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Honors NEXUS Experiences

Honors NEXUS Experiences, while distinct in content and format, all share the goal of bringing together students and faculty from across the University in small groups to engage in non-standard learning models. Details on each experience may be found below.

UHP welcomes ideas for future experiences—please send them to Honors Advsior and NEXUS Coordinator.

NEXUS Experiences Beginning in the 2018–2019 Year

Cick on any experience to view details and to access application links. The window for new and returning UHP students to apply for NEXUS Experiences beginning in the Fall 2018 semester and winter break will close at 12pm (central time) on Wednesday, August 29th, 2018. There will be an additional application period in October 2018 for NEXUS Experiences beginning spring/summer 2019.

Fall 2018 (Appy by 12pm on August 29th, 2018)

Spring and Summer 2019 (Applications open October 2018)

Cultural Experience Portfolio

"I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train."
—Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest

UHP has designed this experience specifically to help students collect set of memories and reflections inspired by cultural experiences. Over the course of the experience, participating students will attend eight cultural events of their choosing. In addition, they will hear from at least four faculty experts across the year about how best to prepare for these events, what to consider while enjoying them, and how to process the experience afterwards. Throughout the year, students will also be contributing to their own online portfolio—including brief essays, reflections, conversations, original artwork, and any other relevant reactions they would like to preserve. While the goal of this experience is to energize students to participate fully in the cultural life of the University, the Twin Cities boasts a wealth of additional cultural opportunities just steps away from campus. While in no way exhaustive, the following list provides a sampling of the kinds of opportunities students could attend (with at least one from each group listed below being required):

  • Dance (ballet, contemporary dance, folk dance, and so forth at Northrop, Rarig, the Barbara Barker Center, the Cowles Center, the Ordway, and many other venues off-campus)
  • Spoken Word and Exhibits (including the Honors Lecture Series, the U of MN Ford lecture, the Westminster Town Hall Forum, Minnesota Historical Society, exhibits put on by Archives and Special Collections, libraries on- and off-campus, poetry readings spoken-word performances, and so forth)
  • Live music (Minnesota Orchestra; St. Paul Chamber Orchestra; Minnesota Opera; performances of non-Western music at the Cedar Cultural Center; Met Opera Live in HD at movie theaters; popular music at First Avenue; a wide variety of performances of live music at venues around the Twin Cities; U of MN Symphony Orchestra; U of MN Wind Ensemble; and a host of community orchestras, bands, and chamber ensembles)
  • Theater (plays, musicals, and other theatrical performances at Rarig, the Guthrie, Penumbra, and Southern theaters—among many, many more)
  • Visual arts (installations or special exhibits at MIA, the Walker, the Weisman, Goldstein Museum of Design and other galleries and architectural spaces)

Participating students will be using an online platform to curate their own portfolio of experiences. Students are expected to share some of these with the larger community of participants; one of them must be a collaboration with another student (a recorded conversation, a co-authored blog post, a joint work of art, etc.); and, finally, students are expected to show engagement with other students' posts by commenting on at least five across the year.

The intended outcome of this experience is for students to enjoy a rich diversity of experiences outside of those they might already regularly attend. Hence, a classical violin student might go to First Ave to hear live music while a garage-band musician might attend a performance of the MN Opera. Participating students will be entrusted with selecting experiences that broaden their horizons and open them up to new corners of the cultural treasure trove accessible on and nearby campus.

Activity Period: Open until completion
Meets: Students must attend a 60-minute intake meeting on either Tuesday, September 11 from 4–5pm or Tuesday, September 18 from 4–5pm in Northrop 240. Faculty lectures will generally be offered on Tuesdays at 4pm. Students must attend at least four of these 30-to-45-minute lectures.
Students to be admitted: unlimited
Participating faculty/staff: Brad Hokanson, CDES–Graphic Design; Lyndel King, Weisman Art Museum; John Logie, CLA–Writing Studies; Matt Rahaim, CLA–Music; Mark Russell Smith, CLA–Music; Michael Sommers, CLA–Theatre Arts and Dance; Christopher Terry, CLA–Journalism; Christine Tschida, Northrop Memorial Auditorium; David Walsh, CLA–Music; Jamee Yung, Weisman Art Museum

Honorary Degrees: Strengthening Tradition and Advocacy in Higher Education

The university has existed as an institution since the Middle Ages and its antiquity shows in many of its traditions—from the Latin vernacular of alumni and cum laude, to robes and scepters at graduation. This NEXUS experience will immerse students in one of the traditions whose inner workings are rarely accessible to undergraduates—the awarding of honorary degrees. Honorary degrees are bestowed upon notable people for their contributions to society through their work in a field. In this instance, students will be working with faculty in CEHD to identify and advance a candidate for an honorary degree.

This NEXUS experience will give the curious student the opportunity to learn how to identify and research a slate of potential candidates, write and present a nomination, and advocate for their candidate to the CEHD Senior Management Team. Students who wish to, may remain engaged with process as the nominee goes to the All-University Honors Committee, and—if the nomination is successful—to help in planning for the honoree's campus visit. This experience is open to students from all colleges, but may be especially valuable to students in CEHD or students interested in careers in higher education.

This NEXUS experience offers students an unprecedented opportunity to work with upper-level collegiate faculty administrators, and to learn about the history of, controversies surrounding, and past U of MN successes with awarding honorary degrees.

Activity Period: Fall 2018 semester, specific meeting times to be scheduled around participants' calendars
Meets: There will be 4–6 common meetings to develop skills for research and presentation, some check-ins with Dr. Madyun, and a presentation to the CEHD Senior Management Team. Specific dates TBD
Students to be admitted: 8
Participating faculty/staff: Assoc. Dean Na’im Madyun, CEHD; Dean Jean Quam, CEHD

Honors Lecture Series — 1968/69: 50 Years of Social Justice in the USA

During the 2018–19 school year, UHP will present its third lecture series, 1968/69: 50 Years of Social Justice in the USA. The series comprises an eclectic blend of topics, values, experiences, and perspectives. Participants will attend the lectures, discuss them in small groups with a diverse mix of faculty, and write a final synthesis paper. This year we are proud to welcome another exciting roster of speakers to campus. All lectures will be held in Northrop's Best Buy Theater unless otherwise noted.


  • Participants must attend five of the six lectures and discussions, and complete five of the six assigned readings or supplementary activities
  • Participants must complete a synthesis paper at the end of the series, finding connection points between disparate lecture topics
  • Each participant will have an opportunity to join a group dinner with one of the speakers, courtesy of UHP
  • All materials (tickets, texts, dinner, etc.) provided by UHP
  • Speakers TBD

Activity Period: September 2018 through April 2019
Meets: Lectures will be held on Thursdays from 3:30–4:30pm; dinners are from 5–6:30pm; Discussions held 6:30–7:30pm. Specific dates TBD
Students to be admitted: 24
Participating faculty/staff: Matt Bribitzer-Stull, CLA–Music (and Director of the University Honors Program); Susannah Smith, Institute for Advance Study; Beth Hartmann, CLA–American Studies and Music; Sue Wick, CBS–Biology

Laboratory Research Sampler

Although labs and the people who work in them are highly creative and productive, the work that happens there can seem inaccessible and mysterious to undergraduates. In this pilot Honors Experience, research labs across the University will open up their doors to a small group of Honors students over the course of an academic year. With each lab tour, students will read the most recent publication from that lab and discuss it with the faculty and staff researchers. Students who participate in this experience will have the opportunity to tour labs in the STEM fields, the social sciences, and in departments not traditionally known to do lab work (think Apparel Design, Dendrochronology, and Anthropology). If you are wondering what research looks like and would like to get started yourself, this is an excellent way to become familiar with the University's opportunities.


  • Students will be responsible for attending at least six (6) of the lab tours offered.
  • Students will participate in pre-reading publications, lab tours, and reflection experiences throughout the semester, as well as a reflection/response paper at the end of the academic year.

Activity Period: Fall 2018 semester
Meets: Students must attend an introductory meeting in Northrop 240 from 4–5pm on Wednesday, September 12. Lab visists will be on Wednesdays from 4–5pm
Students to be admitted: 12
Participating faculty/staff: Lucy Dunne, CDES–Apparel Design; Dan Griffin, CLA–Geography; Nicola Grissom, CLA–Psychology; Sarri Haqqi, Minnesota Historical Society; Tom Hoye, CSE–Chemistry; Paul Iaizzo, Medical School–Surgery; Forest Isbell, CBS–Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior; Kieran McNulty, CLA–Anthropology., others TBD

The New York Times Experience

What can you can learn by reading the newspaper every day and discussing it with a diverse group of thoughtful people? How do different newspapers handle the same stories? Find out over Winter Break! Students and faculty members will meet each day for one week, read the daily New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Minneapolis Star-Tribune from 9am–12pm, break for lunch, and return for an afternoon of lively discussion. Walking breaks twice a day also give participants a chance to stretch their legs and explore the East Bank campus (and its tunnel system).


  • Breakfast, afternoon snack, and newspapers provided free of charge.
  • Held in Nolte Lounge
  • Live in the dorms? Upper-class UHP students who live off-campus are willing to host you for the week!

Activity Period: January 14–20, 2019
Meets: 9am–4pm daily, January 14–20, 2019 in Nolte Lounge
Students to be admitted: 16
Participating faculty/staff: Benjamin Toft, CLA–Journalism and Mass Comm; Craig Packer, CBS–Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior; Christopher Johnstone, CEHD–Org. Policy, Leadership, and Development; John Logie, CLA–Rhetoric (Writing Studies)

Transformative Conversations Project

Networking is important, but it can often seem superficial or awkward. If you'd like to skip the pretense, then the Transformative Conversations Project is for you. Students in this experience will learn how to have meaningful conversations with people who are making a real difference in their fields. They will learn how professional leaders launched their careers and hear about issues that are truly important to them. Students will then choose someone whose interests align with theirs and pursue a substantial networking conversation. This project will help students make tangible connections with thought leaders in different sectors as they explore an approach to their own developing career that will allow them to be involved in similar issues.


  • Students will be prepared for networking interviews through training from participating faculty and staff members.
  • Students will be trained to interview and take field notes, introduce a structure to record and reflect on things they learn, and provide a space to share their learning with other Honors students.
  • Participants will set up a series of 3 or 4 interviews with people who are recommended to them by their first (and possibly, subsequent) contact points
  • Students will participate in a mid-semester reflection and end of semester report-out with other honors students as well as staff from CCEL, LEAD, and UHP.

Activity Period: September 2018 through January 2019
Meets: Students must be able to attend the following three Tuesdays from 4–5pm: 9/25, 10/2, 10/30; from from 4–6pm on 2/5
Students to be admitted: 16
Participating faculty/staff: David Valentine, CLA–Anthropology; Laurel Hirt, Center for Community Engaged Learning; David Hellstrom, Leadership Minor

Anna Karenina

The University Honors Program is proud to present a special year-long Honors Experience centering on Anna Karenina. This interdisciplinary opportunity builds on the successful Dracula and Romeo and Juliet experiences completed in previous years. Students will work closely with a group of faculty members from various arts and humanities disciplines to explore Anna Karenina and its many translations into film, dance, opera, television, literature, and the visual arts. What are the problems, values, and insights of the original work? What is gained and what is lost in its various adaptations to other media? Why does this tale remain relevant to modern-day audiences? Highlights will include the Joffrey Ballet'’'s performance of a new story ballet with live orchestra. All experience materials (books, dance/film tickets, etc.) are provided by UHP, free of charge.

Activity Period: Spring 2019 semester
Meets: Thursdays from 4:30–6:30pm
Students to be admitted: 15
Participating faculty/staff: Matt Bribitzer-Stull, CLA–Music (and Director of the University Honors Program); Gary R Jahn, CLA–Slavic Languages and Literature; Thomas Wolfe, CLA– others TBD

Applied Reality: What Impact Will You Have?

Have you taken the Honors Seminar "Reality 101" or had other experiences that have given you insight into the grand challenges of humanity and our planet? This NEXUS experience will bring together students to deepen their knowledge of the grand challenges and find ways to assure a more sustainable future. This experience will be co-created with participating students based on interests and needs, and facilitators will connect students to mentors, resources, and people in support of action that individuals and/or the group choose to take. Much of the experience will be devoted to discussion and processing of personal, emotional reactions to environmental realities, working then to channel this energy into identifying a supported, meaningful project, be it advocacy, habitat restoration, research, education, or something else.

Activity Period: January–April 2019
Meets: Fridays 12–1:30pm in Middlebrook Hall (bring your lunch)
Students to be admitted: 24
Participating faculty/staff: Nate Hagens, Reality 101 HSem instructor; Megan Voorhees, Acara Associate Director at the Institute on the Environment and Affiliate Faculty, Humphrey School of Public Affairs; Neal Cuthbert, Former Vice President of Program at McKnight Foundation

Caring for the River at Your Doorstep: The Many Faces of the Mississippi

Middlebrook Hall sits within Mississippi National River Recreation Area and Dakota homeland. The purpose of this experience is to give students multiple and varied opportunities to engage with the Mississippi River corridor, its people, history, and material life, so that they can supplement their chosen academic path with an urban river experience and also become better stewards of water wherever they live. Explore one of the planet's great rivers right outside the doors of Middlebrook Hall, participate in habitat restoration, and learn about the Mississippi through history, art, geology, and ecology. Lectures, field trips, readings, videos, and discussion during the cold-weather months will augment hands-on work on the river in warmer weather. In partnership with community organizations, this experience will be a truly interdisciplinary exploration of the natural and cultural resource that flows through campus.


  • The year's experience begins with a fall orientation and introduction to guided stewardship projects on the banks of the Mississippi
  • Regular meetings and a final project will provide the structure for exploration of various facets of the Mississippi river, including learning about water levels and larger systems, seasonal changes, and independent student visits to the river to take a photo or document it somehow (photograph, drawing, written reflection, field notes/observations, etc.)
  • Students will be able to take advantage of a number of exploring and learning opportunities, some of which will be selected from a menu of options available to the broader public, and some of which will be created solely for members of this cohort. These may include: Mississippi festival at St. Anthony Park, Institute on the Environment water bar, a ranger-led activity at the Mississippi River National Park Visitor Center, Mill City Museum, Fort Snelling State Park Visitor Center, and rafting down the river with Wilderness Inquiry
  • Over the course of the experience, students will develop a project, either solo or in an interdisciplinary team, that is suitable for sharing with the broader University and river-corridor community at a final cohort meeting in the spring

Activity Period: Spring 2019 semester
Meets: Wednesdays from 12:15–1:45pm in or near Middlebrook Hall.
Students to be admitted: 15
Participating faculty/staff: Christine Baeumler, CLA–Art; Jay Bell, CFANS–Soil, Water, and Climate; Anna Bierbrauer, CDES–Landscape Architecture; Len Ferrington, CFANS–Entymology; Pat Nunnally, River Life; Mona Smith, Dakota media artist

Contract Bridge

Contract Bridge is a trick-taking game played with standard 52-card deck that can help hone skills like memory, communication, and strategy—and you can earn an Honors Experience this year for learning how to play! Participants in this experience will attend weekly meetings with two key components: lecture and practicum. Faculty will lecture on aspects of bridge rules, bidding, card-play technique, scoring, table presence, and tournament bridge culture. Faculty will also show how the skills of the game—memorization, concentration, communication, contingency planning, analytics, etc.—have applied to their own research and/or teaching. Bring your dinner, meet new friends (including faculty), be exposed to thinking from a variety of disciplines, and learn mankind’s best intellectual sport. All books and other materials provided free of charge.

Activity Period: Spring 2019 semester
Meets: Mondays from 5:30–7:30pm (with an optional 7:30–8:30pm free play hour) in the Middlebrook Hall Terrace Room (bring your dinner!) from January 28–May 6 (except over spring break).
Students to be admitted: 48
Participating faculty/staff: Matt Bribitzer-Stull, CLA–Music Theory (and UHP Director); Paul Gutterman, CSOM–Accounting; Eric Hendrickson, CBS–Biochemistry; Nita Krevans–CLA, Classics; Glen Meeden, CLA–Statistics

Developing Yourself Through Competitive Scholarships

Every year students in UHP win nationally competitive scholarships that help them to pay for their undergraduate education, conduct summer research, or pursue graduate studies or other experiences abroad after graduation. To successfully apply for most of these awards, students should start planning well ahead of the deadline. This NEXUS experience aims to help you prepare an effective application, whether you are a junior applying this spring for post-graduate awards or a sophomore planning for the future. Topics covered have broad application outside of scholarship application as well, and will include: Introduction to competitive scholarships and how they might fit into your academic and professional plans; Assessing a scholarship and yourself; Building relationships and soliciting letters; Composing a personal statement; Writing about what you do; Talking about what you do (i.e., interviewing skills).

In addition to attending the six sessions, participants should plan to spend 4 hours per session completing related reading, research, and writing. Students will also participate in a half-hour interview and have a one hour meeting with the director of Office of National and International Scholarships.

Those who can benefit most are: 1) Juniors (or seniors) applying for Fulbright Student Awards to fund a year of foreign study, research or teaching in 2020–21. (Applications due beginning of fall semester 2018); 2) Juniors (or seniors) applying for Rhodes, Marshall, Mitchell, Gates-Cambridge, Schwarzman, Yenching, Knight-Hennessey, or DAAD scholarships to fund graduate study in the UK, Ireland, China, Germany, or at Stanford beginning in fall 2020. (Applications due beginning of April through November depending on award); or 3) Sophomores planning to apply for any of the above or Truman or Udall scholarships during their junior year.

Activity Period: January–April 2019
Meets: From 3–4pm every other Fridays
Students to be admitted: 20
Participating faculty/staff: Timothy Jones, Director of the Office of National and International Scholarships; Doreen Leopold, CSE–Chemistry; Luverne Seifert, CLA–Theater Arts and Dance

Immigration History Research Center and Oral Histories

UHP is excited to partner with ASC (Archives and Special Collections) and RiverLife to provide Honors students a unique opportunity to work hands-on in collections under the guidance of archive and collection directors. Students will largely work on their own schedule apart from attending an introductory session with ASC staff at the beginning of the experience, a check-in near the middle, and final showcase at the end.

What is your family's history? Where did your ancestors come from? How is history reflected in the experiences of your parents and grandparents? Join other honors students to help answer these questions and to learn how history makes its marks on all of our family's stories. This NEXUS experience will give you an opportunity to research the origins of your family in the United States through archival records. You will combine research in libraries, archives, and museums with conversations with your own family or members of your community. Your final project will be an oral history with a family member or community member, which you can produce into a short segment suitable for radio or sharing online.

Meetings will focus on:

  • Learning about archives research and ancestry resources in the community
  • How to make a family tree
  • How to conduct an oral history
  • How to edit your oral history into a story
  • Presenting our stories

Ultimately, students will share the results of their experiences in a final showcase. These results may take many forms: a mini-exhibit, a written guide to research materials (a good first step toward completing an Honors thesis), a recorded conversation with another student in the experience, a presentation (formal or via poster), and so forth.)

Activity Period: Spring/Summer 2019
Meets: Introductory meeting on Tuesday, February 12th, 2019; Check-in and final showcase to be scheduled once participants are finalized
Students to be admitted: 10
Participating faculty/staff: Pat Nunnally, Director of River Life; Erika Lee, CLA–History; Tracey Deutsch, CLA–History; various staff from Archives and Special Collections TBD

Philosophy, Conceptual Art, and LEGOs

The LEGO experience will comprise about a dozen one-to-two-hour meetings of the faculty listed above with sixteen Honors students. Readings, video viewings, presentations, guest lectures, site visits, and hands-on sessions will serve as catalysts for discussion in the hopes of spurring future research and community connections. Content will include:

  • Lectures/presentations by faculty and guests on: conceptual art; philosophy; visual-thinking strategies; toy design; LEGO play and its relationship to learning and child development; LEGO design; LEGO as business; LEGO in American culture
  • Site visits to some of the following : Mall of America LEGO store front; Brick-mania in Northeast Minneapolis, The Children’s Museum, The Works Museum, Leonardo’s Basement, and Snapology
  • Readings and Viewings: Lego and Philosophy: Constructing Reality Brick-by-Brick; Brick by Brick: How LEGO Rewrote the Rules of Innovation and Conquered the Global Toy Industry; Beyond the Brick: A LEGO Brickumentary; Abstract: The Art of Design (TV series 2017– ); one of the LEGO movies; one of the LEGO video games
  • Experiential/Hands-On Sessions: LEGO communication challenge; LEGO as prototyping tool training session; LEGO as prototype-design training session; LEGO instruction-writing training session

At the conclusion of the experience, students will complete a final project, which could take a variety of forms including, but not limited to:

  • Using LEGO to build a prototype (for a brand, a new building (like a UMN Welcome Center), an upgrade to a Minneapolis neighborhood park, etc.)
  • Creating a set of LEGO-style instructions for something they have created (like a new children’s game or toy, or a model of Northrop Memorial Auditorium)
  • Creating a set of lesson plans to include LEGO in a K-12 series of classroom session to teach a certain skill or topic
  • Building 3-D figures or examples using LEGO to supplement a research paper or Honors thesis

Activity Period: Spring 2019 semester
Meets: Select Mondays in Middlebrook Hall from 12:15–1:45pm
Students to be admitted: 16
Participating faculty/staff: Roy T. Cook, CLA–Philosophy; Brad Hokanson, CDes–Housing and Apparel Design; Barry Kudrowitz, CDes–Product Design

Tabletop Games: Don't settle for Catan!

From a game of mahjong in the park to a 5-hour wargame in a residence hall den, tabletop gaming has provided a lifelong hobby for people all across the globe. This NEXUS experience will explore why games are so endlessly fascinating, from art and design, to mathematical principles, and interpersonal motivation and behavior. We will meet once a week to learn from faculty about an aspect of games that intersects with their expertise. Then, in small groups, we will spend time learning different types of games, including: cooperative, asymmetrical, team-based, solitary, and non-competitive. At the end of the semester, in addition to new knowledge about the theory and design of gaming, students will have been introduced to variety of specific games and a deeper understanding what makes them so compelling. Sessions will include:

  • Mathematical model of games
  • Games as illustrations of various mathematical principles
  • Introduction to micro-economic theory
  • Introduction to computational psychiatry
  • Intrinsic motivation (why do people play games?)
  • Information theory and artificial intelligence
  • Game design and marketing; design thinking; studio-based teaching
  • Field trip to Fantasy Flight Games for board game design and production
  • Guest lecture by a professional game designer
  • Play and critique of a variety of tabletop games

Activity Period: January–April 2019
Meets: Wednesdays from 3:30–5:30pm
Students to be admitted: 25
Participating faculty/staff: Beth Allen, CLA—Economics; Matt Bribitzer-Stull,CLA—Music; Debra Lawton, CDES—Product Design; Bryan Mosher, CSE—Mathematics; Ian Ringgenberg, UHP Advisor and NEXUS Coordinator; Paul Schrater, CLA—Psychology