Facebook Pixel Spring 2022 Honors Special Topics and Colloquia | Western Kentucky University

Spring 2022 Honors Special Topics and Colloquia

Fact vs. Fiction: Discerning Reality

  • Tuesdays and Thursdays, 2:20-3:40

What tools do we require to live an authentic and fulfilled life? How do we know we are operating with an accurate understanding of reality? How do we sift fact from fiction in a world that bombards us with information? This course will engage you in the practice of critical inquiry and constructive discussion. You will develop skills in discerning the quality of information that comes to you. Each week we will apply these skills as we take up topics from the media, popular culture, and history/society. Our examination will include a wide range of genres, among them readings from selected sources, excerpts of films/television shows and real video footage. Some examples of course topics are the psychology of money and consumer choices, the facts and statistics regarding the use of tobacco, alcohol and recreational drugs, a practical examination of human sexuality, and other topics that are prone to myth, distorted views, and misguided public opinion. After completing this course, you will be less vulnerable to the barrage of flawed and deliberately manipulative information found in social media, news, and other publications. You will be empowered to distinguish for yourself what is real.



Dr. Matt Foraker received his PhD in Higher Education from the University of Arizona and works as a Research Coordinator for Institutional Research at Western Kentucky University. He served as Executive Director of a Workforce Development Institute in Tucson, Arizona. Prior to that he worked in private industry as an engineer and financial manager. His other degrees are a BS in Electrical Engineering and an MS in Mathematics. Matt is an avid cinema fan with an extensive collection of films. He enjoys hiking, rowing, and conversations with his daughter (PhD Sociology).


Power Trip: Understanding Power in the World Around Us

  • Mondays and Wednesdays, 3:25-4:40

Individual and group power molds our lives, but often our description and understanding of it seem intangible. This concept is hard to grasp even though we probably have an opinion on it. Power conditions our relationships and our outlook on the world. While power entails politics, it is also a much broader element of relations we have with each other which impacts couples, groups, and institutions.

This approach will look across disciplines to glean multiple understandings of power. This process will help us escape myopic views but will also consider contested notions of power. It will also examine the implications of power, especially for those who may have less power. Some regular questions in the class include, what is power? Where is power? How is power distributed?



Dr. Kevin Modlin has been fascinated with power since his third year at WKU when he was a Congressional intern. Though he was not fully aware of that fascination until he was exposed to more experiences and ideas to grasp its scope. After developing an intuition of power as a Congressional Aide he got a MA in Applied Economics from WKU and a Ph. D. in International Relations from FIU where he explored the influence the balance of power has on global trade agreements.


Public Enemies, Prisons and…Tourists?

  • Tuesdays and Thursdays, 11:10-12:30

How is it that the United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world but also romanticizes outlaw criminals like Jesse James, Billy the Kid, John Dillinger, and Bonnie & Clyde? Scholars will answer this question by exploring underlying social, economic, and political conditions; analyzing representations of criminals and prisons in pop culture; and visiting tourism sites related to crime.

These “social bandits” rose to fame under unique social conditions that made their criminal exploits, detailed in countless newspaper stories, not despicable but admirable. They would’ve been long forgotten if not for the “dime” novels, detective magazines, comics, songs, and old movies that turned these criminals into legends. Today, these legends remain household names as they are celebrated at festivals, museums, and in contemporary films. Scholars will experience this firsthand through a visit to the Alcatraz East Crime Museum.

Prison museums often prioritize their associations with notorious criminals or “escape artists” to attract visitors. However, focusing only on these issues can distort a visitor’s perception of what life was like in prison and oversimplify the complex factors that influence crime. Scholars will learn about several prison museums that are now moving beyond the “gangster appeal” and tackling contemporary issues like income inequality, racial injustice, and mass incarceration.

Scholars will read about the rise of mass incarceration in the U.S., firsthand accounts of prison experiences, visit Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary (now a museum), and reflect upon the interactions between each. Most importantly, by the end of the course, scholars will attempt to reconcile the apparent contradiction between romanticized outlaws and mass incarceration through a tourism lens.



Eric Knackmuhs received his Ph.D. from the Department of Recreation, Parks, and Tourism Studies at Indiana University. Prior to entering academia, he spent his time on “The Rock,” as an historical interpreter on the Alcatraz Night Tour. There, he became interested in why people visit prison museums, what outcomes they experience, and how prison museums can serve as a platform for discussing contemporary criminal justice issues. He has published several articles on these topics. He enjoys reading, triathlon-ing, and visiting historic sites and national parks with his wife, Katie, and infant son, Benjamin.

Learn more about Dr. Knackmuhs with the video below:


Special Topics: Interracial Communication

  • Wednesdays, 5:30-8:15

More information on this Special Topics course will be coming soon.



Professor Ryan Dearbone will be instructing this course.



If you are interested in taking any of these courses, please click the link below.

Request for Special Topics and Colloquia Form

Some of the links on this page may require additional software to view.

 Last Modified 9/15/21