Honors Thesis Seminar Offerings

Honors Thesis Seminar Offerings

Course Descriptions

FALL 2020 and Spring 2021




Conquest by Law: The Use of Law to Subjugate and Marginalize in the U.S.

Tuesday &Thursday:  10:00 AM 11:15 AM

Offered Remotely in Fall 2020

This two-semester Thesis Seminar considers current and past legal structures that have marginalized certain groups in the U.S. - including American Indians, immigrants, African Americans, and the poor - while perpetuating inequality. It also looks at how state and federal laws have been used over the centuries to perpetuate inequalities while addressing the potential to legislate equality and social justice. From the time Europeans first arrived on this continent, there was competition for resources and control. First the colonies, then the U.S. government, enacted laws to ensure that resources and control remained in the hands of a select few. Even today, the top 1% of Americans own 40% of the wealth in this country while the bottom 80% owns just 7%. However, marginalization affects more than just wealth. Its effects are also evident in access to health care, access to a healthy space to live and work, and access to clean air and water. While there are state and federal laws in place that address some of these issues, not every aspect of social justice can simply be legislated. In addition to looking at the legal aspects of social justice, this course considers the potential for other means of leveling the playing field. Students who register for ANTHRO 499C in the fall are expected to take the 4-credit continuation course in the spring (ANTHRO 499D).

Instructor: Kathleen Brown-Perez

Credits: Anthro 499C for 4 credits in Fall and Anthro 499D for 4 credits in Spring.


  • This course is open to Senior Commonwealth Honors College students in all majors.
  • Instructor consent required. Contact: brown-perez@honors.umass.edu




Food as Communication

Tuesday & Thursday:  2:30 PM  3:45 PM

Offered Remotely in Fall 2020

This seminar will explore the intersections of food, community, identity, and justice from a wide variety of theoretical and methodological perspectives, and will teach students ethnographic and other community-based research skills toward their culminating thesis project. Students will survey interdisciplinary approaches to food and/as communication in HONORS 499 CL, and develop research questions based on readings and campus and community food projects. Students will also take field trips to local food businesses and nonprofits to better understand how food access and justice networks develop inside and outside of the commodity food chain. By the end of the semester, students will complete a draft of their proposal (rationale, literature review, and methods) based on the communication of identity, community, sustainability, and or social justice through food. They will draw from course readings, class discussion, and observation of food business and nonprofit agencies or other institutions (e.g., schools). In the spring semester, (HONORS 499 DL) the class will meet together bi-weekly to discuss methods for gathering data and analysis of data. The class will meet once weekly one on one to discuss individual projects. Students will conduct their thesis research projects, including their data collection, analysis, and write-up.

Instructor: Leda Cooks

Credits: COMM 499CL for 4 credits in Fall and COMM 499DL for 4 credits in Spring.


  • This course is open to Senior Commonwealth Honors College students.
  • Instructor consent required. Contact: leda@comm.umass.edu




Social Values and Public Decisions: Philosophical and Economic Perspectives

Tuesday & Thursday:  11:30 AM  12:45 PM

Offered Remotely in Fall 2020

This two-semester, 8-credit honors thesis seminar will combine readings and methods from philosophy and economics to address ethical questions that are relevant to the goals and evaluation of public policies. These questions include: Should we assess social outcomes, policies, and institutions by reference to well-being, fairness, rights, or other criteria? What do these notions consist of and can they be measured? Does well-being consist of happiness, life satisfaction, goal attainment, some combination of these, or something else? Is inequality bad in itself or because of the outcomes to which it leads? Can we measure how fair a society is? How should we incorporate consideration of future generations in thinking about our policies today? If we care about multiple values, how do we balance them? These questions of value are relevant to a broad variety of policy issues associated with topics such as taxation, immigration, climate change, democracy, and the boundaries of markets. Students will write a thesis relating to questions of value or their application to public decisions using methods and ideas from philosophy or economics.

Instructor: Itai Sher

Credits: ECON 499C for 4 credits in Fall and ECON 499D for 4 credits in Spring.


  • This course is open to Senior Commonwealth Honors College students in ALL MAJORS.
  • No prerequisites.
  • Instructor consent required. Contact: isher@umass.edu



ENGLISH 499C & 499D

Foundations and Departures in Creative Writing: Fiction, Poetry and Literary Non-Fiction

Monday & Wednesday: 4:00 PM 5:15 PM (Fall 2020, 499C)

Wednesday: 4:00 PM 6:30 PM (Spring 2021, 499D)

Offered Remotely in Fall 2020

This is a multi-genre, two-semester course in creative writing designed to help students complete a Capstone project within the genre of their choice. Both a class in contemporary literature and a writing workshop, Foundations and Departures will offer students a wide variety of reading assignments and writing exercises from across all three genres. At the end of the first semester, students will submit a portfolio of original work; in the second semester, students will finish drafting and revising their Capstone projects. Textbooks will include two fiction anthologies (Charlie Chan Is Dead 2 and The Art of the Story), novels by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Virginia Woolf, and Milan Kundera, a memoir by Helene Cooper, non-fiction by Joan Didion, poetry collections by Major Jackson, Katia Kapovich, Nick Carbo and other contemporary poets, and The Alhambra Press Poetry Calendar 2010, which provides a selection of poetry from all over the Anglophone poetry world—from Africa to Oceania to India, Canada, and the Caribbean.

Instructor: John Hennessy

Credits: English 499C for 4 credits in Fall and English 499D for 4 credits in Spring.


  • Open to Senior and Junior Commonwealth Honors College students only. Priority will be given to English Majors who are pursuing Departmental Honors.
  • Enrollment requires instructor permission. Please submit a complete story or essay, or 5-10 pages of poetry. Some combination of poetry and prose is also acceptable. Also include a 2-3 page personal statement (Why are you interested in this class? Describe your reading preferences and habits; address your writing and work habits, preferences, and aspirations.) to jjhennes@english.umass.edu, by April 15th.
  • Instructor consent required. Contact jjhennes@english.umass.edu



HONORS 499CA & 499DA


Bioterrorism: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on International, Political and Scientific Challenges

Tuesday & Thursday:  11:30AM  12:45 PM

Offered Remotely in Fall 2020

This two-semester, eight-credit interdisciplinary Honors course examines the complex problem of making weapons out of biological organisms. This includes understanding the history of research and development into creating biological weapons, as well as describing the extent and categories of actual use, including consideration of accidental and/or unintentional use, as in the historical exposure of indigenous cultures to European diseases. We will also examine perceptions of the distinctions between types of conflict in which biological weapons may be used, including exploration of the difference between war and terrorism. We will focus on two specific diseases--anthrax and smallpox--and in both, we will explore the organism, the disease it causes, the history of weaponization efforts, and international efforts at control. We will end the first semester with a critical analysis of the several societal, political and international issues that must be resolved, including addressing whether it is ethical to use biological weapons; whether we should regulate scientific inquiry in the field of microbiology; whether scientists are responsible for the applications of their research; differentiating between what is termed 'defensive' and 'offensive' research, and a critical examination of how effective international controls have been. The focus of the second semester is to provide support for each student as they complete their Honors Thesis requirement, which will be on a topic covered during the first semester, or some other topic related to this area. We will also discuss some current issues in emergency preparedness within the U.S. The final product is an Honors Thesis, which will meet the standards for both Commonwealth Honors College and for the University Library's Archives.

Instructor: Laura Reed  Sanjay Nawalkha

Credits: Honors 499CA for 4 credits in Fall and Honors 499DA for 4 credits in Spring





Honors Thesis - Video Games as Simulations, First Semester

Tuesday: 4:00 PM 6:30 PM 

Offered Remotely in Fall 2020

In 2008 computer scientist Shirley Turkle wrote: “These days we see the world through the prism of simulation. Discontents with this hegemony draw our attention to the settings where simulation demands unhappy compliance; discontents draw our attention to things that simulation leaves out.” Do video games demand a similar type of “unhappy compliance,” as the most popular and commercially successful form of new media? Do video games function as unimportant simulations of the real? If digital games are indeed simulations, what can the time we spend playing in digital environments tell us about how other types of simulations (television, the news, the Internet) function? Are games as simulations designed specifically to deceive, distract, and/or entertain, or do video games and their predominance suggest that we have successfully destroyed and disordered our shared realities, as theorist Jean Baudrillard once melancholically predicted would happen? In this course, we will study digital games and various theories of simulation as our foundational texts. We will analyze games as simulations in order to explore other pressing themes and concepts that are relevant to digital cultural studies more broadly, including narrative, ideology, representation, computation, and play. We will play and analyze video games throughout the year but previous experience playing or studying games is not required. Games are likely to include: emergent virtual reality games, Burger Time, Kid Icarus, Detroit: Become Human, The Walking Dead, The Sims, and Far Cry 5. Students will be encouraged to research and write about games and aspects of digital or narrative culture of their choice. This is a four-credit course each semester.

Instructor: TreaAndrea M. Russworm

Credits: Honors 499CB for 4 credits in Fall


  • This course is open to Senior Commonwealth Honors College students.
  • Instructor consent required.  Contact: russworm@english.umass.edu



HONORS 499CC & 499DC

Honors Thesis - Debating Globalization

Monday & Wednesday:  2:30 PM 3:45 PM (Fall 2020, 499CC)

Tuesday & Thursday:  2:30 PM 3:45 PM (Spring 2021, 499DC)

Offered Remotely in Fall 2020

Globalization will serve as the cornerstone of our study in this two-semester seminar as students undertake their honors thesis. By globalization I mean the increasingly integrated nature of our world’s economy, culture and consciousness. Some of the main issues of globalization the course will explore are: strengthening borders against outsiders (refugees, immigrants); increasing borderlessness of technology, which reaches into all corners of the globe, and the relationship between globalization and the distribution of income across countries. Within these broad topics, the course will investigate how and why people have access to more goods and a better life in some parts of the world (China, India) and the escalation of poverty in other parts (Jamaica). We will also explore the social impact of globalization on solidarity movements for human rights, for example, the World Social Forum and the Arab Spring. Another significant feature of globalization is the homogenization of cultures (the popularity of McDonald’s) and increased awareness of different cultures (eating Sushi). The course will evaluate this effect of globalization from the perspective of its impact on human welfare in several countries. In short, the seminar will explore how globalization can foster increased inclusion and participation in some cases and exclusion in others.

Instructor: Deepika Marya

Credits: Honors 499CC for 4 credits in Fall and Honors 499DC for 4 credits in Spring


  • This course is open to Senior Commonwealth Honors College students in all majors; CHC Juniors as space permits.
  • Instructor consent required. Contact: deepikamarya@umass.edu



HONORS 499CG & 499DG.

American Struggles: Immigration and Mass Incarceration

Tuesday & Thursday:  2:30 PM 3:45 PM

Offered Remotely in Fall 2020

This two-semester, 8-credit honors thesis/project course focuses on two of the most intractable structural issues confronting contemporary American society: immigration and mass incarceration. Because of the multiple ways in which they affect virtually every individual in this country, either directly or indirectly, countless policymakers, journalists, academics and activists have studied the two issues over the decades, and have offered various fixes, some radical and some incremental. Most of our contemporaries, however, would agree that both the immigration system and the criminal justice/mass incarceration system are ineffective, unfair, and all-around broken. This course will place these two issues in historical context through a variety of academic, journalistic, and autobiographical texts and documentaries, which will allow students to see how the contemporary phenomena of immigration and mass incarceration have common ideological underpinnings and common historical roots. In addition to tracing the development of these “wicked problems” through the different eras of American history, the course units will also address such secondary issues as media representations of immigrants and convicts; cultural attitudes, assumptions, and expectations; the intersections of journalism, activism and public policy; the ethnography of marginalized communities such as immigrants and incarcerated children, men and women; and “radical” fixes vs. more “traditional” fixes. Students will develop research proposals in the Fall and complete their Honors Theses in the Spring.

Instructor: Razvan Sibii

Credits: Honors 499CG for 4 credits in Fall and Honors 499DG for 4 credits in Spring.


  • This course is open to Senior Commonwealth Honors College students.
  • Instructor consent required. Contact: razvan@comm.umass.edu



HONORS 499CJ & 499DJ

Readings and Research in Disability

Monday, Wednesday, & Friday: 11:15 AM 12:05 PM

Offered Remotely in Fall 2020

In this course, students will explore disability through theory and research. First, students will be introduced to the definition and meaning of disability. Disability is a complex identity that can be viewed from a variety of social, cultural, historical, legal, and political perspectives. Students will be introduced to conceptualizations of disability, models of disability, and historical perspectives as well as the intersection of disability with other social identities such as gender, sexuality, and race/ethnicity. Students will review and discuss the challenges of conducting research with people with disabilities. Students will read and critique contemporary research involving people with disabilities as well as research on perceptions of disability among people with and without disabilities. Throughout the course, students will be scaffolded to design and implement an independent research project related to disability. Students are encouraged to use existing, publicly available data, but may also collect their own data within the UMass or broader community. Students will be advised on an individual basis to design a research project that is ethical, realistic given time and resource constraints, and a novel contribution to the field.

Instructor: Ashley Woodman

Credits: HONORS 499CJ for 4 credits in Fall and HONORS 499DJ for 4 credits in Spring.


  • This course is open to Senior Commonwealth Honors College students.
  • Department consent required. Contact: awoodman@psych.umass.edu



HONORS 499CK & 499DK

Open Science Instrumentation and Data Collection

Tuesday & Thursday: 1:00 PM 2:15 PM

Offered Remotely in Fall 2020

Students will complete and defend an individual Honors Thesis by creating an instrument to pursue a biological science research question. Using data collected with their instrument students will create an "instructable", supplemented with imagery or video, that describes their instrument, how it works, and how to make one. Students will be encouraged to coordinate with an existing research enterprise on campus. In the first semester, students will develop a thesis proposal and construct a prototype instrument. During the semester, students will explore case studies about creating/deploying instruments combined with hands-on activities to develop technical skills for instrument development. Technical lessons will lead students through two instrumentation platforms (Raspberry Pi and Arduino) on how to collect, log, and analyze data from analog and digital sensors. During the second semester, students will use Agile project management techniques to collaboratively build, test, and deploy finished versions of their instruments and conduct iterative rounds of calibration and data collection to assemble a data set that bears on their research question.

Instructor: Steven Brewer

Credits: HONORS 499CK for 4 credits in Fall and HONORS 499DK for 4 credits in Spring.


  • This course is open to Senior Commonwealth Honors College students.
  • Instructor consent required. Contact: sbrewer@bio.umass.edu



HONORS 499CM & 499DM             

Uncertainty, Risk, and Decision Making

Monday, Wednesday, & Friday: 11:15 AM 12:05 PM

Offered Remotely in Fall 2020

Randomness and uncertainty exist in our daily lives as well as in every scientific investigation. Our intuition is often wrong when assessing uncertain situations, leading us to make wrong decisions. The goal of this Honors Thesis Seminar and the projects is to better understand randomness and uncertainty and develop tools to make more informed decisions under uncertain situations. In the first semester, the instructor will cover fundamental and relevant concepts from probability, decision theory, and psychology. The presentation will be made in a way accessible to students from all majors and no advanced knowledge will be required. The goal is to lay the foundations for deeper investigation by students in their theses. In the later parts of the course, students will focus on specific topics in this wide area based on their interests and backgrounds. As the topic of decision making under uncertainty can be studied from many different perspectives, it is expected that it could be appealing to a wide variety of honors students. For example, students in humanities (e.g., philosophy majors) can investigate the connections to morality and ethics. Students in psychology and neuroscience can investigate the psychological aspects, for example, the evolutionary aspects, human biases, etc. As probability is a major component, students in fields such as engineering, mathematics, statistics, and computer science can focus on the probabilistic aspects. Similarly, the students in finance, management, and economics can study the relevant topics in their fields for example, from the point of view of investments, decision theory, or risk management. The topic is naturally relevant to the AI and big data revolution from two perspectives: First, as probability is essentially the foundation of almost all machine learning algorithms, interested students can choose their thesis in this area. Second, as we are moving toward an era where more and more decisions will be made by robots/machine learning algorithms, there are many questions that can be investigated from societal impacts as well as moral and ethical considerations.

Instructor: Hossein Pishro-Nik

Credits: HONORS 499CM for 4 credits in Fall and HONORS 499DM for 4 credits in Spring.


  • This course is open to Senior Commonwealth Honors College students.
  • Instructor consent required. Contact: pishro@engin.umass.edu




Women Organize for a Better World

Tuesday & Thursday:  4:00 PM 5:15 PM

Offered Remotely in Fall 2020

Women’s resistance across the globe is a theme that offers many entry points for research, as women organize around their own interests, jobs, and lifestyle choices. This highly structured seminar will guide students into researching and writing their research in an upbeat, highly motivating setting. The course will offer students exposure to databases and readings that will enhance their scholarship in their fields of interest.

Throughout the planet, women create common spaces for a better world in response to threats to their livelihood. This course uses the concept “woman” to refer to bodies feminized by power, to include both transgender and cis women. Students will analyze the axis of oppression and resistance that sit at the core of women’s experiences. Focusing on gender, sexuality, the economy, and ethnic/racial oppression will help students zero on the structural aspect of women’s organizing. Students will prepare to write their thesis by learning about a wide range of movements, such as movements against gender violence, against racism, for access to full reproductive rights, for living wages, and to de-naturalize domestic work’s hidden unpaid labor. The Fall Seminar, HONORS 499CN, will help students develop expertise in this area, while Spring Seminar HONORS 499DN is designed to encourage and support students as they focus on writing a 40-60 page-long thesis on a topic of their choice.

Instructor: Graciela G Monteagudo

Credits: HONORS 499CN for 4 credits in Fall and HONORS 499DN for 4 credits in Spring.


  • This course is open to Senior Commonwealth Honors College students.
  • Instructor consent required. Contact: gmonteag@umass.edu



HONORS 499NA & 499OA


Friday:  10:10 AM  1:10 PM

Offered Remotely in Fall 2020

This Honors Project Seminar is a two-semester interdisciplinary course. Interested in doing a creative honors project? Would you like to develop a multimedia project, photojournalism, documentary? Or, perhaps you are interested in writing literary journalism, memoir, biographical profiles, feature articles, or some other creative nonfiction project you've always hoped to get to. If creativity is at the heart of your honors project, this seminar will assist you in developing a concept, as well as refining and reflecting on the process for archival purposes. The honors seminar will establish a collaborative community and provide generous guidance, constructive critique, and mutual mentorship. Drawing on creativity and imagination, as well as research and reporting, we will incorporate narrative nonfiction techniques such as scene and setting, character and complication, dialogue, and thematic resonance.

Students will present work in progress over the course of two semesters in a writing workshop style. The seminar culminates in a portfolio of creative nonfiction writing or production of a multimedia project accompanied by an analysis for archiving.

Instructor: Connie Griffin

Credits: Honors 499NA for 3 credits in Fall and Honors 499OA for 3 credits in Spring.


  • This course is open to Senior and Junior Commonwealth Honors College students.
  • Instructor consent required; Contact: cgriffin@uww.umass.edu



MARKETING 499J and 499K

Tools for Professional Success in Marketing and Honors Internship

Tuesday:  2:30 PM  5:15 PM

Offered Remotely in Fall 2020

Students must co-enroll in Marketing 499J, Professional Success, and 499K, Honors Internship. Marketing 499J and 499K together satisfy the Commonwealth Honors College 6-credit Culminating Experience requirement. Professional Success focuses on applying the conceptual frameworks of marketing to real-world problems faced by actual companies. The purpose of the course is to give students some particular real-world experience as interns and to solve marketing problems with actual companies. Each student will have a specific marketing problem from their company that will require investigation and solution over the course of the semester. Company problems will cover a variety of topics and depend on the needs of the intern's company. This course's meetings will be run like a series of staff meetings rather than the traditional lecture/discussion course. Class meetings offer discussion, providing a variety of skills and direction for achieving success in the business world. Students will gain a better understanding of themselves and the strengths and weaknesses they bring to an employer. They will understand the field of marketing in various industries and explore many career choices. All capstones require that a thesis or project manuscript be produced according to guidelines found at honors.umass.edu/capstone-experience-manuscript-content-formatting.

For application form, contact Charles Schewe.

Instructor: Charles Schewe

Credits: 6 (3+3) credits in Fall


  • This culminating experience course is open to Junior and Senior Isenberg CHC students only, Marketing Majors preferred.
  • Instructor consent required; application required. Contact schewe@isenberg.umass.edu




Honors Thesis - Health and Health Care Inequality in the United States

Tuesday & Thursday: 1:00 PM 2:15 PM

Offered Remotely in Fall 2020

This course will help students develop capstone research topics concerning health inequality in the United States. Disadvantaged populations—racial minorities and people of lower socioeconomic status— face a higher burden of disease and death than their white, and more affluent, counterparts do. After an overview of the health care system in the United States compared to those of four other advanced, industrial democracies, this course will then consider insights from social epidemiology about the factors that drive disparities in health outcomes. Social epidemiologists show that lower social status consistently predicts health status today and in the past. The mechanism is thought to be the deleterious consequences of chronic stress, which impairs immune function over time. Numerous studies also show that the subjective experience of racial discrimination is bad for health. Students will have an opportunity to develop research topics that consider the relative health disadvantage of blacks and other minority populations, as well as why white Americans tend to do worse than their European counterparts. The answers reflect problems of the US health care system and relate to the broader “social determinants” of illness and disease. These, in turn, ultimately reflect political inequalities that affect the pattern of health for Americans in general. The focus material for this part of the class will emphasize political and policy determinants of health and other indicators. We will facilitate this discussion by first revisiting the health disadvantage Americans experience relative to their wealthy nation counterparts.


Instructor: Dean Robinson

Credits: POLISCI 499C for 4 credits in Fall and POLISCI 499D for 4 credits in Spring.


  • This course is open to Senior and Junior Commonwealth Honors College students.
  • Instructor Consent Required. Contact deanr@polsci.umass.edu




Is Democracy Possible Everywhere?

Tuesday & Thursday: 10:00 AM – 11:15 AM

Offered Remotely in Fall 2020 

Debates today rage about whether democracy is really possible in powerful authoritarian countries like China, in the oil-producing states of the Middle East, in the poorest countries of Africa, and even in wealthy but unequal societies like the United States. This course asks whether there are in fact economic, or associational preconditions for (or impediments to) the establishment or maintenance of democracy. This question is at the heart of one of today’s great political debates. It is also at the center of major methodological debates within the social sciences. The course thus offers an excellent opportunity to 1) learn something about one of the big political issues of the day, 2) examine key methodological issues involved in the study of democracy, and 3) evaluate critically various kinds of social-scientific explanation. Because this is a seminar, it is expected that students will do all the readings before each class meeting and come prepared to discuss them. Because this is a research-oriented honors-thesis writing course, the last third of the fall semester will be devoted to developing the research question and the entire spring semester will be devoted to writing the thesis. Students will present their research in class during the spring semester and have the opportunity to present their research at the Commonwealth Honors College Undergraduate Research Conference held at UMass Amherst during the last week of April.

Instructor: Frederic Schaffer

Credits: POLISCI 499CE for 4 credits in Fall and POLISCI 499DE for 4 credits in Spring.


  • This course is open to Senior Commonwealth Honors College students.
  • Instructor consent required. Contact: schaffer@polsci.umass.edu




Explorations in Psychological Practice

Tuesday & Thursday:  2:30 PM 5:30 PM

Offered Remotely in Fall 2020

Psychology 499D is an intensive 7-credit, one-semester Honors Thesis seminar that fulfills the Commonwealth Honors College Honors Thesis/Project requirement. Students in the course cover the workload traditionally completed over two semesters and spend a weekly average of 12 hours outside of class meetings on associated coursework as well as completing a 4-6 hour weekly practicum in a human services setting. The content of the course covers the important aspects of clinical psychology as it pertains to both current and future practices. A history of the field, clinical assessment and diagnosis, ethics, psychological interventions, biological foundations of behavior, and specialty areas such as child, family, forensic, and health psychology are covered. The class includes extensive reading on the part of students, several papers, a midterm, and a final Honors Thesis paper suitable for archiving. The class format consists of lectures, discussions, and experiential exercises.

Instructor: Bonnie Strickland

Credits: 7 credits in Fall


  • This course is open to Senior Commonwealth Honors College Psychology students. Prerequisites: PSYCH 240 and 380.
  • Instructor consent required. Contact: bonnie@psych.umass.edu




Honors Project - Public Policy and Citizen Action

Thursday: 4:00 PM 7:00 PM

Offered Remotely in Fall 2020

Public Policy and Civic Action is the third course in a four-course sequence that collectively makes up the Community Scholars Program (formerly the Citizen Scholars Program) under the auspices of the Civic Engagement and Service-Learning Office. For more information about the Community Scholars Program please go to umass.edu/cesl/programs/community-scholars-program.

In addition, this class is a UMass designated service-learning course in which you agree to engage in substantial and significant work in the community (on or off-campus), build upon the relationships you have developed with your community partner, and engage in analysis of a specific public policy (local, state or national) that interests you and, whenever possible, will be of use to the community organization where you serve.

In this course, we will explore the ways that public policy forms a critical part of the context of our social life, the complexities of defining a “public good,” and, given that complexity, how to consider when a policy should be changed. Using a lens of critical compassion, we will explore how policy is created and shaped at the local, state, and national levels, and how people can employ approaches of compassionate social action to impact the policy process and work toward a conception of the common good. You will each identify a specific public policy issue that, ideally, arises out of your service experience.

You will research the issue, conduct a policy analysis, and advocate for a specific policy outcome. In addition, we will engage in productive critique of mainstream methods of analyzing and influencing policy, as we study and engage strategies of empathic and compassionate social action. Students who graduate from the CSP Program fulfill the Foundations, S-L, Capstone, and four of the five content areas required to earn the interdisciplinary Certificate in Civic Engagement & Public Service (CEPS). Please contact CEPS advisor Kris Nelson at kenelson@educ.umass.edu if you have not yet applied to earn the Certificate.

Instructor: Deborah M. Keisch

Credits: 4 credits in Fall


  • For Commonwealth Honors College students, this course serves as Part I of your Commonwealth Honors College Project experience.
  • Instructor consent required. Contact: dkeisch@umass.edu



SCH-MGMT 499C and 499D

Honors Thesis Seminar - Business Strategy and Entrepreneurial Leadership

Tuesday & Thursday:  4:00 PM 7:00 PM (Fall 2020, 499C)

Tuesday:  4:30 PM 7:00 PM (Spring 2021, 499D)

Offered Remotely in Fall 2020

This is the first part of a two-semester Honors Thesis Seminar that fulfills the Honors Thesis requirement of Commonwealth Honors College. This course is designed to familiarize students with cutting edge ideas in the strategic management of for-profit companies. Delivered over two semesters (fall and spring) in classes of 3 credits each, the course is an extension and an embellishment of the Capstone Strategy course (SCH-MGMT 497A). As such, the objectives of this 6-credit course include a conceptual understanding of business strategy fundamentals as well as a hands-on and practical grasp of what it means to strategically lead business organizations. Although the 2 phases are presented as separate classes, an attempt will be made such that students experience a seamless, integrated experience.

Concepts, books, speakers, and field trips will be spread throughout the fall and spring semesters. Phase I (fall semester) will comprise an extensive review of prominent strands of thinking in Competitive Strategy. Phase 2 (spring semester) will be focused on practical application of strategy concepts via field trips and executive speakers as well as via public reports and management discussions of companies' operations.

Instructor: Anurag Sharma

Credits: Sch-Mgmt 499C for 3 credits in Fall and Sch-Mgmt 499D for 3 credits in Spring.




SCH-MGMT 499E & 499F

Applied Research Methods in Services Management

Monday:  4:00 PM 6:30 PM

Offered Remotely in Fall 2020

This course is a two-part honors seminar (three credits per semester) that occurs over the course of the academic year and students must complete both to use the completion of this seminar to fulfill the honors research and thesis or project requirement. The first part of the honors seminar is designed to introduce the methods and approaches utilized to conduct research in services management with an emphasis on current and timely business challenges and issues from the perspectives of management and business functions. Students will learn how to formulate a research question, construct a bibliography, review and synthesize the relevant literature, and identify and develop the appropriate analytical methods that can guide their research projects. By doing so, students will be able to develop proposals for their three-person team projects by the end of the fall semester. In the spring semester, the students who successfully completed the first part of the honors seminar will carry out the proposed research projects under the supervision of the faculty member teaching the seminar.

Instructor: Muzzo Uysal

Credits: SCH-MGMT 499E for 3 credits in Fall and SCH-MGMT 499F for 3 credits in Spring.


  • This course is open to Senior Commonwealth Honors College students.
  • Instructor consent required. Contact: muysal@isenberg.umass.edu