Honors Courses

Dig deeper into your interests by taking Frederick Honors College courses, which are both more challenging and more interesting. In these courses, you will engage in the material with richer analysis, cutting-edge tools, and through the lens of culture and society. Frederick Honors College faculty fellows, specialists from across the University, design and teach our courses with the intellectual needs of our students in mind. With the spring 2024 term around the corner, start looking at honors course options for your schedule!

Enrolling in Honors courses

Use PeopleSoft/Campus Experience (CX) to find the list of all Honors courses being offered. On the Class Search page, select Frederick 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.

Honors Course Enhancement Contracts

Honors course enhancement contracts allow David C. Frederick Honors College students the opportunity to earn course credit for Honors Degree or Honors Distinction program requirements in an undergraduate course that does not already fulfill an FHC requirement.

Examples of courses approved for FHC requirements that cannot have a course enhancement include:

  • Courses with the Frederick Honors Course attribute
  • Courses with the High Impact Attribute Values of Undergraduate Research, Undergraduate Internship, and Capstone Course
  • Courses with the Civic Learning and Civic Learning + Engagement attributes
  • Courses used to fulfill honors-approved certificates/programs
  • Courses that have an honors version of it available (e.g., introductory biology, chemistry, physics, etc.)

Additionally, undergraduate courses with the writing intensive course (w-course) attribute cannot have an honors course enhancement contract associated with them.

Instructors are not obligated to agree to a request from a student to create an honors course enhancement contract for their class.

The experience and subsequent product(s) must engage the student beyond a more passive requirement, such as adding one additional paper for the class, although a paper may be one component of the deliverable.

Instructors and students are encouraged to be creative in their approach by considering:

  • Presentations
  • Individual research projects or assistance with instructor research
  • Using innovative technologies
  • Producing creative works
  • Community engagement or service-learning projects
  • Preparing and presenting class lectures or designing and testing lab projects
  • Reflecting on intellectual development opportunities related to the course, such as visiting museums, galleries, archives, or attending guest lectures or seminars

An honors course enhancement may be designed for an individual student, or several students may work together under one contract.

A contract form (PDF) is submitted to David Hornyak no later than the end of the add/drop period of the semester in which the course is being taught. The contract form includes details of how the course enhancement provides greater depth to the course and a description of the deliverable product(s). The contract form is signed by the student and the course instructor. If several students are working on the same enhancement project together, separate contract forms must be completed for each student, although the details about the enhancement project can be the same for all students involved.

At the end of the semester, David Hornyak will provide the instructor with an evaluation form through Qualtrics to assess the student’s performance and success in meeting the requirements of the contract. The evaluation is due when course grades are submitted.

The evaluation of the honors course enhancement contract is separate from the grading for the course. Failure to complete the contract’s requirements will have no impact on the grade the student receives for the course.

If the student successfully completes the requirements of the honors course enhancement contract, they will be given credit for an honors course requirement as part of the Honors Degree or Honors Distinction.

For questions or assistance in developing an honors course enhancement contract, students and instructors are encouraged to discuss possible ideas with the Frederick Honors College by contacting Assistant Dean David Hornyak at hornyak@pitt.edu.

GSPIA courses for Frederick Honors students: 2024 fall term

Are you interested in public service and learning how our world works? Do you want to challenge yourself by taking a graduate-level course? Any Honors College student is welcome to cross-register and take a course from the Graduate School of Public & International Affairs.   

To request a permission code that will allow you to register, please email rkidney@pitt.edu and specify which course you would like to take. You will receive a reply within 2-3 business days. 

PIA 2231 - Contemporary US Energy Policy

Professor Jeremy Weber, Tuesdays 3:00–6:00 p.m.This class examines the energy policy choices facing local, state, and federal policymakers. The choices involve myriad issues, including, but not limited to how and when to regulate energy markets, such as for environmental reasons; ensuring electricity is delivered safely and reliably; allocating research and development resources; and growing concerns about environmental (in)justice. This class will connect realistic policy outcomes to theoretical ideals underlying energy policy, including supply and demand, benefit-cost analysis, monetizing non-market goods, taxes and subsidies, discounting, and equity. Students should expect to build practical, intellectual, and interdisciplinary skills applicable to making energy policy decisions, particularly decisions that impact the environment.

PIA 2223 - City of White Supremacy

Professor Rashad Williams, Tuesdays 3:00–6:00 p.m.The title of this course is meant to signal the objective of scrutinizing how systems of white supremacy have shaped the American city and how the American city functions in ways that reproduce and reinforce white supremacy. As George Lipsitz (2007: 12) tells us, "The lived experience of race has a spatial dimension, and the lived experience of space has a racial dimension." The first section of the course will focus on frameworks for understanding white supremacy generally, and as it relates to urban development specifically. The second section considers specific domains of urban policy and planning using white supremacy as the analytic framework. We will examine how white supremacy has been expressed across a range of urban development issue areas, including housing, transportation, the urban environment, education, criminal justice, and urban design, and how policies and planning practice have maintained or disrupted systems of white supremacy.

PIA 2125 - City & Region Theory and Practice

Professor Sabina Deitrick, Mondays 3:00–6:00 p.m.This course is about the current challenges faced in cities and regions, nearby and around the world - and how those challenges might be met.  The majority of the world's citizens live in cities, and therefore one cannot talk about human progress without thinking about progress in cities.  As "mega-regions" consolidate, small cities grow rapidly, and older industrial cities shrink, the managerial, policy, and planning capacities of governments come under increasing stress. How can cities meet these challenges? To facilitate understanding of these dynamics and issues, this course is divided into two parts.  The first part provides a general background necessary for the second part.  We define the general concepts of "city" and "region," and we talk about measurement issues involved in understanding what is happening to them.  We also learn about the policy and planning process involved in addressing any issue in a city or region. The second part focuses on the challenges cities and regions face, and how to solve them.  Solving them implies having a theory about what causes them, so this part will begin with a discussion of what urban scholars define as an ideal city and region.  It will then move on to cover specific urban policies such as transit oriented development, the use of eminent domain for urban projects, community development, etc.  Emphasis will be placed on understanding the practical issues of implementing urban and regional policies, and learning about actual experiences with such policies in particular places.

PIA 2522 - Climate Policy – Local & Global

Professor Shanti Gamper-Rabindran, Tuesdays 12:00–3:00 p.m.

We examine strategies at the local, national and international level to address the climate emergency and to transition to more sustainable and equitable economies. These include mandating climate risks disclosure for financial institutions, climate litigation to hold governments and fossil companies to account and the declining costs and technology advancement for greater deployment of renewable energy and energy efficiency. We discuss how to advocate for shifting taxpayers' funds from fossil fuels to renewable energy and for the just transition of fossil fuel reliant communities and how to counter climate misinformation and false solutions. The course is relevant for students in international development, public administration, and international affairs.

PIA 2108 - Matching Money with Mission

Professors Kathy Buechel & Anne Marie Toccket, Tuesdays 9:00 a.m.–12:00 p.m.
This course traces the historic origins and contemporary expressions of philanthropy to offer an overview of the multiple dimensions of this growing and increasingly global source of capital and innovation in the nonprofit sector. Students become familiar with who gives, why, and how they structure their philanthropy. The course assesses different strategies and how new approaches like ephilanthropy and giving circles open and diversify the field. Global, faith-based, and venture philanthropy are among the topics covered. Market-based approaches like social enterprise and corporate social responsibility, along with accountability, impact measures, transparency, and their public policy implications are explored. The course draws on case studies and guest speakers. Students participate in GSPIA's student philanthropy project, gaining hands-on grant-making experience throughout the semester by awarding funds to area nonprofits. This exercise links philanthropic theory to practice. At the end of this course students are able to articulate a robust definition of philanthropy's goals and the structures that advance them; demonstrate a range of hands-on grant-making skills; connect applied learning in grant-making to policy and practice issues examined in the course; model effective team work and decision-making practices that enhance grant-making; incorporate knowledge gained from practitioners and course work into personal philanthropic practices; recognize how contemporary issues in philanthropy intersect with the nonprofit, public and civic sectors; develop a research topic that contributes to peer learning; better assess community needs though an enhanced understanding of the Pittsburgh nonprofit sector.

PIA 2164 - Natural Resources Governance & Management

Professor Ilia Murtazashvili, Tuesdays 9:00 a.m.–12:00 p.m.
Natural resource management is complex and emerges from frameworks of governance - the rules that govern ownership in society and the political and administrative institutions that have responsibility for management of natural resources. The course will examine resource ownership and management by government, private owners, and communal property actors. Institutional frameworks reflect nature of the resource being managed, the characteristics of the community seeking to manage the resource, and historical socio-economic factors. Geographically, the course will take a global view, with regional illustrations.  The course will look at the theoretical approach referred to as "managing the commons."  Institutionally, the course will examine government entities, international organizations, communities, non-governmental organizations, and trade associations.  Substantively, the course will look at land, soil, and forests; water and rivers; oceans, fisheries, and coastlines; energy and mineral resources; and ecosystem services, and species protection.

PIA 2156 - Law, Policy & the Internet

Professor Lisa Nelson, Thursdays 12:00–3:00 p.m.
Information technology and the information that it generates has increasingly become part of our daily lives shaping our practices, discourses, and institutions in fundamental ways. Personal information is used by consumers, professionals, and organizations to a variety of ends and in a few different settings. The growing reliance on personal information not only challenges long standing demarcations between public and private institution in terms of responsibilities, obligations, and limits, but also calls for a reconsideration of how to ensure the protection of long-standing civil liberties and civil rights. This course will consider the impact of emerging technologies within existing constitutional, statutory, and international guidelines and will then explore a range of policy solutions for managing the use of personal information in our public and private sectors.

PIA 2507 - Human Rights & Social Change

Professor Lisa Alfredson, Fridays 12:00–3:00 p.m.
Human rights are powerful and important tools in governmental, intergovernmental, and non-governmental work across a range of fields -- from international development, to politics and public administration, to security and justice. This course provides students with analytical and policy skills in human rights, using an interdisciplinary approach which engages human rights in law/policy, politics and society, philosophy, and ethics. It provides students with essential understanding of international human rights laws as tools of individual empowerment, and as evolving social norms shaped by individuals seeking to create fairer societies. We learn to interpret international human rights laws and underlying principles, to grapple with debates and controversies in diverse contexts and cases, and to apply theories of how international human rights create social change in domestic settings worldwide. Questions driving this course include: How can international human rights law (IHRL) help to solve chronic domestic policy problems? What specifically are states' obligations under IHRL? What are the obligations and roles of nonstate actors? What are some common myths and misunderstandings about human rights? Why do some countries comply with human rights while others do not? How can obstacles to implementation be overcome in specific settings? How do NGOs and other non-state actors participate in human rights change? How do nonstate and transnational actors utilize human rights to promote justice and to combat harmful state and societal actions? What are some processes and strategies of human rights change? We use case studies to illustrate and give depth to a wide range of intersectional human rights issues, such as health, harmful social practices, education, poverty, hunger, policing and justice. We focus on discriminated groups such as children, the poor, women, indigenous, racial, ethnic, and LGBTQIA+ groups.

PIA 2715 - GIS for Public Policy

Professor An Lewis, Mondays 6:00–9:00 p.m.
A geographic information system (GIS) is a powerful tool for the public sector and used in a variety of disciplines. GIS builds on existing methods while offering new dimensions. This course provides students with a solid foundation of the principles and applications of GIS, an introduction to the desktop software ArcGIS, and demonstrates its uses in the public sectors. Students utilize ArcGIS to analyze and display spatial and demographic data. The construction of policy is then predicated on analysis. Skills learned in core courses can be brought to this course and built upon. Students have the flexibility to focus on their area of interest within the public sector through project work. The course is taught via lecture and hands-on experience using the ArcGIS software.

PIA 2348 - How to Make War

Professor Ryan Grauer, Wednesdays 6:00–9:00 p.m.Wars are relatively common events in the international arena, and political communities fight them for myriad reasons. The outcomes of wars have profound consequences for the course of historical events, political outcomes, and the lives and well-being of millions, including those who did not fight. But what happens in between the decision to go to war and the end of fighting? HOW do belligerents fight wars? This course will introduce students to how wars are fought on land. Students will learn about the translation of national political objectives into military strategy and campaign plans; the raising, training, and equipping of forces; the different types of combat arms available for use and their limitations; the role of naval, air, cyber, and space forces in land warfare; the principles of command; the crucial role of logistics; and the unquantifiable, but often decisive, human element of warfighting. These topics and issues will be introduced and considered using specialist texts, military and official documents, battle histories, and the critical examination of contemporary conflicts. Students will have opportunities to apply the insights they gain through in-class simulations (wargames), net assessments, and mock briefings. States' abilities to fight shape their decisions about whether to go to war. Additionally, the ways that states fight have profound implications for the consequences of war, with attritional and maneuver systems of force employment having very different impacts on both combatants and non-combatants in warzones.  Accordingly, at the end of this course, students will not only have a clear understanding of how wars are fought, but also be better prepared to understand, partake in, and shape debates about the use of force in the international arena.

PIA 2096 - Capstone: Reuniting a Divided Neighborhood – Continuing Work Towards Deconstructing Pittsburgh’s Elevated Highway Route 65 into a Boulevard

Professor Sabina Deitrick, Wednesdays 3:00–6:00 p.m.

In mid-century America, interstate highway development across cities cut through largely Black and minority neighborhoods and devastated long standing economic, social, spatial, and cultural connections in these communities. Elevated highway Route 65 split the Manchester neighborhood in two and eliminated its once prosperous business corridor on Beaver Avenue. Over decades, the community has responded through multiple means of resilience – organizing, social development, community development, historic housing preservation, environmental improvements, safe places for kids – making Manchester a vibrant, Black community. But the highway remained, most prominent in its cut through the geographic spine of the community.

Today, plans are in place for a re-imaging of Route 65 and what conception of the elevated highway can be and bring to the neighborhood. Highway removal and reconstruction are becoming increasingly common across America, supported by federal funds to deconstruct elevated highways and old infrastructure (Reconnecting Communities and Neighborhoods Grant Program, $185 million; Inflation Reduction Act, $3.2 billion). Here at Pitt, GSPIA and Swanson School of Engineering have contributed to the thinking and process of the highway’s removal through PIA 2705 and Capstones, along with multiple classes and projects at CMU. This Capstone class builds on previous work with Manchester Citizens’ Corp. (MCC) at the Route 65 transformation moves ahead. The class will address key issues of reimagining a business district, such as a Black Wall Street, centered on residents’ long-standing plans, planning and prospects for the business heart of the community.

The specific projects for the class will be determined with MCC and registered students later in the spring. Please contact instructor Sabina Deitrick, sabinad@pitt.edu for additional information.




PIA 2096 - Capstone: International Economics and International Affairs

Professor Michael Lewin, Thursdays 9:00 a.m.–12:00 p.m.
This capstone course aims to provide students with a real-world consulting experience in the intersecting fields of international economics and international affairs.  Students will work in teams on issues of direct interest to U.S. Government Agencies (such as the GAO) and/or international financial organizations. Past projects included the analysis of the national security implications for the U.S. of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, the advisability of a Carbon Border Adjustment, and strategic and economic aspects of international trade in global precious metals. Through this course, students will enhance and apply their knowledge and skills to address real-world policy problems and demonstrate mastery of theory and practice. In addition to gaining expertise on international trade, finance and international affairs, students will also gain valuable professional experience and practice key skills such as collaboration, analysis, and communication. The course will culminate in a final presentation and report, showcasing the team's research and findings.

PIA 2096 - Capstone: Social Movements and Climate Justice

Professor Marcela Gonzalez Rivas, Mondays 12:00–3:00 p.m.

The core objective of this capstone course is two-fold. The first is that the course gives students the experience of working on a “real life problem”. Capstone courses give students the opportunity to apply their expertise and skills to addressing planning or policy problems, usually by working with a local organization, community organization or local government. This type of exercise is essential for students to translate the knowledge they have gained in their programs into practice.

The second objective of the course is to participate in exploratory research on the role of civil society and advocacy organizations on climate justice. Specifically, students will be engaged in exploring the extent to which civil society organizations and social movements in general in Belem, Brazil have access to participate effectively in the climate action agenda.

In this Capstone course, students will work with various climate justice organizations in Brazil, in the context of the COP30 taking place in November 2025 in Belém do Pará, the capital of the state of Pará, located in the fringes of the Amazon’s Forest and river estuary. The COP (Conference of the parties) is the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. It is a multilateral environmental agreement body of the UN, in which representatives from all governments (the parties) meet yearly to discuss and agree on measures and actions (policy decisions) to address environment challenges.