Paper: 60%


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Clarence Spigner
Date: 09/22/2010