Fall 2021 Honors College Forums to Explore Topics Ranging From Ancient Artifacts to Blockchains

Peter Aaron

Next fall, honors students will have an opportunity to step behind the scenes at the University of Arkansas Museum, study the latest trends in computing and follow runway fashion through the ages. The 75-minute, one-credit-hour Honors College Forums, designated HNRC 300VH in the University of Arkansas catalog, bring star faculty and top administrators together with honors students on a weekly basis to discuss key topics, from climate change to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“The forums allow our students to reach beyond the silo of their major or college and take a deep dive into topics that interest them,” said John Treat, director of interdisciplinary and curricular learning. “The goal is for them to become broad, innovative thinkers as they learn about the issues that are reshaping our society today.” 

Students need not apply to participate, but seats are limited in these seminar courses. Interested honors students are encouraged to sign up as soon as possible. 

The Fall 2021 Honors College Forums are:

Artifact: In this course students will explore, experience and engage with the University of Arkansas Museum, guided by the museum’s curator Laurel Lamb. With cultural and natural materials from around the world, the museum’s collections will intrigue students with a variety of interests who are pursuing majors across campus. This course is perfect for those interested in a museum career, which extends beyond curating a collection. It takes a variety of skill sets to operate a museum, including advertising, writing, teaching, designing and constructing, researching, managing finances and building community relations. There are surprising ways you can combine your interests with museums and this forum will provide hands-on experience with a selection of them.

Artificial Intelligence: This class will prepare students on current and emerging artificial intelligence topics, including foundation of machine learning, deep learning, cloud computing, big data analytics and blockchain. Justin Zhan, an Arkansas Research Alliance Scholar and professor of data science in the Department of Computer Science and Computer Engineering, will lead this forum. 

Blockchain: This forum, cosponsored by the Sam M. Walton College of Business’ Blockchain Center of Excellence and the Honors College, will feature networking opportunities with leaders in industry. Blockchains are the next evolution of the Internet. Bitcoin, the first blockchain application released in January of 2009, and other blockchain innovations that followed, are moving us from an “Internet of Information” to an “Internet of Value,” where people transact value — money and other assets — directly with each other without relying on trusted third parties like banks. The post-blockchain world is digital, automated, inexpensive and distributed, promising to empower individuals to control their own data. Companies are already using them to trace food from farm to fork, to prevent blood diamonds from entering supply chains, to allow neighbors to buy and sell excess solar capacity and much more. Blockchains are revolutionizing industry in the same way the internet overturned traditional modes of doing business. LinkedIn has cited blockchain as the number one skill sought by employers in 2020. 

This forum will be led by Mary C. Lacity, Walton Professor of Information Systems and director of the Blockchain Center of Excellence.

Runway: This forum will present an interactive study of runway fashion throughout the ages. Guided by Stephanie Hubert, an instructor in the Apparel Merchandising and Product Development Program in the School of Human Environmental Sciences, students will study the history of fashion shows, discuss how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the runway, and interact with guest speakers about actual fashion show experiences. The course will focus on different types of fashion shows and will allow students to analyze past shows and create ideas for shows in the post-pandemic world. Other topics of discussion will include diversity on the runway, using fashion to create social change, and eating disorders in the modeling industry.