Sustainable Societies

Beginning in fall 2017 the Campuswide Honors Program will be offering a new, additional honors curricular track open to all majors called Sustainable Societies, to be taken in the sophomore and junior years, beginning fall 2017 and ending spring 2019. Taken after completing Honors Humanities Core in the freshman year, this new track consists of six sequential courses (one per quarter) that would be taken instead of Honors Social Science and Science Core.

The Sustainable Societies track is team taught by top faculty from a variety of disciplines, examining the topic from two broad perspectives:

  • Exploring the features of societies/nations that lead some to prosperity, freedom and a high quality of life, while others decline; demonstrating how innovation, prosperity, flexibility, and a forward thinking perspective allow societies to address challenges effectively.
  • Exploring the underpinnings of several of the challenges that modern societies currently face and, importantly, engaging students to work together on solutions to these challenges.

The courses focus on problem-based learning in which students work together to develop their ability to think critically, communicate effectively, and collaborate in groups to tackle complex, real-world problems for which there is no single solution. Research experiences provided within the track will help prepare students for their senior-year thesis projects.

Interested students must be able to complete all six courses of the track, one per quarter for two full years. All current CHP freshmen who complete Honors Humanities Core are eligible to begin the track in the fall. Current sophomores who are interested in completing this six-class sequence should contact the CHP Office to discuss their options.

Completion of the entire Sustainable Societies sequence satisfies all of the following UCI General Education (GE) Categories: Category II (Science & Technology), Category III (Social & Behavioral Sciences), and part of Category V (Quantitative, Symbolic & Computational Reasoning).
Each of these will be 4-unit courses: a 3-unit “lecture,” which will include many opportunities for more active learning, and a 1-unit required discussion section.

More course information:

  • Year 1, Fall – Critical Analysis of Health Science Literature

    Initial instructors: Amanda Holton (Chemistry) and Angela Jenks (Anthropology)

    In this course, students will learn to critically evaluate a variety of types of scientific literature in the context of several public health concerns. The course will 1) introduce students to foundational aspects of scientific inquiry, including the scientific method, scientific research design, statistical analysis, and publication processes; 2) examine scientific inquiry as a process that cannot be separated from sociocultural influences and concerns; and 3) apply these understandings to the analysis of research on health-related case studies.

  • Year 1, Winter & Spring – Environmental Issues Facing Sustainable Societies

    Initial instructors: Julie Ferguson (ESS), Luyi Gui (Business), Mathieu Morlighem (ESS), Travis Huxman (Ecology & Evolutionary Biology)

    Over two quarters, this course will explore 3-4 environmental challenges facing the world: e.g. universal sustainable access to fresh water, universal sustainable food production, and becoming carbon neutral. The treatment of each topic will begin by laying out the science underlying the problem. The focus will then turn to solutions. After exploring the scientific and technical constraints on possible solutions, the course will delve into the social science issues that arise when communities must agree on and implement solutions.

  • Year 2, Fall – Social Science Perspectives on the Sustainability of Societies

    Initial instructors: Belinda Campos (Chicano/Latino Studies), David Feldman (Planning, Policy & Design), and either Michelle R. Garfinkel (Economics) or Brian Jenkins (Economics)

    This course will introduce the conceptual and methodological approaches of social science disciplines (e.g., economics, political science, psychology, ethnic studies) and draw examples from different countries and states to: 1) explore the ways social issues are influenced by a society’s economic and political structures, and; 2) examine how economic, political, and other social choices can affect the sustainability of societies. Examples of issues that may be covered include: Overuse and depletion of resources; Social injustices including income and other forms of inequality, as well as corrupt government; The internet, social networks and the spread of sharply contrasting views and “false” news stories; Mass migration as both a result and cause of sustainability problems.

  • Year 2, Winter and Spring – Cities: Focal Point for Sustainability Problems and Solutions

    Initial instructors: Steve Davis (ESS), Ajay Garde (Planning, Policy & Design), Miryha Runnerstrom (Health Sciences & Public Health), Julie Schoenung (Chemical Engineering & Materials Science)

    Much as cities, and urbanization generally, can function as both a focal point for environmental, health, and social problems and as part of the solution to these problems, in this two-quarter course, cities will provide a focus to explore how the issues raised in earlier quarters in this sequence can be understood in a local context. Using cities in Southern California and around the world as a text, the course will look at the various dimensions of urban design and how design choices contribute to the sustainability of cities and the quality of life of citizens. Specifically, the course will explore the role of urban economies, urban energy and transportation choices, and how urbanization can affect waste and pollution. A theme running through these discussions will be how choices of materials – what we use to build buildings or pave roads, but also what we use to maintain the environment or power our devices – can impact health and sustainability. In the second quarter, students will work in small teams to explore a sustainability issue they have chosen and prepare a report that lays out the issue and the pros/cons of alternative ways to deal with it in an urban context.