One of my favorite courses that I have taken at UMass, and the one that actually led to my job with UMass Summer, is Honors 201: Ideas That Change The World. Honors 201 is an introductory honors requirement that challenges students to think critically about our world and the profound ideas that shaped it. A close connection is maintained in the course between the concept of the historical innovator and the concept of the student as potential creator. All students in the Jump! program for incoming undergraduates will take this course over the summer, so I wanted to articulate my experience in the course, the ways it shaped my personal growth and development, and shed a light on the professors who will actually be teaching the Jump! sections of Honors 201 this summer.
I took the course as a first semester freshmen with Professor Alex Phillips, who is now the Director of Summer Programs, and it was my engagement and our relationship in the course that opened up the opportunity for me to work with UMass Summer on our pre-college programs for high school students and the Jump! program for incoming undergraduates. That experience is emblematic of my favorite component of the course - it's intimate, conversational nature allows for relationships to be nurtured in the classroom, among classmates and with your professor. The discussions that Alex facilitated in the course were constantly eye-opening, and I wrote papers that were as varied as tracing roots of atheism in the Indian Rig Vedas to a critical engagement with film on Alex's self-proclaimed favorite movie, "True Stories". We discussed the development of western thought through a scaping analysis of art and culture that spanned from conversations about the South African artist DIE ANTWOORD to Rachel Carson's ecological manifesto Silent Spring to Orson Welle's 1941 movie "Citizen Kane", which many critics have called "the best movie of all time." The course pushed the boundaries of what is considered "academia" to me, and allowed me to synthesize culture and history in a challenging and revelatory framework. The critical consciousness that I bring with me everyday to class and work was certainly shaped by my experience in Honors 201: Ideas That Changed The World.
Art from Le Chauvet, which dates back as far as 32,000 years!
The course is divided into four units: Models of Inquiry; the Impact of Science and Technology; Social Philosophy and Civic Engagement; and Art in the World, which each complemented by a foundational work in the field. Alex deviated from the curriculum slightly in our course, and we began the class with an exploration of the oldest art on planet Earth, watching "The Cave of Forgotten Dreams", an incredibly documentary about Le Chauvet Cave in Southern France. We then read parts of the Indian Rig Vedas and Upanishads, which are the oldest texts on the planet, dating back as far as 6th century BCE! After tracing culture and civilization to their origins, we moved into the Models of Inquiry Unit and studied the ideas of Socrates in Plato's Republic, and the class was actually structured as a Socratic seminar, practicing relentless inquiry and a knowledge of what is unknown. Next we engaged in the Social Philosophy and Civic Engagement Unit and studied the ideas developed by Mahatma Gandhi on non-violent resistance that would be transported to social movements around the globe, from the American Civil Rights movement to the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa. From here, we moved into film as an artistic medium in the Art in the World Unit, watching several movies to practice how to actually watch and analyze movies, and then watched "Citizen Kane", an incredibly movie analyzing the way power manifests itself in contemporary society. This unit also featured analysis of music, which studied the influence of artists such as Jay-Z, Nirvana, and Die Antwoord on the development of contemporary "modernity." Finally, the class undertook the Science and Technology unit by reading Rachel Carson's incredible manifesto, Silent Spring, to look at the ways that human activity was destroying the very planet that provided it life.
The professor for the section of Ideas That Change The World that Jump! students will be taking this summer is Kathleen Brown-Perez, Ph.D. Students in the 2015 program loved Professor Brown-Perez's course, and found that it prepared them for classes of various degrees of difficulty once they got to campus in the Fall. Professor Brown-Perez has a Juris Doctorate (JD) and used to practice federal law, until growing tired of the demands of the industry and finding a home at UMass instead. She currently practices federal Indian law in a pro bono role for her Indian tribe, the Brothertown Indian Nation (Wisconsin), as liaison to the Bureau of Indian Affairs and research consultant. Brown-Perez brings an exciting perspective to Ideas That Changed The World, and will also be incorporating the work of W.E.B. DuBois, the namesake of our library on campus, into the beginning of her course this summer, as DuBois was the founder of American scientific social science and a knowledge of his research methods is absolutely indespensible for incoming students!
This course was one of the most transformative I have taken at UMass, which is part of the reason why I am so excited for students this summer to engage in such a critical, fantastic academic space! College transcends the scope of high school in myriad ways, and this class was my first realization of the potential of a college education to actually allow me to study things that are of interest to me. Does this sound like a course that you are interested in? Want the abilility to take it inside of a burgeoning community in a low-stakes summer environment? The Jump! program for incoming undergraduates may be right for you! For more information about the program and how to apply, check out our website:
Are you a high-school student looking to engage in higher-order thinking this summer and immerse yourself in experiential learning on a college campus? Check out our pre-college programs for high-school students: