Senior lecturer Susan Santo, who normally teaches classes in the Adult and Higher Education Program, has been fascinated with dreams her whole life. She is teaching “Exploring Your Dreams” for the first time, this semester.
Santo has read multiple books and subscribed to publications on dreams, and she’s also a member of the International Association for the Study of Dreams, which has dream-related journals, a newsletter and annual conferences.
The dreams class is held every Tuesday and Thursday at 11 a.m. Santo has 16 undergraduate students, one graduate student who’s auditing the class and one graduate assistant. So far, she said the class is going well.
“The majority of them are very interested in the subject,” Santo said. “I think they’re very glad they can take something like this.”
Honors seminars like this one are an opportunity for Honors students to explore topics that are outside what they normally get in their regular classes, said Scott Breuinger, director of the Honors program.
Every Honors student is required to take two Honors seminars before graduating. Breuinger said in order for a seminar to be selected, a proposal must be submitted outlining the theme, details and teaching method.
Professors are also required to explain why they are qualified to teach a certain subject, since it usually lies outside of their normal field.
All proposals are reviewed by the Honors committee, which consists of three student representatives and one faculty representative from every college on campus. Breuinger said they look at interest and difficulty level, and rely heavily on the opinions of the student representatives.
About 12 to 20 proposals are submitted each semester, but only three or four are selected by the Honors committee.
Proposals for the 2015-2016 academic year must be submitted by next week, and will be selected in early November.
“It’s a fine line of developing a class that is challenging but also accessible to students no matter what their major is,” Breuinger said. “A lot of the benefit of the seminars comes from the interaction of students who, by their junior or senior year, are already in to the coursework for their major.”
Junior Morgan Barnes is in the dreams class because it fit into his schedule, and he thought it sounded intriguing.
“I like how it’s free reign with the professor. They get to create their own setup and stuff like that,” Barnes said. “It’s definitely a way to get out of your comfort zone and do something you’re not necessarily focusing on with your major.”
Santo said she tries to leave time for dream interpretation every class, which is senior Rachel Weinandt’s favorite part. She said she’s learned a lot from applying the different methods they cover to real-life examples.
“It’s interesting how just talking about your dreams can help you understand them that much more,” Weinandt said.
Breuinger said because Honors seminars include students with a variety of majors, they allow for more diversified discussion.
“They’re a great way for students to explore ideas that they might otherwise not have an opportunity to do with other students who are curious about these topics, and professors who feel a real sense of passion about the topics they’re proposing and teaching,” he said.
Associate Professor Shane Nordyke taught the Honors seminar “Politics of the Vampire Genre” last year. She said she’ll submit a proposal for the class next year, because she’d like to teach it every other year.
Not only is Nordyke interested in the genre, but she also believes it’s a good platform for relevant, in-depth discussion.
“There are a lot of really relevant American politics topics whether it be race politics, or gender or LGBT issues, class politics and those types of things,” Nordyke said. “So a lot of the characters and plot arcs provide a good opportunity to discuss those issues.”
Nordyke said she’s found students are more apt to examine controversial issues when they’re not applied to their own experiences.
“I noticed students at USD can sometimes be reluctant to talk about some of those issues,” Nordyke said. “If we’re talking about it in the context of fictional characters or of a story arc that we’ve become involved with, we’re often much more willing to engage in it.”
Weinandt said she encourages students to try taking unique classes.
“You don’t really know what you’re getting yourself into — you don’t really know anything about it,” Weinandt said. “That’s kind of nice because when you’re majoring or minoring in something the classes tend to be pretty similar. If you like it that’s great and awesome, but taking something different broadens your horizons and it just makes life that much more interesting.”
(Photo: Susan Santo, a senior lecturer at the University of South Dakota, teaches the honor’s seminar class “Exploring Your Dreams.” The class focuses on helping students analyze their dreams and understand the psychology which causes specific dreams. Malachi Petersen / The Volante)