Where State Meets Spirituality: Reflecting on HON 104 with Dr. Yuki Miyamoto

Author:  Liz Bazzoli

I’ve never had a religious background, nor do I come from a very religious family, so religion has never been a major component of my life. At the same time, I have always been eager to explore spirituality. When I decided to attend DePaul, one of my goals was to learn more about religion and find some sense of internal faith, however that might manifest. Naturally, when I saw that the honors program provided a class that analyzed religion’s role in politics, I was immediately interested. Politics were a passion of mine, and I wanted to learn more about religion, so I thought perhaps combining the topics would give me a better appreciation of each. I am happy to report that HON 104: “Intersection of Religion and Politics” with Dr. Yuki Miyamoto did exactly that. 

This class has introduced me to a wide array of concepts and ideas I had never anticipated exploring. I never expected the class to be philosophical, but I have found myself questioning my thought process and worldview throughout this class. We have read about the myth of neutrality and the politics of labelling certain belief systems as “religious” and others as “secular” – a process that ultimately prioritizes Western thought and perpetuates imperialism. We analyze global perceptions of religious groups and how these perceptions might be misinformed and can possibly result in political violence. We even debate whether church and state should act as separate entities. I went into the class hoping to learn more about how religion interacts with politics, but now this class has me questioning if there is any distinction between the two at all!

Because of the philosophical topics we explore in class, the readings are often verbose and difficult to understand. Despite this, Dr. Miyamoto does an excellent job reviewing the material and helping lead class discussions on the readings. She does this not only through live Zoom lectures but also through online materials where she helps breakdown the week’s reading assignments. Dr. Miyamoto utilizes digital resources like D2L and VoiceThread well, and she has done an excellent job adapting this class for an online environment. Even though we’re all isolated, she still makes the extra effort to chat with us at the beginning of every class and encourages us to engage and discuss with each other outside of class. Dr. Miyamoto is clearly thoughtful and welcoming, and she makes the class all the more understandable and enjoyable. Overall, I appreciate that this class has made me more mindful in my perception of the world. Maybe it is a sign of naivete, but I never gave much thought into the politics of classification. There is a wide array of man-made constructs I take for granted as just parts of life. Now I find myself asking, but who originally constructed it, and what function does that construct serve?  This class might not have been the education on religion or politics that I initially expected, but I do feel as though it has made me more analytical of society and the impact different ideologies have on society. For anyone who wants to view religion, politics, or just the world as a whole in a new light, I highly recommend taking Professor Yuki Miyamoto’s HON 104: “Intersection of Religion and Politics”. Serious, contemplative inquiry is bound to ensue.

The Life of an Honors Playwright

Author: Morris Mclennan

At six a.m. every morning, I wake up, drink a tall glass of fair trade biodynamic keto coffee that’s been flown in from an independent New York coffee shop, and I go on a run while listening to audiobook readings of Bertolt Brecht’s full theoretical discography. I then go home, change into my black vintage trench coat, and spend the next eight hours chain smoking and writing plays on a typewriter and using my massive brain. 

That is, of course, not true at all. Sorry. Truthfully, I roll out of bed 30 minutes before my online classes and wear the same Full Sweatpant Outfit every day. I have to shake my brain around like an Etch-a-Sketch in order to generate the occasional intelligent thought. But I do write plays. 

What is a playwriting major? Sometimes when I tell people I’m a playwriting major they say “oh so you’re gonna write movies?” I am now going to use this opportunity to publicly state that no I am not going to write movies. I don’t like movies, I watch like three movies a year, and my visual processing abilities are about as developed as a toddler’s. Film is generally a visual medium and plays are generally an auditory medium. So what I actually do all day is, I think about how people talk and what that sounds like. And then I write it down. It’s a lot of fun. 

Figuring out what I was going to do with my life in high school was an interesting time. I have always been invested in a lot of different things. By senior year, I was deciding between majoring in physics, going to plane school to be a pilot, and majoring in playwriting. You might think playwriting would lead to the fewest number of post-college practical job opportunities, but uh……… all three are maybe not the best options for finding a linear path in life. But hey, does anybody have a linear path in life these days? 

The conclusion I came to was this: I am going to write plays for the rest of my life because I love it and it’s fun. So I may as well start there, and if I want to study or do something else later, I can. I’m going to live a very long life but the first thing I want to do is learn as much as I possibly can about plays! And now, three years into my epic playwriting studying adventure, I’m really glad that was the choice I made. I’ve made a bunch of friends and written a bunch of plays. I have a bunch of theatre knowledge in my brain now (but not the Bertolt Brecht full discography… yet). And, even though every day I wake up and there’s a new apocalypse to worry about, I’ve decided to be hopeful anyways. 

At some point, it will be safe to go to theaters again. The repurposed laundromats and cafes and churches that housed Chicago’s iconic theatre scene will fill up with new companies, new people, and new ideas. And it’s going to be so exciting to be there, figuring out the future. 

I think we’re actually really lucky to be young right now. Maybe nothing matters because the world’s ending. But that means the stakes are low. That means we can do anything. 

You Live and You Learn — A Reflection of Dr. Kalchman’s HON 207

Author: Deyana Atanasova

The Honors Program has given me so many enriching experiences in the classroom throughout my time at DePaul, but there’s one class in particular that has helped me redefine my experience here and likely beyond—yes, even through Zoom.

That class is Dr. Mindy Kalchman’s HON 207: “How People Learn.” To be fully transparent, I was initially planning on taking a linguistics course for the HON 207 requirement this autumn quarter, but because of the switch to online remote learning, and scheduling conflicts, the course wasn’t offered. 

Despite the uncertainties and the general havoc in everyone’s life right now, the 3 hours a week spent in Dr. Kalchman’s class are extremely worthwhile, engaging, and applicable. Sometimes, we even get a cameo from Jude, her bearded dragon. 

I’m by no means a cognitive science person (or any type of science, really), but this class has redefined metacognition for me in an accessible way.  Even within the first few weeks, I felt like I had learned several threshold concepts with regards to learning. Like, for example, did you know that learning styles aren’t really a thing? Or that atoms are made up of…cells? Who knew?!

The class, however, isn’t overflowing with theory; it’s a perfect blend of key concepts from constructivism in a constructivist classroom setting–how’s that for being meta? For an Honors class, the rigor isn’t nestled between the usual lengthy essays or niche and siloed scholarly readings but rather within introspective reflection papers and succinct, applicable texts. These are supplemented with guest speakers, class activities (like doing origami or mini math exercises which, I swear, are actually fun), TedTalks, and in-depth, multi-faceted discussions.

I feel that in this class, I’m not only learning for me but also learning how others learn, learning how to learn, and also honoring interdisciplinary conversations about economics, policy, athletics, music, graphic design, writing, and pretty much anything else you can think of. Each class period is unique, each reflection is different, and I am incredibly grateful for Dr. Kalchman’s consistent feedback and course adjustments in the midst of everything going on.

This is a class where you get to actually be mindful about where you are–something that has been quite kind to me as I reach the end of my undergraduate experience in the middle of quarantine. It has allowed me to look back reflectively, to be present in the discussion and current circumstances, and also look to the future. I’d say that I wish I took this class earlier so I had these foundational concepts in mind, or that I could take it later when I had more experience and maybe witness it in person, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. This is a class that meets you where you are–literally wherever you are (one of my classmates even calls in from Greece)–and allows you to build momentum, each class and each reflection serving as a stepping stone for constructing your own meaning of learning and your own conceptions of how to learn.