Honors courses

Coursework that cuts across traditional academic boundaries. 

Honors classes create a dynamic, personal environment — so you become part of the course, shaping it with your own commentary and interests. 

Even though they're more challenging, they're more interesting. Dig deeper into the material with richer analysis, cutting-edge tools, and through the lens of pop culture and society.  

Use PeopleSoft to find the list of all honors courses being offered. On the Class Search page, select University Honors Course in the Course Attribute pull-down menu to get the list.

If you do not meet the enrollment requirements for an honors course, you must contact the professor teaching the course to obtain their permission to enroll in it. When you email the professor, explain why you're interested in taking the course and offer details about any skills/experiences you will bring to the course. If the professor is willing to waive the enrollment requirements to allow you to enroll in the course, the professor can direct you to someone in their department who can issue you a permission number, or the professor can send an email message to David Hornyak (hornyak@pitt.edu) with the following information:

1. The course department and number (e.g., HIST 1234)
2. Your name
3. Your email address
4. Your PeopleSoft ID number

You will be emailed a permission number in return.

Suggested Honors Courses for First-Year Students - 2022 Fall Term

The courses listed below are appropriate for almost all first-year students. Depending on your background and experiences, more advanced honors courses may be considered. Please speak with your academic advisor or one of the honors Scholar Mentors to discuss honors course options appropriate for you, given your skills, interests, and goals.

BIOSC 0155 - Honors Foundations of Biology 1

This course covers biological phenomena at the cellular level: macromolecules, cell structure, photosynthesis, cell respiration, homeostasis, signaling and genetics.  The experimental basis supporting our understanding of these processes will be introduced. Enrollment Requirements: Advanced Placement Biology Test Score equal to/greater than 4 or International Baccalaureate Biology Score equal to/greater than 5.

BUSENV 1706 - Market Manipulations: Crises, Bubbles, Robber Barons

Taking a historical perspective, the course focuses on the major kinds of market manipulations, as well as their impacts. Major topic areas include: the nature of a market and its 'failures,' and how firms as well as governments evolved to compensate for those failures; types of major market calamities, with historical comparisons, examining how they might have been successfully managed; the market manipulators, focusing on the 'robber barons' of the 'gilded age;' and the contexts and consequences of market manipulation, including an overview of factory towns and of worker impacts.

BUSENV 1795 - Business and Politics

The financial crisis, international negotiations toward a climate change agreement, and crises in such industries as pharmaceuticals and even toy manufacturing have highlighted the increasing interdependence of business and government. Such events often also expose the means by which business gains strategic benefits from government regulation. This course will examine methods and patterns of business influence on government, modern approaches to regulatory design, policy-making on issues affecting business, the performance of regulatory agencies, and the behaviors of groups and trade associations in politics.

CHEM 0710 - UHC General Chemistry 1

Chemistry 0710 and 0720 comprise a two-term introduction to the fundamental properties of matter.  The courses emphasize the fundamental principles of chemistry as exemplified by applications to industrial and environmental chemistry. Chemistry 0710 covers stoichiometry, electronic structure of atoms and molecules, periodic behavior, theories of bonding, and spectroscopy.

ECON 1070 - History of Economic Thought

ECON 1070 surveys the development of economic thought from post-Renaissance times through the early 20th Century, with a focus on British, French, and German/Austrian writers. The primary objective of the course is to understand the intellectual foundations of modern economic theory and understand how economic philosophy evolved through—and alongside—history. The course will focus on 1) the origins of modern economic thought during the Renaissance and Reformation, 2) English mercantilism, 3) key pre-Smith writers such as Child, Locke, Petty, Cantillon, Law, Mandeville and the French Physiocrats, 4) the classical model of Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations, 5) early classical theorists, particularly Ricardo and Malthus, 6) the development of the classical model through J.S. Mill, 7) the 19th century emergence of neoclassical economics--marginal analysis and optimization, 8) the Austrian school, 9) Walrasian general equilibrium, 10) the early 20th Century Cambridge School, and 11) the emergence of Keynesianism as a challenge to classical orthodoxy.

PHYS 0475 - Introduction to Physics for Science and Engineering 1

This is the first term of a two-term honors version of the physics 0104-0105-0106 sequence. This term deals with mechanics, waves and thermodynamics. Enrollment Requirements: You must also be enrolled in (or have completed) MATH 0230 or MATH 0235.

PITT 0130 - Wellness and Resilience

The purpose of this course is to teach undergraduate students skills for having resilience in the face of commonly experienced stressors and difficulties. Stated simply, resilience is the ability to both survive and thrive. Resilience is not only about your ability to positively adapt in the face of adverse or challenging circumstances (that is, survive), but it is also about learning the positive skills, strategies and routines that enable you to live a happy, fulfilling, and successful life (in other words, thrive). This course will provide you with a personalized set of strategies and skills for self-care and optimize your academic and social experiences while at the University of Pittsburgh and beyond.

LAW 2749 - Gender at Work

Wednesdays, 6:00-9:00 pm

Sexual harassment and gender disparities continue, but are we paying enough attention? The me-too movement and highly publicized downfalls of celebrities like Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby have brought cases of sexual assault and harassment into daily conversation. But does the law really assure women a level playing field and freedom from bias in their education and work? This course will explore these complicated topics, drawing on introductory legal reasoning and interdisciplinary perspectives.

Class will be based on small group discussion in a supportive environment and students will investigate a topic of their choice through a research essay and presentation. 

No prerequisites or familiarity with the law required. Students from all majors welcome. This course is designed for first-semester students.

If you wish to take this course, first send an email to lawreg@pitt.edu and include the following in your email:

1. State that you are an undergraduate student.
2. Give the specific course number (LAW 2749).
3. Provide your PeopleSoft ID number.

The Law School will email the permission number to you in return, which you will use in PeopleSoft to enroll in the course.

HONORS 0001 – University Orientation
Foundations of Research and Scholarship

At its core, research and scholarship serves to develop new knowledge, inform action, and advance the public good. This seminar teaches students about foundational concepts and skills necessary to conduct research across disciplines while helping students begin to develop their own scholarly work. Specific seminar sections focus on topics in either the Arts & Humanities, Social Sciences, Natural Sciences, or Professional fields (e.g., education, business, etc.).

Section Topic: American Politics in 2022

You may have noticed some big changes in American politics recently! In this seminar we will study some of the main strands (and most controversial questions) of contemporary American politics; race, policing, mass incarceration and capitalism; how are all of these connected and how they are playing a role in contemporary politics. The first third of the seminar will introduce students to the basic tenets of archival research. The second section will be a close reading of various academic texts focusing on contemporary American history and politics with a particular focus on the research methodologies being used; we will essentially take the readings apart and see how they are constructed. We will all vote on and choose the readings at the start of the semester, based on everyone's research interests. In the last third of the seminar, students will develop their own research project on American politics (broadly defined), identify suitable archival sources and methodologies, and prepare an application for a research grant to actually carry out this research. An optional follow-up class in the spring term will allow students to carry out their own hands-on archival research.

Section Topic: Research for Social Change

If the success of a democracy is dependent on leaders' justifications of public policies, the use of policy research skills can offer more logical rationale to inform constituents. This section of Foundations of Research and Scholarship is ideal for students that are interested in becoming familiar with relevant skills for exploring how inequitable policies and systems effect groups of people differently (including race, gender, income, sexuality, religious practice, ability, or any combination of these characteristics) in order to produce social change. The first section of the course will provide an overview of effective practices in policy research. In the second section of the course, students will focus on a public policy (e.g., public health, education, environmental, economic - to name a few) of interest. In the final section of the course, students will have the opportunity to propose a research project on a specific public policy that has an effect on a local, regional, or global community.

Section Topic: Understanding Undergraduate Research

Undergraduate research has long been identified as a High-Impact educational practice that increases student engagement, retention, and success. Many students interested in research, however, often struggle with questions of how, where, and when to pursue research opportunities as an undergraduate. In this course, students will learn strategies for how to develop as undergraduate researchers. Topics in this course range from identifying faculty mentors and funding to developing research questions. Students will also learn about foundational concepts of research that are applicable to any discipline. The final project for the course will be a research proposal students can use as the foundation for pursuing research or creative opportunities in their area of interest. This class is applicable to students in any major.

Honors Courses Offered in Pitt's Law School – 2022 Fall Term

To access information about LAW courses in PeopleSoft, do the following on the Class Search page:

In the Subject field, type LAW
Change the Course Career menu from Undergraduate to Graduate

Finally, EVERY student will need a permission number from the Law School to enroll in the LAW courses. Here's the procedure to request a permission number:

Send an email to lawreg@pitt.edu and include the following in your email:

1. State that you are an undergraduate student.
2. Give the specific course number (e.g., LAW 2910).
3. Provide your PeopleSoft ID number.

The Law School will email the permission number to you in return.

LAW 2909 - How Law Began

Mondays & Wednesdays, 11:00 am - 12:15 pm

How did law develop in early societies? Why did it develop? As an embodiment of human values and a fundamental form of human expression, how did early law reflect and shape custom, religion, government and the very concept of civilization itself? In this course we’ll explore these questions and more through an examination of law’s rise in a wide range of ancient cultures broadly clustered around the Mediterranean basin, beginning with Mesopotamia a thousand years before Babylon and extending three millennia to the eastern Roman Empire in the 6th century CE. In between, we’ll encounter Egyptian viziers presiding in pharaonic courts, Hittite kings making international treaties with their neighbors, Hebrew law-givers leading their people to justice in the promised land, Greek logographers writing speeches for delivery to Athenian juries, and Roman advocates arguing cases before judges sitting in the city forum.  We’ll meet Hammurabi, Ramesses, Moses, Demosthenes, Cicero and Justinian. We’ll find early law written on clay and set in stone; we’ll read it in text, touch it in ancient coins displaying legal symbols and look at it literally in the round as its monuments stand in modern museums. We’ll see how it treated women and men, kings and slaves, citizens and foreigners. We’ll search for law in early Assyria, Phoenicia and Persia, and following in the footsteps of Alexander the Great we’ll even reach towards the ancient legal cultures of India and China to gain a comparative perspective on law’s earliest meanings and manifestations in civilized society. At the end of our journey, we may discover that far from being primitive, undeveloped or altogether “backward”, early law and the people who made it have much to teach us today, not just about what they were, but about what we could be.

Class meetings will be a mix of lectures and discussion of primary source readings. Student evaluation will be based 20% on class participation and 80% on four short papers (no more than 10 pages each) on questions related to the course materials and themes. Students will have two weeks to write each paper.

Professor Bernard Hibbitts, the course instructor, is a legal historian based at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law who has taught ancient law to law students for over 25 years. A Rhodes Scholar and a graduate of Oxford University and Harvard Law School, he has written extensively on the physical and mnemonic significance of performance, iconography, the senses, and other non-textual forms of expression and understanding in the legal cultures of non-literate and semi-literate societies.

LAW 2911 - First Amendment

Thursdays, 6:00 pm - 8:30 pm

The First Amendment guarantees the right to engage in five activities deemed essential to a free society: religion, speech, press, assembly and the right to petition the government to redress grievances. Courts have established various tests over time for defining protected versus unprotected activity and for determining the degree of permissible government regulation. Questions concerning proper interpretation of First Amendment rights have resulted in some of the most well known and contentious Supreme Court decisions. This course will entail a rigorous study and discussion of First Amendment case law, as well as methods of legal analysis and historical/societal concerns that have driven the development of First Amendment law. Assigned readings will largely consist of court decisions. Class discussions are expected to be interactive. Students will be encouraged to question and critique court decisions and discuss their own views of how cases should have been decided using the analytical tools taught in class. A number of class exercises will be introduced to encourage free thinking and debate regarding fundamental First Amendment rights.